A number of changes marked the beginning of a new era in the XIV-XV centuries. In the world history, they have received the name “Renaissance.” During this period, the strengthening of the secular sphere and its gradual separation from the religious culture took place. The process had a variety of forms, for example, the rejection of scholastic lore in philosophy and the development of new means of artistic representation of reality. People discovered the value of earthly life as well as the beauty of nature and their unity with it. It primarily happened due to the fact that the significance of knowledge was brought to the forefront. Thus, the revival of the ancient ideal of man, the understanding of beauty, and the notion of world as a harmonic unity characterize the Renaissance art and philosophy.
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The Philosophy of the Italian Renaissance
The philosophy of Renaissance is closely connected with the development of natural science as well as the great geographical discoveries. The creation of new cosmology by Copernicus had played a special role in the evolution of ontological representations. Therefore, the philosophical thought of Renaissance formed a new picture of the world based on the statement that God was dissolved in nature. In addition, pronounced anthropocentrism is one of the main features of the philosophy of Renaissance. A human not only became the most important object of philosophical consideration but also appeared to be a central link of the whole chain of cosmic being. Thus, the analysis of a person from the perspective of his/her earthly destiny characterizes the humanistic philosophy of Renaissance.
The separation of philosophy from theology was an important step in the history of the development of Renaissance worldview. People became free from the shackles of religious prejudices and dogmatic institutions. The understanding of nature has its own specifics in the philosophy of Renaissance. This specificity lies in treating nature as a pantheistic environment that expresses the manifestation of the supreme divine power and reason. The philosophers seek to understand and explain all relationships in the world through the actions of a natural mechanism and natural causation. At the same time, they analyze the world around them in an unbiased manner, learn to observe natural phenomena, and acquire knowledge in an experimental way.
According to the thoughts of society, the philosophy reflected changes that occurred in the social system. One of the characteristic features of Renaissance was gradual erasure of class distinctions and privileges. The representatives of the Renaissance philosophy ridiculed various vices of society and claimed that they originated from the ignorance and poverty of the human mind. The humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam was among the most famous witty castigators of these vices. In addition, the Renaissance philosophers raised the problems of social order and justice. They were interested in the issues of equality, intergenerational relations, power as well as the moral principles of society. These ideas had developed in the teachings of Thomas More, Tommaso Campanella, and Niccolo Machiavelli. Thus, the philosophy of Renaissance appears to be a multifaceted and complex phenomenon.
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The Art of the Italian Renaissance
The most significant changes of the Renaissance period concerned the artistic field. During Renaissance, art acquires self-worth and becomes an independent sphere of beauty. At the same time, the viewer’s perception creates completely artistic and aesthetic meaning. Previously, art has never experienced such honor and respect. As a result, the role of the artist disparately enhanced. People started to consider him/her an independent and respected professional, scientist, thinker, and unique individuality. Art was perceived as one of the most powerful means of cognition. In the creative abilities, the Renaissance artist equates to God. The means of artistic expression became new. Their basis was linear and air perspective, three-dimensional volume, and the doctrine of proportions. Thus, art experiences profound changes.
Giotto di Bondone is the most outstanding representative of the Italian Proto-Renaissance in the fine arts. He refuses medieval convention and turns to realism and plausibility. His merit is the revival of painting as artistic self-worth. The main creation of Giotto is the painting of the Capella del Arena in Padua that depicts the events of the life of Holy Family. All characters of the painting look natural and authentic. The positions of their bodies, gestures, emotions, and faces — all these elements are shown with rare psychological persuasiveness. Thus, for the first time, all characters of a painting appear as alive people endowed with human feelings and passions.
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Early Italian Renaissance approves the new aesthetic and artistic means. Its birthplace was Florence, and the fathers of the Renaissance became the architect Philip Brunelleschi, the sculptor Donatello, and the painter Masaccio. Brunelleschi laid the foundation of Renaissance architecture as well as discovered the new forms that have existed for centuries. Donatello used the ancient heritage and relied on the profound study of nature. He participated in the development of the theory of linear perspective, revived the sculptural portrait and the image of a naked body, and casted the first bronze monument. Masaccio’s frescoes allowed the creation of a real school of painting for later Italian artists. He was the first who convincingly and authentically depicted a naked body and gave it stability and movement in the history of painting. Other artists of the Italian Renaissance continued to develop the tradition of Masaccio.
The culmination of the development of ideological and artistic principles of the above-mentioned period was High Renaissance. During this period, Venetian art that was expressed in the feelings, from which amazing poetry of Venice was born, occupied a special place. The Venetian artists valued the color as well as the play of light and shadow. They sought to express natural impulses, movement, variability and fluidity of nature. Indeed, Venice deserves to be called a cradle of Renaissance art.
Giorgione is the founder of the Venetian school of art. He preferred mythological and literary topics. The easel painting prevails in his works. Giorgione became the first artist who painted from nature. In depicting nature, he shifts the emphasis on mobility, variability, and fluidity. Giorgione begins to search for the mystery of painting in the play of light and shadow. Another famous representative of Venetian school is Titian. His works combine creative search and innovation, beauty and perfection, spiritual depth, drama, and tragedy. They own extraordinary sensuality and, as a result, have a powerful impact on the viewers. Consequently, Titian provided gradual transition from the physical and sensory aspects to the spiritual and dramatic ones.
It is worth noting that Florence had played a key role in the development of the art of Italian Renaissance. The founder of the Florentine school of art is Leonardo da Vinci. The artist sought to express the spirit of the Renaissance man. He tried to find the sources of perfect forms of art in nature. People can observe the classical harmony of artistic aspects in Raphael’s paintings. He is the creator of the gentle images of Madonna, which are soft and even ordinary in their humaneness. His famous work is the Sistine Madonna that symbolically connects heaven and earth. Michelangelo, in his turn, is a master who combines beautiful corporeality with deep spirituality of images inherited from medieval culture. The artist demonstrates tragic worldview, the subtlest psychology of images, and technical virtuosity. Thus, the artists of a new type — active and creative individuals of great knowledge who possessed all values of the culture of their time – created the art of Italian Renaissance.
The Interrelation of Philosophy and Art of the Italian Renaissance
The question of the relationship between art and philosophy is complex in its meaning. During Renaissance, there was nothing shocking in the fact that Leonardo da Vinci called painting “true philosophy”. He claimed that painting could independently comprehend the truth. Indeed, the art of the Renaissance period contained the whole composition of fundamental thoughts about the world; therefore, with the connection between it and philosophy was close. For art and philosophy, the integrity of the relation between the world and human was important. The art considers integrity the beauty, and the philosophy, in its turn, views it as being. The Renaissance thinkers propagated the idea of a physically and spiritually perfect person. The artists highly appreciated this image of an ideal man. Neither nature nor God limited a human being. He/she was considered equal to God Therefore, the roles of artists and philosophers were very important during the Renaissance period.
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It is necessary to highlight the fact that the philosophy and art of the Italian Renaissance reinforced each other. It was a form of artistic and aesthetic cognition as well as the representation of essential links, harmony, and beauty of the world in different images. Indeed, the art and philosophy were interdependent but the forms of social consciousness were different in the methods of cognition and expression. A human being was regarded as a creature worthy of happiness in his/her earthly life. The world was considered a place where a person could act and enjoy created benefits. Thus, the task of philosophy and art lied not in opposing man’s divine, natural, spiritual, and material principles but in revealing their harmonious unity.