Native artists and writersMasaccio, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Manettistayed home and made only brief excursions abroad, while their ranks were supplemented by foreigners: Bruni, Poggio Bracciolini, Gentile da Fabriano. Croce, not the cathedral, became Florences Pantheon, and the tombs in that Franciscan basilica are visual evidence of the magnitude of Florentine genius, and also of the citys inability to retain and exploit that genius fully.
Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are still missing, although Dante is commemorated by an ugly modern cenotaph. From an esthetic viewpoint, the two most noteworthy tombs are those of the humanists Bruni and Marsuppini, both of whom received imposing state funerals. Croce, although Michelangelo died where he had lived and worked, in Rome. His body was spirited away to Florence by agents of Duke Cosimo I.
Some distinguished Florentines of the Quattrocento are not interred in S. The official recognition of intellectual and artistic distinction was one aspect of the collective, public nature of artistic and scholarly patronage in early Renaissance Florence. The great architectural monuments of the fourteenth and fteenth centuries were supervised by commissions of operai selected by the guilds. In , Lorenzo Ghiberti won a commission for the Baptistery doors in a public competition organized by the consuls of the Calimala guild, and judged by a special committee of thirty-four painters, sculptors, and goldsmiths.
In the realm of letters and scholarship, official patronage was also important and useful, generally assuming the form of a communal office or a university professorship. The bestowal of the chancellors office upon distinguished humanists like Salutati and Bruni was a reward for their fame and reputation, as well as payment for services. By the middle of the fteenth century, however, public subsidy of culture was declining, and the role of the private patron, and of culture created exclusively for private needs, now assumed greater importance than before.
This trend can be charted in two quite different contexts: in the history of the Florentine Studio, and in Medicean patronage of the arts. The fortunes of the citys major institution of higher learning provide a valuable corrective to the idealized picture of this society as totally committed to intellectual distinction, and willing to make heavy sacrices to achieve and maintain excellence. From the beginning, Florences efforts to create a university of the rst rank met with very limited success. In , a studium generale was established by the commune; it never ourished and ceased to function in the s.
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But even before the Black Death had run its course, a courageous and imaginative Signoria enacted a decree August 26, which authorized the reopening of the Studio, and bravely proclaimed that from the study of the sciences, the city of Florence will receive an increase in honors and a full measure of wealth Although the circumstances of its foundation could not have been less promising, the university did survive and gradually developed a modest reputation. But its existence was never secure, and it limped along on the rather meager resources which the commune grudgingly provided.
Records of the deliberations on the universitys budget in the s reveal that some citizens doubted whether the school was worth its cost. During its most ourishing Period, in the s, the university operated with a substantial budget of orins, which paid for a staff of twenty-four Professors. But one consequence of the debilitating wars with Giangaleazzo Visconti was the closing of the university in ; it did not reopen again until Thereafter, its budget was repeatedly cut during the Milanese wars of the s; it was nally reduced to orins in Four years later, the Studio governors candidly admitted that the university was in a parlous state.
It grieves us sorely, they announced, that this glorious republic, which has surpassed the rest of Italy and all previous centuries in beauty and splendor, should be surpassed in this one respect by some of our neighboring cities, which in every other way are inferior to us. This failure of the university to achieve the distinction which its founders and supporters envisaged is perhaps the crucial factor in the reluctance of Florences ruling class to provide adequate and sustained support.
The solid reputations of Bologna and Padua were never really challenged by the Studio, and shrewd politicians may have realized that no amount of money would change that fact. Patrician interests were not. Also contributing to the declining importance of the university was the tendency, in Florence and elsewhere, for humanistic studiesrhetoric, moral philosophy, poetryto ourish outside of the university.
Although these subjects were offered regularly in the Studio, occasionally by such distinguished scholars as Chrysoloras, Filelfo and Marsuppini, most teaching in the humanities occurred in a private context: tutors instructing students in their homes, scholars assembling in monasteries or in private palaces to discuss classical texts.
Like other facets of patrician life in Quattrocento Florence, learning and education were becoming more private, aristocratic, and exclusive. The most renowned institution of higher learning in Florence in the second half of the fteenth century was not the Studio, but the Platonic Academy, an informal coterie of scholars and students united by an interest in Platonic philosophy. Its leader was Marsilio Ficino, whose translations of Platonic writings were subsidized by the Medici. The Academy had a geographical focus in Ficinos villa at Careggi outside of Florence, but it possessed no formal organization, nor did it provide any regular instruction.
Its only scheduled events were irregular lectures by Ficino and occasional banquets and symposia held infrequently at the Careggi villa. Ficino did provide loose and informal guidance to his disciples and to visiting scholars like Pico della Mirandola and Jacques Lefvre dtaples. But the essential qualities of this community were privacy, intimacy, and learning pursued for its own sake, without any concern for vocational or practical benets. This shift in the form and object of patronage from the publiccorporate to the private sphere also occurred in the plastic arts.
Communal and guild patronage was at its height between and , when the Loggia dei Lanzi and the cathedral dome were built, when guilds were commissioning Baptistery doors and statues for Orsanmichele and erecting new headquarters for themselves. In these decades, too, private subsidy of the arts was largely although not exclusively directed toward public enterprises. The rst architectural projects nanced by Cosimo de Medici were reconstructions of churches and monasteries: S.
Lorenzo, S. Marco, the Badia of Fiesole, and the church of S. Francesco in Bosco in the Mugello. This pattern was sanctioned by tradition, and so too was its collective form, since other families were involved in several of these projects. If only because of his superior resources, Cosimos voice in these collective enterprises tended to predominate; S.
Lorenzo, for example, was nally completed with. Medici money twenty years after the project had been initiated. Cosimos reluctance to nish this work earlier was apparently due to his unwillingness to appear too bold and ambitious as a patron. His plan to rebuild S. Marco was thwarted when other families with burial rights in the convent refused to surrender them. Despite these limitations imposed upon Cosimos patronage by community sentiment and tradition, and by his own sense of propriety, his total contribution was impressive.
His greatest achievement was, of course, the palace on the Via Larga, and it was within the connes of that structure that later Medici generations satised their esthetic needs. Lorenzo was recognized as the premier connoisseur of the arts in Italy, and his advice on painters and architects was sought by princes throughout the peninsula.
As one dimension of his foreign policy, he sent Florentine artists to work for those rulers whose favor he desired. But Lorenzos material subsidy of the arts in Florence was niggardly. Most of his money for this purpose was spent not on ecclesiastical or civic projects, but on his private collection of precious gems and antique art.
This had been assembled for his enjoyment, and for that of close friends and visiting dignitaries, whose appreciation of the gesture might be politically advantageous as well as personally gratifying. Lorenzos collection of objets dart was the esthetic counterpart of the Platonic Academy. These years witnessed the development of an educational curriculum founded upon the studia humanitatis, the subjects of grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history, and moral philosophy which had formed the basis of classical education, but which had been changed and modied although never entirely rejectedby the different needs and interests of the medieval world.
This phenomenon, usually described as the rise of humanism, occurred in an atmosphere of great enthusiasm for classical literature, both Latin and Greek, similar in its intensity to the excitement created in twelfth-century France by the discovery of Aristotelean logic and its application to theological problems.
Some manifestations of the rise of humanism are the striking increase in the number of students pursuing classical studies, the formation of groups linked by their common interest in the writings of antiquity, and the intensive search for unknown manuscripts. Progress in humanistic studies can also be measured by the perfection of techniques for the study of classical texts, and greater knowledge of the character of Greek and Roman civilization.
Another dimension of Florentine humanism was the broadening of classical interests from purely literary sources to other disciplines: to architecture and sculpture, to music, to mathematics and the physical sciences. Its most controversial aspect, which has been much discussed and debated, concerns its inuence upon contemporary values, and its role in stimulating the changes in the ways that Florentines viewed their world and themselves.
This interest in classical antiquity, and acquaintance with its literary heritage, was not a wholly new phenomenon; it had a long and continuous history extending back to classical times. Medieval Europe had never lost its fascination for ancient Rome, nor had it ever abandoned its study of Roman literature. Generations of students destined for ecclesiastical careers learned to read Latin by studying passages from Livy and Horace in medieval grammars.
This sympathetic interest in the classical past was strongest in Italy, whose natives took pride in their descent from the ancient Romans. In their studies of Roman law, the beginnings of which can be traced back to Bologna in the eleventh century, Italian legal scholars became acquainted not only with the codes and digests, but also with the political and institutional history of republican and imperial Rome. And while the Bologna lawyers were immersing themselves in the intricacies of Justinians Code, other young men were preparing for notarial careers, the basic discipline for which was rhetoric.
These students read Cicero and Livy, and while their future professional activity was devoted to such prosaic tasks as the composition of wills, deeds of sale, and mercantile contracts, some continued their study of the classics as an avocation. The foundations for a strong interest in the ancient world and its literature were thus well established in the fourteenth century, and it was upon these foundations that Petrarch fashioned his crusade for the new learning.
He was born in Arezzo in , the son of an exiled Florentine notary who later found a position in the papal court at Avignon. Sent to Bologna to study law, Petrarch abandoned that discipline in favor of poetry; it was as a writer of verse in the Tuscan vernacular that he rst gained an Italian reputation. His lyrics were enormously popular, and they exercised a profound and lasting inuence upon the writing of poetry, not only in Italy, but also in France and England.
Early in his student career, Petrarch had developed a strong enthusiasm for the works of Latin authors Cicero in particular, and he became the most inuential spokesman for the new learning and its staunchest defender against critics. During his lifetime and. It also exhibited the characteristics of a cult, with disciples, a program, and a strong proselytizing impulse.
A crucial gure in Florences development as a center of the new learning was Coluccio Salutati, a notary from the village of Stignano in the Valdinievole between Lucca and Pistoia , who came to Florence in to accept the post of chancellor of the republic. He held that important office until his death in , becoming a powerful and inuential statesman and a respected member of the patriciate.
Salutatis entrenched position in Florentine society was an important factor in his successful promotion of humanism. Although Petrarch achieved much greater fame as a writer, he never lived and worked in Florence, and so his inuence there was limited. Less brilliant intellectually, and less renowned in the Italian literary world, Salutati was nevertheless able to achieve more for classical studies in Florence.
Salutati was a member of that group of scholars and citizen savants who met in the Augustinian convent of S. Spirito under the aegis of Luigi Marsili to discuss moral and philosophical issues. After Marsilis death in , Salutati became the titular leader of this group, and the leading champion of the classics in Florence. His disciples includes some of the leading humanistic scholars of the next generationLeonardo Bruni, Pietro Paul Vergerio, Poggio Braccioliniand also a group of young Florentine patricians whom he encouraged to pursue classical studies and who regarded him as their patron and mentor: Niccol Niccoli, Angelo Corbinelli, Roberto de Rossi, Cino Rinuccini.
For these men, Salutati was an example and a secure foundation upon which to build their scholarly and literary interests. Under his guidance and patronage, they met regularly to discuss their problems. They borrowed books from the chancellors library, probably the best private collection of classical works in Florence, and widened their acquaintance with the literature of antiquity. The chancellor was the bridge between the world of learning and scholarship and the world of commerce and politics. Aspiring humanists could point to Salutatis fame and reputation, his political inuence and social standing, in arguments with their elders who might question the value of classical studies.
Vespasiano da Bisticci described one such skeptic, the merchant Andrea de Pazzi who knew little of learning, thought it to be of little value, and had no desire that his son [Piero] should spend time over it. Through his professional career and his writings, Salutati endeavored to make classical studies relevant to the world in which he lived.
His state. According to a widely circulated story, Giangaleazzo Visconti once said that a Salutati letter was worth an army of lances. This hyperbolic statement does indicate the inated importance which was attached to humanist talents employed for political purposes. In , the Florentine Signoria requested the lord of Padua, Francesco da Carrara, to refrain from sending diplomatic notes in the vernacular, for either through some stylistic flaw or a secretarys error, your letters might be misinterpreted The value of rhetorical training for members of an ambassadorial mission had long been recognized, and the commune paid increasing attention to this qualification in making ambassadorial appointments.
The Consulte e Pratiche records provide further evidence of the impact of rhetoric upon political thinking and practice. The early volumes of this source, compiled in the middle decades of the Trecento, contain very short and pithy summaries of speeches, which suggests both oratorial brevity and the notarys reluctance or inability to write long and detailed summaries. Coinciding with Salutatis tenure as Florentine chancellor, the accounts of these speeches were greatly expanded, written in a more elegant style, and occasionally embellished by classical references and quotations.
By the beginning of the fteenth century, if not earlier, oral eloquence was a signicant political asset, although it occasionally prompted some criticism, illustrated by Gino Capponis caustic remark that a speech of Piero Baroncelli was very pretty but lacking in substance. Salutatis social and cultural values have been subjects of scholarly controversy. The difficulties arise primarily from certain contradictions in his writings, and other discrepancies between his words and his actions. In his defense of classical studies, he was quite consistent, repeating arguments which had been formulated earlier to justify the reading of pagan literature.
He insisted that the concern of many classical authors with moral problems legitimized their study by Christian scholars. But on other issues, Salutati was ambiguous and contradictory. His chancery correspondence contained some very eloquent statements eulogizing political freedom and liberty, praising republican government in Florence and condemning the despotism of Milan. However, in his treatise De tyranno, he argued that monarchy is the best form of government, and he condoned the destruction of the Roman republic by Caesar.
His essay, De seculo et religione, was a restatement of an old medieval theme, the superiority of the monastic life of solitude and prayer. Yet in private letters to friends, Salutati developed a coherent and persuasive justication for the active life which he led. In another letter,. Salutati was severely critical of a man who had abandoned his literary studies to pursue a notarial career to improve his economic circumstances.
This letter idealized the gure of the indigent scholar intent only upon learning, and it contrasts sharply with Salutatis own professional career, which j brought him wealth and high social rank. The inconsistencies and contradictions in Salutatis writings appear to reect the doubts and confusions of his generation, searching for meaningful values. Baron argues that a new cultural phenomenon, civic humanism, came into being in Florence after Although its classical orientation was inherited from Trecento scholars, its outlook and values differed signicantly from those espoused by Petrarch and Salutati.
The origins of civic humanism are to be found in the Florentine political scene around and, more specically, in the threat to the citys independence posed by Giangaleazzo Visconti. This crisis had a profound impact upon the Florentine mentality. It strengthened the citizenrys commitment to its republican government and to the ideals of liberty and freedom traditionally associated with that government.
The humanists became the leading exponents of those political values, the most articulate propagandists for Florentine republicanism. They developed a new interpretation of Florentine history based upon the citys founding by Sulla when the Roman republic still ourished and not by Caesar, who destroyed the republic. And in their writings and speeches, the humanists also formulated an ideology for the Florentine citizenry which, while derived from classical sources, was also rmly rooted in the realities of the citys experience.
This ideology exalted the civic virtues of participation in public affairs, the concept of the active life pursued by merchants and statesmen, as opposed to the contemplative life of ascetics and scholars. Furthermore, it viewed the acquisition of wealth not as an impediment to knowledge and salvation, but instead as a resource to be used in the promotion of learning and morality. This rough summary of the Baron thesis does not do justice to the richness and complexity of the authors analysis, nor to his vast erudition, which can only be appreciated by a careful reading of his works.
The thesis rests upon certain premises and assumptions which are not clearly articulated in his writing or in much of the criticism which his arguments have stimulated. Perhaps the most striking feature of his interpretation is the sharpness of the distinction between the two stages of humanism.
Separating Salutati, the spokesman for the older humanism dominated by medieval preoccupations and values, and Leonardo Bruni, the voice of the new civic. Baron is committed to a sociological view of culture, and he views intellectual innovation as a direct response to change in the material world.
By dating, as precisely and accurately as possible, the writings of Florentine humanists around , he has sought to demonstrate that the political crisis of had an immediate and profound impact upon their ideas. Also underlying Barons interpretation of Florentine culture is the concept, which is clearly formulated in Von Martins Sociology of the Renaissance, of a dominant social class which expresses the values and ideals of the whole society.
Criticism of Barons interpretation has focused upon his concept of civic humanism, and his theory of intellectual change as a response to political crisis. Much of Seigels argument is concerned with the chronology of Brunis early writings; he believes that two important treatises, the Laudatio Florentinae Urbis and the Dialogi ad Petrum Istrum, were written prior to and thus were not inuenced by the crisis of that year. Seigel concludes that Brunis motives for composing these treatises were neither political nor ideological, but professional and practical.
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Bruni was exhibiting his rhetorical skills; he was demonstrating that he could develop eloquent and persuasive arguments on both sides of an issue, as he does in the Dialogi. By writing these laudatory treatises, Seigel further suggests, Bruni may have hoped to obtain a position in the Florentine chancery under Salutati.
Seigel then surveys the development of Florentine humanism around and concludes that humanism was not affected signicantly by social and political conditions. Changes which occurred in humanist thinking were internal, inspired by new attitudes and viewpoints arising from the rhetorical tradition, and not as a response to outside stimuli. Instead of viewing ideas as the product of specic historical events or circumstances, Seigel prefers to treat them as developing within a particular intellectual tradition or discipline.
He emphasizes the occupational differences, the professional casteslawyers, humanists, theologiansand suggests that men in these fields pursued their interests quite independently, as untouched by developments in other disciplines or professions as by social upheaval or political crisis. The central issue in this debate is the nature of the relationship between ideas and experience. Although quite sympathetic to Barons conception of this relationship, the author is not persuaded by every part of. One can accept his thesis that a fundamental change in humanist values and perception occurred in the early Quattrocento, and still be skeptical of his explanation for this intellectual revolution.
Although the Milanese threat to Florentine independence was certainly a factor in this mental and psychological readjustment it was not the soleor perhaps even the most importantstimulus. The Consulte e Pratiche protocols, those records of deliberations by the Florentine political class, furnish some clues to the state of the civic mind in the early Quattrocento. While not conclusive, the evidence from these protocols suggests that the most critical moments in these crisis years did not occur during the Milanese wars, but a decade later, during Florences struggles with Genoa and King Ladislaus of Naples A signicant aspect of political discussion in these years is its critical and introspective quality, its harsh and bitter judgment of Florentine institutions, practices, and attitudes whichso the blunt and candid critics assertwere responsible for the citys perilous condition.
In these deliberations, the traditional appeals to defend Florentine liberty and republican institutions were supplemented by a tough and realistic appraisal of the aws in those institutions, and a demand for reform. These protocols support the hypothesis that Florences cultural revolution of the early Quattrocento was not simply a response to a particular moment of crisis, a specic catalytic event; it was a gradual process stimulated by several factors and circumstances, both internal and external, which impelled Florentines to examine themselves more objectively and realistically.
The origins of this cultural revolution should not be sought in Florences status as a beleaguered republican city, but in the particular character of this society and its political traditions, which facilitated communication between intellectuals, merchants, and statesmen, and which provided a unique forum for the spread of new ideas and opinions. From these institutions and circumstances, there developed that symbiotic bond, so peculiarly Florentine, between the worlds of thought and action.
Unusually sensitive to their society and its needs, the humanists of Brunis generation exploited the literary resources of their discipline to provide Florentines with the techniques and the materials for reexamining themselves, their values and goals. One of the most important humanist tools was a new historical perspective whichas Hans Baron has shownwas developed by Leonardo Bruni.
Whereas medieval historical thinking was universal in scope and teleological in character, concerned with tracing the implementation of the divine plan, Brunis historical outlook was temporal, secular, and particular. In his judgment, the historical experience of Florence and republican Rome. The temporal existence of these cities was justied not by any reference to a divine plan, but in terms of their secular achievements. Moreover, the historical record of that experience provided a model for emulation and a framework by which human actions could be comprehended and judged.
The rst documented utilization of this perspective in political deliberations occurred in the spring of , during the war with Ladislaus. Messer Piero Beccanugi made this statement, the rst of its kind recorded in the extant protocols: To administer public affairs intelligently, it is essential to look to the past [for guidance] to provide for the present and the future. Thereafter, the appeal to historical example, as justication for a particular policy or viewpoint, became a standard feature of political discussion.
Most commonly cited were events from the Florentine past, embracing not only recent occurrences familiar to every citizen, but others going back nearly a century: the dictatorship of the Duke of Athens in , the war with Pisa in the s, Emperor Charles IVs invasion of Tuscany in It is perhaps signicant that the protocols contain several references to Florences wars with Giangaleazzo, but none that points specically to the crisis of Speakers also utilized the sources of classical antiquity.
Messer Filippo Corsini cited events from the Punic warsthe massacre of the Roman army at Cannae and the siege of Saguntumto bolster his arguments concerning Florentine policy toward Ladislaus, Messer Rinaldo Giangliazzi quoted Seneca: Only that which is honest is good, and the example of the Spartan king Lycurgus who in promulgating laws stated that public affairs are properly directed by the few with the authority of the many. Another example of humanist inuence upon Florentine political thinking, and upon policy, was the radical transformation of the citys selfimage in the early fteenth century.
Although Trecento Florence had many cosmopolitan features, its inhabitants were quite insular and parochial in their outlook: fearful of the outside world, suspicious of all foreigners, and of distinguished visitors in particular. From to , no pope or emperor came to Florence; princes and prelates were frequently rebuffed wren they sought permission to visit the city. The rst signs of a change in this defensive attitude are visible in the deliberations of , in which a few speakers proposed Florence as the site for an ecumenical council designed to end the Schism which had divided Latin Christendom for thirty years.
This idea disturbed many citizens, who did not enjoy the prospect of their city overrun by foreigners, and sheltering a large group of ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries. Advocates of the council argued that God would reward. One speaker, Antonio Alessandri, claimed that nothing would gain greater merit in the eyes of God, and greater fame among men, than to assemble a council in Florence to restore church unity.
This argument added a new dimension to the idea that civic fame could be achieved not only by the construction of magnicent cathedrals and palaces or through the exploits of famous sons, but also by creating a setting for a major historical event. Here in embryonic form is the vision of Florence described by many Quattrocento humanists: a city known and admired throughout the civilized world, an international city.
Pisa, not Florence, was nally chosen as the site for the illfated council of But those Florentines who had developed this new and enlarged vision of their city were rewarded in , when Pope Eugenius IV transferred the council, assembled to reunite the Greek and Latin churches, from Ferrara to Florence. The records of the republics deliberations thus provide some clues to the movement of new attitudes and values, new modes of perception, from the realm of ideas to the world of action, from the vita contemplativa to the vita attiva.
As a result of fundamental changes in educational method and philosophy, these values became more rmly established in the city. Since Dantes time, classical studies had attracted a minority of Florentine students, but after the studia humanitatis became the core and foundation of the aristocracys academic curriculum. In his biography of Filippo Brunelleschi, Antonio Manetti noted that when Filippo was a boy he was born in , few persons among those who did not expect to become doctors, lawyers or priests were given literary training [i.
But in his memoirs written about , the merchant Giovanni Morelli prescribed an academic program for his sons which contained such traditional features as reading, writing, mathematics, and the Bible, but also a surprising emphasis upon the classics: Every day for at least an hour, read Vergil, Boethius, Seneca and other authors Begin your study with Vergil Then spend some time with Boethius, with Dante and the other poets, with Tully [Cicero] who will teach you to speak perfectly, with Aristotle who will instruct you in philosophy Read and study the Bible; learn about the great and holy acts which our Lord God accomplished through the prophets; you will be fully instructed in the faith and in the coming of Gods son.
Your spirit will gain consolation and joy. You will be contemptuous of the world and you will have no concern for what may happen to you. It is instructive to compare this passage with Leon Battista Albertis views on education contained in his treatise on the family Alberti based his curriculum exclusively upon classical authors Cicero, Livy, Sallust ; he did not mention the Bible or any work by a Christian author.
These Latin writers were the foundations of his own education, and during his lifetime he died in , they formed the essential academic diet for the children of the Florentine aristocracy. A distinctive feature of this artistic revolution was the revived interest in ancient art, and the intensive study of those physical remnants of classical antiquity which had survived the ravages of time. From this investigation, Florentine artists rediscovered the formulas and principles that had guided the buildings and sculptors of the ancient world. And in painting, the medium for which no ancient examples had survived, the Florentines developed particular techniques to create a more realistic image of the physical world.
As the humanists had discovered and exploited the dimension of time as an essential element in their mode of perception, so the artists used perspective and proportion to organize space in a manner which expressed their particular view of reality. In contrast to the humanistic movement, which is amply documented, very little evidence concerning the artistic revolution has survived, either in written or plastic form.
Art historians have been very diligent in combing archives and libraries for contemporary documentsletters, commissions, tax recordsthat throw light upon this development, and in analyzing the extant paintings, sculptures, and architectural monuments, many of which have been damaged by the elements and inept restorers. They have plotted the course of this revolution, identifying and dating the works which marked the signicant advances in style and technique. Quite as much controversy has developed over the origins of this artistic revolution, as has been generated by the concept of civic humanism.
The central problem, the focus of much of the discussion, is the degree to which changes in the plastic arts have been inuenced by a transformation of the intellectual milieu, or by a signicant recasting of the political and social order. Many art historians, perhaps the majority, deny that this question is a legitimate concern of their discipline, which they dene as the patient. Their approach to their subject is similar to that of the intellectual historian who focuses his attention exclusively upon his texts, treating ideas as an independent and autonomous dimension of history.
At the opposite pole of the spectrum is the Marxist scholar who views all cultural phenomena as mirroring the structure and values of the society that creates them. Signicant changes in the arts are thus indices of alterations and readjustments of the social order and indeed can be utilized to show the direction and tempo of that transformation.
When presented in its most dogmatic formas for example, in Frederick Antals Florentine Painting and its Social Backgroundthe Marxist viewpoint has won few adherents or sympathizers. Between these poles, however, much signicant work is being done by scholars who are examining the connections between Florentine society and its artistic achievement. They have studied the incomes of painters, sculptors, and goldsmiths; their relations with corporate and individual patrons; the social and political function of artistic works, as devices for advertising family power, prestige, and wealth; and their ideological function, as expressions of the values and ideals of the community and, particularly, its ruling elite.
Why did the new Renaissance style originate in Florence? The city was a likely site for this development, with its exceptional size and wealth, and its tradition of excellence in the crafts and plastic arts. The community of artists was large, active, and well patronized by clients, public and private, secular and ecclesiastical. Giottos frescoes in S. Croce and Andrea Pisanos Baptistery doors lay conveniently at hand, to be admired, studied, and copied by young artists.
Bertolome Zorzi was from Venice. Girardo Cavallazzi was a Ghibelline from Novara. Nicoletto da Torino was probably from Turin. In Ferrara the Duecento was represented by Ferrari Trogni. Terramagnino da Pisa, from Pisa, wrote the Doctrina de cort as a manual of courtly love. He was one of the late 13th-century figures who wrote in both Occitan and Italian. Paolo Lanfranchi da Pistoia, from Pistoia, was another. Both wrote sonnets, but while Terramagnino was a critic of the Tuscan school, Paolo has been alleged as a member.
On the other hand, he has much in common with the Sicilians and the Dolce Stil Novo. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Italian troubadour phenomenon was the production of chansonniers and the composition of vidas and razos. Uc de Saint Circ, who was associated with the Da Romano and Malaspina families, spent the last forty years of his life in Italy. He undertook to author the entire razo corpus and a great many of the vidas. The most famous and influential Italian troubadour, however, was from the small town of Goito near Mantua.
He was the inventor of the hybrid genre of the sirventes-planh in The troubadours had a connexion with the rise of a school of poetry in the Kingdom of Sicily. Both had fled the Albigensian Crusade, like Aimeric de Peguilhan. The Crusade had devastated Languedoc and forced many troubadours of the area, whose poetry had not always been kind to the Church hierarchy, to flee to Italy, where an Italian tradition of papal criticism was begun. Protected by the emperor and the Ghibelline faction criticism of the Church establishment flourished. Chivalric romance The Historia de excidio Trojae, attributed to Dares Phrygius, claimed to be an eyewitness account of the Trojan war.
Herbort and Konrad used a French source to make an almost original work in their own language. Guido delle Colonne of Messina, one of the vernacular poets of the Sicilian school, composed the Historia destructionis Troiae. Much the same thing occurred with other great legends. Qualichino of Arezzo wrote couplets about the legend of Alexander the Great.
Europe was full of the legend of King Arthur, but the Italians contented themselves with translating and abridging French romances. Jacobus de Voragine, while collecting his Golden Legend , remained a historian. He seemed doubtful of the truthfulness of the stories he told. The intellectual life of Italy showed itself in an altogether special, positive, almost scientific form in the study of Roman law.
Farfa, Marsicano, and other scholars translated Aristotle, the precepts of the school of Salerno, and the travels of Marco Polo, linking the classics and the Renaissance. At the same time, epic poetry was written in a mixed language, a dialect of Italian based on French: hybrid words exhibited a treatment of sounds according to the rules of both languages, had French roots with Italian endings, and were pronounced according to Italian or Latin rules. In short, the language of the epic poetry belonged to both tongues. All this preceded the appearance of a purely Italian literature.
Emergence of native vernacular literature The French and Occitan languages gradually gave way to the native Italian. Hybridism recurred, but it no longer predominated. In the Bovo d'Antona and the Rainaldo e Lesengrino the Venetian dialect is clearly felt, although the language is influenced by French forms. These writings, which Graziadio Isaia Ascoli has called miste mixed , immediately preceded the appearance of purely Italian works.
There is evidence that a kind of literature already existed before the 13th century: The Ritmo cassinese, Ritmo su Sant'Alessio, Laudes creaturarum, Ritmo Lucchese, Ritmo laurenziano, Ritmo bellunese are classified by Cesare Segre, et al. However, as he points out, such early literature does not yet present any uniform stylistic or linguistic traits. This early development, however, was simultaneous in the whole peninsula, varying only in the subject matter of the art. In the north, the poems of Giacomino da Verona and Bonvicino da Riva were specially religious, and were intended to be recited to the people.
They were written in a dialect of Milanese and Venetian; their style bore the influence of French narrative poetry. They may be considered as belonging to the "popular" kind of poetry, taking the word, however, in a broad sense. This sort of composition may have been encouraged by the old custom in the north of Italy of listening in the piazzas and on the highways to the songs of the jongleurs.
The crowds were delighted with the stories of romances, the wickedness of Macaire, and the misfortunes of Blanziflor, the terrors of the Babilonia Infernale and the blessedness of the Gerusalemme celeste, and the singers of religious poetry vied with those of the chansons de geste.
Human Dignity in Europe: Introduction
Sicilian School Main article: Sicilian School The year marked the beginning of the Sicilian School and of a literature showing more uniform traits. This poetry differs from the French equivalent in its treatment of the woman, less erotic and more platonic, a vein which further developed by Dolce Stil Novo in later 13th century Bologna and Florence. The customary repertoire of chivalry terms is adapted to Italian phonotactics, creating new Italian vocabulary. These were adopted by Dante and his contemporaries, and handed on to future generations of Italian writers. Most famous is No m'aggio posto in core, by Giacomo da Lentini, the head of the movement, but there is also poetry written by Frederick himself.
Giacomo da Lentini is also credited with inventing the sonnet, a form later perfected by Dante and Petrarch. The censorship imposed by Frederick meant that no political matter entered literary debate. In this respect, the poetry of the north, still divided into communes or city-states with relatively democratic governments, provided new ideas. These new ideas are shown in the Sirventese genre, and later, Dante's Commedia: his lines are full of invectives against contemporary political leaders and popes.
Though the conventional love-song prevailed at Frederick's and later Manfred's court, more spontaneous poetry existed in the Contrasto attributed to Cielo d'Alcamo. This contrasto dispute between two lovers in the Sicilian dialect is not the most ancient or the only southern poem of a popular kind. It belongs without doubt to the time of the emperor Frederick II no later than , and is important as proof that there existed a popular, independent of literary, poetry. The Contrasto is probably a scholarly re-elaboration of a lost popular rhyme and is the closest to a kind of poetry that perished or was smothered by the ancient Sicilian literature.
Its distinguishing point was its possession of all qualities opposite to the poetry of the rhymers of the "Sicilian School", though its style may betray a knowledge of Frederick's poetry, and there is probably a satiric intent in the mind of the anonymous poet.
It is vigorous in the expression of feelings. The conceits, sometimes bold and very coarse, show that its subject matter is popular. Everything about the Contrasto is original. The poems of the Sicilian school were written in the first known standard Italian. This was elaborated by these poets under the direction of Frederick II and combines many traits typical of the Sicilian, and to a lesser, but not negligible extent, Apulian dialects and other southern dialects, with many words of Latin and French origin.
Dante's styles illustre, cardinale, aulico, curiale were developed from his linguistic study of the Sicilian School, which had been re-founded by Guittone d'Arezzo in Tuscany. The standard changed slightly in Tuscany, because Tuscan scriveners perceived the five-vowel system used by southern Italian as a seven-vowel one. As a consequence, the texts that Italian students read in their anthology contain lines that do not rhyme with each other sometimes Sic. Religious literature In the 13th century a religious movement took place in Italy, with the rise of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders.
Francis of Assisi, mystic and reformer in the Catholic Church, the founder of the Franciscans, also wrote poetry. Though he was educated, Francis's poetry was beneath the refined poetry at the center of Frederick's court. According to legend, Francis dictated the hymn Cantico del Sole in the eighteenth year of his penance, almost rapt in ecstasy; doubts remain about its authenticity. It was the first great poetical work of Northern Italy, written in a kind of verse marked by assonance, a poetic device more widespread in Northern Europe.
Other poems previously attributed to Francis are now generally recognized as lacking in authenticity. Jacopone da Todi was a poet who represented the religious feeling that had made special progress in Umbria. Jacopone was possessed by St. Jacopone's wife died after the stands at a public tournament collapsed, and the sorrow at her sudden death caused Jacopone to sell all he possessed and give it to the poor.
Jacopone covered himself with rags, joined St. Francis's Third Order, took pleasure in being laughed at, and was followed by a crowd of people who mocked him and called after him Jacopone, Jacopone. He went on raving for years, subjecting himself to the severest sufferings, and giving vent to his religious intoxication in his poems.
Jacopone was a mystic, who from his hermit's cell looked out into the world and specially watched the papacy, scourging with his words Pope Celestine V and Pope Boniface VIII, for which he was imprisoned. The religious movement in Umbria was followed by another literary phenomenon, the religious drama. In a hermit, Raniero Fasani, left the cavern in which he had lived for many years and suddenly appeared at Perugia. Fasani represented himself as sent by God to disclose mysterious visions, and to announce to the world terrible visitations. This was a turbulent period of political faction the Guelphs and Ghibellines , interdicts and excommunications issued by the popes, and reprisals of the imperial party.
In this environment, Fasani's pronouncements stimulated the formation of the Compagnie di Disciplinanti, who, for a penance, scourged themselves till they drew blood, and sang Laudi in dialogue in their confraternities. These laudi, closely connected with the liturgy, were the first example of the drama in the vernacular tongue of Italy. As early as the end of the 13th century the Devozioni del Giovedi e Venerdi Santo appeared, mixing liturgy and drama. Later, di un Monaco che ando al servizio di Dio "of a monk who entered the service of God" approached the definite form the religious drama would assume in the following centuries.
First Tuscan literature Thirteenth century Tuscany was in a unique situation. The Tuscans spoke a dialect which closely resembled Latin - one which afterwards became almost exclusively the language of literature, and which was already regarded at the end of the 13th century as surpassing the other dialects; Lingua Tusca magis apta est ad literam sive literaturam "The Tuscan tongue is better suited to the letter or literature" wrote Antonio da Tempo of Padua, born about After the fall of the Hohenstaufen at the Battle of Benevento in , it was the first province of Italy.
From Florence began the movement of political reform which in resulted in the appointment of the Priori delle Arti, and the establishment of the Arti Minori. This was later copied by Siena with the Magistrato dei Nove , by Lucca, by Pistoia, and by other Guelph cities in Tuscany with similar popular institutions. The guilds took the government into their hands, and it was a time of social and political prosperity.
In Tuscany, too, popular love poetry existed. A school of imitators of the Sicilians was led by Dante da Majano, but its literary originality took another line — that of humorous and satirical poetry. The entirely democratic form of government created a style of poetry which stood strongly against the medieval mystic and chivalrous style. Devout invocation of God or of a lady came from the cloister and the castle; in the streets of the cities everything that had gone before was treated with ridicule or biting sarcasm. Folgore da San Gimignano laughs when in his sonnets he tells a party of Sienese youths the occupations of every month in the year, or when he teaches a party of Florentine lads the pleasures of every day in the week.
Cenne della Chitarra laughs when he parodies Folgore's sonnets. The sonnets of Rustico di Filippo are half-fun and half-satire, as is the work of Cecco Angiolieri of Siena, the oldest humorist we know, a far-off precursor of Rabelais and Montaigne. Another kind of poetry also began in Tuscany. He attempted political poetry, and, although his work is often obscure, he prepared the way for the Bolognese school. Bologna was the city of science, and philosophical poetry appeared there. Guido Guinizelli was the poet after the new fashion of the art. In his work the ideas of chivalry are changed and enlarged.
Only those whose heart is pure can be blessed with true love, regardless of class. He refuted the traditional credo of courtly love, for which love is a subtle philosophy only a few chosen knights and princesses could grasp. Love is blind to blasons but not to a good heart when it finds one: when it succeeds it is the result of the spiritual, not physical affinity between teo souls. Guinizzelli's democratic view can be better understood in the light of the greater equality and freedom enjoyed by the city-states of the center-north and the rise of a middle class eager to legitimise itself in the eyes of the old nobility, still regarded with respect and admiration but in fact dispossessed of its political power.
Guinizelli's Canzoni make up the bible of Dolce Stil Novo, and one in particular, "Al cor gentil" "To a Kind Heart" is considered the manifesto of the new movement which will bloom in Florence under Cavalcanti, Dante and their followers. His poetry has some of the faults of the school of d'Arezzo.
Nevertheless, he marks a great development in the history of Italian art, especially because of his close connection with Dante's lyric poetry. In the 13th century, there were several major allegorical poems. One of these is by Brunetto Latini, who was a close friend of Dante. His Tesoretto is a short poem, in seven-syllable verses, rhyming in couplets, in which the author professes to be lost in a wilderness and to meet with a lady, who represents Nature, from whom he receives much instruction.
We see here the vision, the allegory, the instruction with a moral object, three elements which we shall find again in the Divine Comedy. Francesco da Barberino, a learned lawyer who was secretary to bishops, a judge, and a notary, wrote two little allegorical poems, the Documenti d'amore and Del reggimento e dei costumi delle donne. The poems today are generally studied not as literature, but for historical context.
A fourth allegorical work was the Intelligenza, which is sometimes attributed to Compagni, but is probably only a translation of French poems.
Al di là dell'Arcobaleno
In the 15th century, humanist and publisher Aldus Manutius published Tuscan poets Petrarch and Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy , creating the model for what became a standard for modern Italian. Development of early prose Italian prose of the 13th century was as abundant and varied as its poetry. The earliest example dates from , and consists of short notices of entries and expenses by Mattasala di Spinello dei Lambertini of Siena.
At this time, there was no sign of literary prose in Italian, though there was in French.
Rusticiano of Pisa, who was for a long while at the court of Edward I of England, composed many chivalrous romances, derived from the Arthurian cycle, and subsequently wrote the Travels of Marco Polo, which may have been dictated by Polo himself. And finally Brunetto Latini wrote his Tesoro in French.
Latini also wrote some works in Italian prose such as La rettorica, an adaptation from Cicero's De inventione, and translated three orations from Cicero: Pro Ligario, Pro Marcello and Pro rege Deiotaro. There are some moral narratives taken from religious legends, a romance of Julius Caesar, some short histories of ancient knights, the Tavola rotonda, translations of the Viaggi of Marco Polo, and of Latini's Tesoro. At the same time, translations from Latin of moral and ascetic works, histories, and treatises on rhetoric and oratory appeared. Some of the works previously regarded as the oldest in the Italian language have been shown to be forgeries of a much later time.
The oldest prose writing is a scientific book, Composizione del mondo by Ristoro d'Arezzo, who lived about the middle of the 13th century. This work is a copious treatise on astronomy and geography.
Italian Academies and Their Networks, 1525–1700
Ristoro was a careful observer of natural phenomena; many of the things he relates were the result of his personal investigations, and consequently his works are more reliable than those of other writers of the time on similar subjects. Another short treatise exists: De regimine rectoris, by Fra Paolino, a Minorite friar of Venice, who was probably bishop of Pozzuoli, and who also wrote a Latin chronicle. His treatise stands in close relation to that of Egidio Colonna, De regimine principum.
It is written in the Venetian language. The 13th century was very rich in tales. A collection called the Cento Novelle antiche contains stories drawn from many sources, including Asian, Greek and Trojan traditions, ancient and medieval history, the legends of Brittany, Provence and Italy, the Bible, local Italian traditions, and histories of animals and old mythology.
This book has a distant resemblance to the Spanish collection known as El Conde Lucanor. The peculiarity of the Italian book is that the stories are very short, and seem to be mere outlines to be filled in by the narrator as he goes along. Other prose novels were inserted by Francesco Barberino in his work Del reggimento e dei costumi delle donne, but they are of much less importance. On the whole the Italian novels of the 13th century have little originality, and are a faint reflection of the very rich legendary literature of France.
Some attention should be paid to the Lettere of Fra Guittone d'Arezzo, who wrote many poems and also some letters in prose, the subjects of which are moral and religious. Guittone's love of antiquity and the traditions of Rome and its language was so strong that he tried to write Italian in a Latin style. The letters are obscure, involved and altogether barbarous. Guittone took as his special model Seneca the Younger, and hence his prose became bombastic.
Guittone viewed his style as very artistic, but later scholars view it as extravagant and grotesque. The Renaissance A new literature In the year a period of new literature began, developing from the Tuscan beginnings. The whole novelty and poetic power of this school, consisted in, according to Dante, Quando Amore spira, noto, ed a quel niodo Ch'ei detta dentro, vo significando: that is, in a power of expressing the feelings of the soul in the way in which love inspires them, in an appropriate and graceful manner, fitting form to matter, and by art fusing one with the other.
Love is a divine gift that redeems man in the eyes of God, and the poet's mistress is the angel sent from heaven to show the way to salvation. This a neo-platonic approach widely endorsed by Dolce Stil Novo, and although in Cavalcanti's case it can be upsetting and even destructive, it is nonetheless a metaphysical experience able to lift man onto a higher, spiritual dimension. Gianni's new style was still influenced by the Siculo-Provencal school. Cavalcanti's poems may be divided into two classes: those which portray the philosopher, il sottilissimo dialettico, as Lorenzo the Magnificent called him and those which are more directly the product of his poetic nature imbued with mysticism and metaphysics.
To the first set belongs the famous poem Sulla natura d'amore, which in fact is a treatise on amorous metaphysics, and was annotated later in a learned way by renowned Platonic philosophers of the 15th century, such as Marsilius Ficinus and others. In other poems, Cavalcanti tends to stifle poetic imagery under a dead weight of philosophy.
On the other hand, in his Ballate, he pours himself out ingenuously, but with a consciousness of his art. The greatest of these is considered to be the ballata composed by Cavalcanti when he was banished from Florence with the party of the Bianchi in , and took refuge at Sarzana. The third poet among the followers of the new school was Cino da Pistoia, of the family of the Sinibuldi.
His love poems are sweet, mellow and musical. Dante First page of an early printed edition of Dante's Divine Comedy. Main article: Dante Alighieri Dante, the greatest of Italian poets, also shows these lyrical tendencies. In he wrote La Vita Nuova "new life" in English, so called to indicate that his first meeting with Beatrice was the beginning of a new life , in which he idealizes love. It is a collection of poems to which Dante added narration and explication. Everything is supersensual, aerial, heavenly, and the real Beatrice is supplanted by an idealized vision of her, losing her human nature and becoming a representation of the divine.
Dante is the main character of the work, and the narration purports to be autobiographical, though historical information about Dante's life proves this to be poetic license. Several of the lyrics of the Canzoniere deal with the theme of the new life. Not all the love poems refer to Beatrice, however—other pieces are philosophical and bridge over to the Convito. The Divine Comedy The work which made Dante immortal, and raised him above all other men of genius in Italy, was his Divina Commedia, which tells of the poet's travels through the three realms of the dead—Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise—accompanied by the Latin poet Virgil.
An allegorical meaning is hidden under the literal one of this great epic. Dante, travelling through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, is a symbol of mankind aiming at the double object of temporal and eternal happiness. The forest in which the poet loses himself symbolizes the civil and religious confusion of society, deprived of its two guides, the emperor and the pope.
The mountain illuminated by the sun is universal monarchy. The three beasts are the three vices and the three powers which offered the greatest obstacles to Dante's designs: envy is Florence, light, fickle and divided by the Bianchi and Neri; pride is the house of France; avarice is the papal court. Virgil represents reason and the empire. Beatrice is the symbol of the supernatural aid without which man cannot attain the supreme end, which is God.
The merit of the poem does not lie in the allegory, which still connects it with medieval literature. What is new is the individual art of the poet, the classic art transfused for the first time into a Romance form. Whether he describes nature, analyses passions, curses the vices or sings hymns to the virtues, Dante is notable for the grandeur and delicacy of his art.
He took the materials for his poem from theology, philosophy, history, and mythology, but especially from his own passions, from hatred and love. Under the pen of the poet, the dead come to life again; they become men again, and speak the language of their time, of their passions. Thomas Aquinas, Cacciaguida, St. Benedict, and St. Peter, are all so many objective creations; they stand before us in all the life of their characters, their feelings, and their habits. The real chastizer of the sins and rewarder of virtues is Dante himself. The personal interest he brings to bear on the historical representation of the three worlds is what most interests us and stirs us.
Dante remakes history after his own passions. Thus the Divina Commedia is not only a life-like drama of contemporary thoughts and feelings, but also a clear and spontaneous reflection of the individual feelings of the poet, from the indignation of the citizen and the exile to the faith of the believer and the ardour of the philosopher.
The Divina Commedia defined the destiny of Italian literature, giving artistic lustre to all forms of literature the Middle Ages had produced. Dante, some scholars say, began the Renaissance. Petrarch Main article: Petrarch Statue outside the Uffizi, FlorenceTwo facts characterize the literary life of Petrarch: classical research and the new human feeling introduced into his lyric poetry.
The facts are not separate; rather, the former caused the latter.
BLOOMS PERIOD STUDIES
The Petrarch who unearthed the works of the great Latin writers helps us understand the Petrarch who loved a real woman, named Laura, and celebrated her in her life and after her death in poems full of studied elegance. Petrarch was the first humanist, and he was at the same time the first modern lyric poet.
His career was long and tempestuous. He lived for many years at Avignon, cursing the corruption of the papal court; he travelled through nearly the whole of Europe; he corresponded with emperors and popes, and he was considered the most important writer of his time. His Canzoniere is divided into three parts: the first containing the poems written during Laura's lifetime, the second the poems written after her death, the third the Trionfi. The one and only subject of these poems is love; but the treatment is full of variety in conception, in imagery and in sentiment, derived from the most varied impressions of nature.
Petrarch's lyric verse is quite different, not only from that of the Provencal troubadours and the Italian poets before him, but also from the lyrics of Dante. Petrarch is a psychological poet, who examines all his feelings and renders them with an art of exquisite sweetness. The lyrics of Petrarch are no longer transcendental like Dante's, but keep entirely within human limits. The second part of the Canzoniere is the more passionate. The Trionfi are inferior; in them Petrarch tried to imitate the Divina Commedia, but failed.
The Canzoniere includes also a few political poems, one supposed to be addressed to Cola di Rienzi and several sonnets against the court of Avignon. These are remarkable for their vigour of feeling, and also for showing that, compared to Dante, Petrarch had a sense of a broader Italian consciousness. The Italy which he wooed was different from any conceived by the men of the Middle Ages, and in this also he was a precursor of modern times and of modern aspirations.
Petrarch had no decided political idea. He exalted Cola di Rienzi, invoked the emperor Charles IV, and praised the Visconti; in fact, his politics were affected more by impressions than by principles. Above all this was his love of Italy, which in his mind is reunited with Rome, the great city of his heroes Cicero and Scipio. Boccaccio had the same enthusiastic love of antiquity and the same worship for the new Italian literature as Petrarch.
He was the first to put together a Latin translation of the Iliad and, in , the Odyssey. His classical learning was shown in the work De genealogia deorum, in which he enumerates the gods according to genealogical trees from the various authors who wrote about the pagan divinities.
The Genealogia deorum is, as A. Heeren said, an encyclopaedia of mythological knowledge; and it was the precursor of the humanist movement of the 15th century. Boccaccio was also the first historian of women in his De mulieribus claris, and the first to tell the story of the great unfortunates in his De casibus virorum illustrium. He continued and perfected former geographical investigations in his interesting book De montibus, silvis, fontibus, lacubus, fluminibus, stagnis, et paludibus, et de nominibus maris, for which he made use of Vibius Sequester.
Of his Italian works, his lyrics do not come anywhere near to the perfection of Petrarch's. His narrative poetry is better. He did not invent the octave stanza, but was the first to use it in a work of length and artistic merit, his Teseide, the oldest Italian romantic poem. It may be that Boccaccio knew the French poem of the Trojan war by Benoit de Sainte-More; but the interest of his poem lies in the analysis of the passion of love. The Ninfale fiesolano tells the love story of the nymph Mesola and the shepherd Africo.
The Amorosa Visione, a poem in triplets, doubtless owed its origin to the Divina Commedia. The Ameto is a mixture of prose and poetry, and is the first Italian pastoral romance. The Filocopo takes the earliest place among prose romances. In it Boccaccio tells the loves of Florio and Biancafiore. Probably for this work he drew materials from a popular source or from a Byzantine romance, which Leonzio Pilato may have mentioned to him. In the Filocopo there is a remarkable exuberance in the mythological part, which damages the romance as an artistic work, but which contributes to the history of Boccaccio's mind.
The Fiammetta is another romance, about the loves of Boccaccio and Maria d'Aquino, a supposed natural daughter of King Robert, whom he always called by this name of Fiammetta. The Italian work which principally made Boccaccio famous was the Decamerone, a collection of a hundred novels, related by a party of men and women, who had retired to a villa near Florence to escape from the plague in Novel-writing, so abundant in the preceding centuries, especially in France, now for the first time assumed an artistic shape.
The style of Boccaccio tends to the imitation of Latin, but in him prose first took the form of elaborated art. The rudeness of the old fabliaux gives place to the careful and conscientious work of a mind that has a feeling for what is beautiful, that has studied the classic authors, and that strives to imitate them as much as possible. Over and above this, in the Decamerone, Boccaccio is a delineator of character and an observer of passions.
In this lies his novelty. Much has been written about the sources of the novels of the Decamerone. Probably Boccaccio made use both of written and of oral sources. Popular tradition must have furnished him with the materials of many stories, as, for example, that of Griselda. Unlike Petrarch, who was always discontented, preoccupied, wearied with life, disturbed by disappointments, we find Boccaccio calm, serene, satisfied with himself and with his surroundings.
Notwithstanding these fundamental differences in their characters, the two great authors were old and warm friends. But their affection for Dante was not equal. Petrarch, who says that he saw him once in his childhood, did not preserve a pleasant recollection of him, and it would be useless to deny that he was jealous of his renown. The Divina Commedia was sent him by Boccaccio, when he was an old man, and he confessed that he never read it. On the other hand, Boccaccio felt for Dante something more than love--enthusiasm. He wrote a biography of him, of which the accuracy is now depreciated by some critics, and he gave public critical lectures on the poem in Santa Maria del Fiore at Florence.
The former wrote the Dittamondo, a long poem, in which the author supposes that he was taken by the geographer Solinus into different parts of the world, and that his Commedia guide related the history of them. The legends of the rise of the different Italian cities have some importance historically. Frezzi, bishop of his native town Foligno, wrote the Quadriregio, a poem of the four kingdoms Love, Satan, the Vices, and the Virtues. This poem has many points of resemblance with the Divina Commedia. Frezzi pictures the condition of man who rises from a state of vice to one of virtue, and describes hell, limbo, purgatory and heaven.
The poet has Pallas for a companion. Ser Giovanni Fiorentino wrote, under the title of Pecorone, a collection of tales, which are supposed to have been related by a monk and a nun in the parlour of the monastery Novelists of Forli. He closely imitated Boccaccio, and drew on Villani's chronicle for his historical stories. Franco Sacchetti wrote tales too, for the most part on subjects taken from Florentine history.
His book gives a life-like picture of Florentine society at the end of the 14th century. The subjects are almost always improper; but it is evident that Sacchetti collected all these anecdotes in order to draw from them his own conclusions and moral reflections, which are to be found at the end of every story. From this point of view Sacchetti's work comes near to the Monalisaliones of the Middle Ages. A third novelist was Giovanni Sercambi of Lucca, who after wrote a book, in imitation of Boccaccio, about a party of people who were supposed to fly from a plague and to go travelling about in different Italian cities, stopping here and there telling stories.
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