How did materialism affect the arts of the Renaissance period? What is a “Renaissance man?”  Why might a person be called that? What is the origin of the word “Baroque?” Why is the period...

  1. How did materialism affect the arts of the Renaissance period?
  2. What is a “Renaissance man?”  Why might a person be called that?
  3. What is the origin of the word “Baroque?” Why is the period of art and music called “Baroque?”
  4. Compare the form, style and use of light in Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch (colorplate 35) with another group portrait from the period.

Asked on by cathy-cobb

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Being uncertain of what ¨Humanities of fine Art form"signifies, the answer will be posted and, hopefully, the student can re-format it.

1. Materialism - Economic growth and material development occurred during the Renaissance in the thirteenth century. Such developments as the commercial infrastructure, joint stock companies, international banking, double-entry bookkeeping, foreign exchange market system,and a gold standard began during this time.
    Also during the Renaissance, wealthy patrons supported such artists as Michelangelo and others in Florence and in Rome. Consequently, these patrons such as Lorenzo the Magnificent, one of the Medici rulers, and Julius II and other popes commissioned costly monuments, tombs, etc built for them as they wished to have grand artifacts marking their lives. 

2. A Renaissance Man - The two original Renaissance men were Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. But the metaphoric¨Renaissance man¨ is not someone from the time period of da Vinci and Michelangelo; he is a learned man who has a love of the arts and finer things of life.

3. Baroque - (This term has been defined in the previous answer) The word baroque connotes art and architecture that are exaggerated in size and form with designs and details that develop recurring themes and create ornateness.
Baroque music - Music from the Baroque period is very dramatic, with such things as overlapping themes. Such compositions as the fugue and sonata were part of Baroque music; these compositions were polyphonic in texture and mostly written for string instruments. Some compositions, however, were on a grand scale, such as Handel's epic Messiah, based on the Anglican anthem theme.  

Another Baroque composer is Johann Sebastian Bach, who composed concertos for the harpsichord. Authorities hold Bach is very high esteem:

Bach brought baroque musical forms to the peak of their development. He left 48 Preludes and Fugues for the keyboard adopting the new “equal temperament” enabling all keys to be played equally and modulation between keys.

Here are some other characteristics of Baroque music:

  • Suggestive of emotional states or moods
  • Repeated musical ideas and rhythmic patterns
  • Sudden alterations between loud ad soft
  • Basso continuo - a bass part with specified chords to be played above it
  • Movements - pieces that seem complete, but are part of a larger composition (e.g. Handel's Messiah)

4. The Nightwatch - When the famous painting by Rembrandt was unveiled, there was practically a holding of breaths by nobles and the subjects of this painting, for it was certainly not what was expected. Heretofore, such portraits were formal in subject; that is, those being painted were in formal poses (static military), not engaged in activities or movement.

Rembrandt's huge painting not only depicts movement, but it also makes unusual use of light and shadow. Additionally, art critics have added these observations,

Night Watch is symmetrically divided, firstly to illustrate the union between the Dutch Protestants and the Dutch Catholics, and secondly to evoke the war effort against the Spaniards. For instance, accordingly to Rembrandt's multi-layered design, the taller Captain (in black) symbolizes the Dutch Protestant leadership, loyally supported by the Dutch Catholics (represented by the shorter Lieutenant, in yellow).

This use of double meanings was also avant-garde. For instance, compared to this portrait of Oliver Cromwell by Robert Walker, which is the formal static style, Rembrandt's portrait is markedly different and radical.

Oliver Cromwell

by Robert Walker
oil on canvas, circa 1649
49 1/2 in. x 40 in. (1257 mm x 1016 mm)
Transferred from British Museum, 1879

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coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Your subsections on the concept of 'Renaissance man' are each substantial areas from the arts of that epoch, so perhaps it would be a good idea to take each in turn,posting different questions for each one - that way we can help you examine each area in greater depth. I will take the second one, the concept of 'Renaissance Man.'

The concept of 'Renaissance Man' has origins in both the culture of the Greeks, and later that of the Italians. The Ancient Greeks held the idea of health and well-being in great esteem and even had a slogan for it, as the ideal applied to both the mind and the body ('a healthy mind in a healthy body.') Their ideas filter down even to today's society through the medium of events such as the Olympic Games. Education was also greatly revered. The Italians took up this goal also, and further added to the model of the perfect man by drawing the picture wider to include art, music, travel and other forms of personal development. One example of a 'celebrity' from the time would be Leonardo Da Vinci as he was accomplished in so many areas of expertise. He seemed to be a walking advertisement for the ideal as the breadth of his personal development seemed to be limitless (art, science, travel, global affairs, general knowledge,politics) and this aspiration was expected to apply to everyone. The process of learning in all these fields was expected to lead to wisdom and integrity because a well-educated man, in touch with his artistic and empathetic side as well as the courageous and forceful side, would be a better world citizen as he would understand and appreciate culture,diversity and justice for all.

Furthermore, a man's humanity was expected to be enhanced in every direction not just one narrow strand, so that one part of his personality would not blossom at the expense of others. His academic learning, for example, should not impinge on wholesome social interaction with others. He must work to improve his whole personal development.

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robyn-bird96's profile pic

robyn-bird96 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

To answer the third question:

Baroque refers to complex stylism, paradoxes in art.  According to Britannica:

In general, however, the desire to evoke emotional states by appealing to the senses, often in dramatic ways, underlies its manifestations. Some of the qualities most frequently associated with the Baroque are grandeur, sensuous richness, drama, vitality, movement, tension, emotional exuberance, and a tendency to blur distinctions between the various arts.

The term Baroque itself is :

probably ultimately derived from the Italian word barocco, which was a term used by philosophers during the Middle Ages to describe an obstacle in schematic logic. Subsequently the word came to denote any contorted idea or involuted process of thought. Another possible source is the Portuguese word barroco (Spanish barrueco), used to describe an irregular or imperfectly shaped pearl, and this usage still survives in the jeweler’s term baroque pearl.

The Baroque period is unique as it appeals to a sense of luxury, of wild designs and grandeur.  The Baroque period refers to the 17th century.  If you note in history, this is the time of the absolute monarchs, who emphasized luxurious living styles (in order to weaken the power of their nobles to gain more power themselves).

In art and music, Baroque "came to be used to describe anything irregular, bizarre, or otherwise departing from established rules and proportions."

The following sources give examples of how it is applied to the art and music itself.  

(Sorry I'm not much help myself, but the source is great)

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robyn-bird96's profile pic

robyn-bird96 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

I'll answer the first question.

Well to look at the art of the Renaissance, you first need to compare it to the art of the Middle Ages.  

Middle Age Art:

  • flat, 2-dimensional
  • unrealistic/not human proportioned
  • few colors/dark
  • very religious
  • giant halos

Renaissance Art:

  • three dimensional
  • realistic/human proportions
  • perception
  • human settings/backgrounds
  • humanized portraits (many of the Renaissance artists actually dissected human bodies to learn the anatomy)
  • colors/bright

So to summarize, Medieval art was religious and unrealistic, while Renaissance art was human/secular (although religious themes were used, but put into a human setting) and very realistic.

Now, materialism itself never affected Renaissance art.  It was humanism.  Renaissance art portrayed the achievements of man, what man has done.  In the northern Renaissance cities, it portrayed the daily life of peasants.  In Italy, many artists had patrons that supported their artwork, so their artwork was either religious (for the Church) or were portraits.  But the main idea was celebrating the beauty of being man (as in human).

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