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Renaissance is translated from Latin as rebirth or rediscovery, in fact, the period was marked with the revitalization of Antiquity in social sciences and art. Renaissance painting, on the one hand, originated from medieval depiction of religious themes and stories as well as from Ancient Greek and Roman patterns of human beauty, freedom and value, clearly demonstrated by the Renaissance artists Therefore, I would expect to find in the capsule Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Rubens’s “Venus at the Mirror”. Both paintings are close-knit with the social ambience in the Renaissance era; due to the rapid popularization of humanism among the so-called bohemia circles, the view on human nature substantially altered: human-beings were no longer viewed as basically sinful, moreover, human body was regarded not merely as ‘flesh’ (Ackerman, 1991, p.38), physical substance, but rather as an embodiment of beauty and harmony. The proportions of human body were also reviewed: for instance, Rubens increased the width of human body, implying the permissiveness of hedonist lifestyle and the beauty of woman’s natural shape, whose glorification was prohibited in the Middle Ages. Another important element of the Renaissance art is the depiction of nude characters – such as those from ancient myths: Venus, Mars, Proserpine and so forth. The appearance of naked body no longer seemed shocking, as the artist skillfully manifested its harmony as well as the balance between ‘flesh’ and ‘soul’ (Ackerman, 1991, p.53; Land, 1994, p. 118). Renaissance also stressed human personality, the inner world, given that the studies of human nature, or psychology, began to progress, so the artists of this epoch depicted unique human-beings with mysterious emotional worlds just like “Mona Lisa” by Da Vinci.
With regard to the weakening of religious influence over secular community and the decline of the reputation of the Catholic Church, secular music awakened during the Renaissance. Therefore, I believe I will find the book of Claudio Monteverdi’s madrigals and chansons by Josquin Des Prez. Given that the poetry was developing very dynamically, madrigals were viewed as the most suitable and appropriate form of vocal performance of verses, so they were normally polyphonic and unaccompanied by music. Chansons had similar nature and were widespread in French secular music. Due to the fact that the bohemia, artistic circles had formed by the 16th century ad a separate group, madrigals and chansons often served as the accompaniment of private entertainments (Reese, 1974, p. 49). In addition, they were adjuncts to public performances and feasts, so they also give idea of people’s frame of mind and reflect the concept of high-quality secular art to be brought to the masses.
The idea of harmony, which can be obtained apart from religion, also spread to architecture. I am likely to find a sketch of Mannerist structure – for instance, Michelangelo’s famous Campidoglio with its inherent giant order, he large pilaster that stretches from the bottom to the top of façade (Ackerman, 1991, p. 93). Importantly, the Renaissance was associated with the growing attention to civil and secular space, and the specified structure was actually designed for administration. Given its beauty and the presence of “fashionable” recreation space (large square and park), one can assume that the contemporary architects were interested in creating more convenient and aesthetically valuable buildings to serve exceptionally people’s needs. I believe I will also find a sketch of a classic-styled structure like Bramante’s San Pietro in Montorio. This small temple embodies the revival of the Greek forms, Greek ideas of space and circular design of structures. Circular structures have fewer sharp angles, which might point to the return of human physical freedom and the circle as a geometrical figure symbolized eternity, so the drawing will reflect the spirit of the epoch.
Speaking about literature, I expect to find Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and Boccaccio’s “Decameron”. The two works were relatively popular among contemporary people and allow learning about the existing values, beliefs and lifestyle. For instance, “Decameron” sheds light on such historical event as the Black Death in Florence and discusses the life of contemporary ordinary people – street musicians, beggars, minor mercenaries and other people, considered by Medieval writers to not deserve a narrative about them. Dante’s “Divine Comedy” implies the Renaissance belief is human salvation and purification, available to everyone, not merely to clergy and includes the notion that epiphanic afterlife can be obtained not merely by faith, but also by virtuous deeds.
Finally, I am likely to find two philosophical works in the capsule – Thomas More’s “Utopia” and Francis Bacon’s “Novum Organum”. The first work clearly demonstrates the humanistic values of the Renaissance and genuine striving for equality and fraternity among people and the belief in the best human qualities, e.g. in human ability to coexist with others peacefully. “Novum Organum” is aimed at studying human cognitive abilities and providing new instruments of scientific inquiry, which points to the fact that along the weakening of religious influence on society, most areas of knowledge and technology were developing rapidly given the broadening of the methodological apparatus.
To sum up, the period of Renaissance opens a rich panorama of styles and themes, but the most prevalent humanistic motif in fact determined the creative heritage of contemporary artists, architects, poets, philosophers and composers. The mobilization and secularization of social ambience led to the increase of creative freedom of imagination, and the above described works clearly demonstrate this fact.
Ackerman, J. (1991). Distance Points: Essays in Theory and Renaissance Art and Architetcure. Cambridge: MIT.
Land, N. (1994). The Viewer as Poet: The Renaissance Response to Art. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP.
Reese, G. (1974). Music in the Renaissance. New York, W.W. Norton & Co.