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Italian Renaissance Art Humor and Satire

In History of art, Italian Renaissance period is consider as one of the most productive period. It was the period where large number of  most outstanding masterpiece were found in all the major fields like painting, sculpture and architecture. During this period great artist  like Masaccio in painting, Brunelleschi in Architecture and Donatello in sculpture, their work of master piece marked the beginning of a new era in art history. It is also in this period that the artist were not just considered to be craft people, their social status change, and were recognized as individual with a unique and awesome talents.

Art and Science were closely connected in Renaissance period because both the artist and the scientist strove for the mastery of the physical world. These artists bring–out  new concept and methods in the world of artistry. The art painting is profited by the two field of scientific study: the anatomy perspective this provides an accurate representation of the human body and the mathematical perspective. The effect of the perspective in painting to create a illusion of a three-dimension from the two-dimensional surface. Empirical means, make it possible for the  previous painters to achieved this effect, in 1420 Brunelleschi discovered the method of attaining three-dimensional impression by using the mathematical method. Artist used this method as chief instrument to pursuit reality since it could be systematically studied and explained. Some of this talented men were both Scientist and Artist, two of this were Leonardo da Vinci and Piero della Francesca. Along with the spread of the Renaissance, the Europeans a completely new world and culture were conceived. From the Renaissance concept, that humankind in control of  nature, this gave birth to modern science. The humanistic and scholastic thinking of human led to advancement and many great scientists and thinkers existed seventeenth century. The English constitution theory, as we have known today, is the result of the concepts of human freedom and republicanism that were adopted during the period of Renaissance.

Perhaps one of the most significant thing that the Renaissance brought to the society aside from the breath taking work of art, was the ideology of individualism. Uniqueness in style and knowledge of each artist became the sign of nobility.

During the Renaissance period, portraits of women were made without eye contact because of reasons that “exchange of glances” is already a form of communication during the fifteenth century. In the culture of Italy on Renaissance, portrait signifies and importance of lineage. A portrait of man is a visual parallel to the ideals of political system, to the nobility of birth to the member of aristocratic dynasties. In northern Italian court portraits celebrate women because of their exceptional aristocratic birth, but contribution to the society was seen principally in forging a family connection through marriage and in preservation of family through the birth of a male heir.

Many of the greatest work of the renaissance period was devoted to Christianity, one of this is the painting of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s “The creation of Adam”. However, intellectual approach to religion has begun to change that affects the cultural life of the society, the changes had influenced the artists of that period which are reflected in their art.

The beginning of the Italian Tragedy all goes back to Aristotle. His dramatic precept   became the basis of the all theatre scholarships. Debates regarding the aesthetic and technical aspect of the tragedy such as it concept and function comes from the poetics. The truth is, because of Italian Renaissance the treatise were able to reach the Western Culture. Due to some incidental comment of Aristotle regarding the time span of the dramatic action an Arestotelian Unities was developed by the Renaissance critics. Their interest for the treatise is not for the reason of academic but more especially for practicality since a help for the cinquecento playwright is needed in reviving the just discovered tragedy.

Unsure of the real idea of a tragedy a thorough discussion happen in the Middle Ages. Because only few of the ancient text were known and mainly in anecdote or quote, scholars thought that tragedy is about a ghastly crimes that often times participated by women. But on the other hand Donatus concluded it as a literary form which refers to a noble character, great apprehension, and a sad ending. Dante on the other hand concluded that tragedy is a serious subject taken in sublime manner and having a dreadful ending. The purpose of tragedy as a poem is mostly intended for  a reading audience was further substantiated by the discovery of Seneca’s plays in the early fourteenth century first printed on 1474-84. Senecan  give more importance on speech rather than action met with great favor in a culture that give high value to the art of verbal talks.

The involvement of the audience in the dramatic action would be the largest extent significant success of the cultural forum of theatre. At this point, playwright would often say that events should be displayed with virtual reality. Their guiding principle was much debated concept of credibility to actual reality. The stage must present the fictional world in a realistic manner to easily suspend the instinctive of audience who are reluctant to be drawn into the theatre’s world of illusion out from their real world. Some authors called attention to the creative ventures through which they brought realistic shows on stage. Some others like Dolce, went so far as to encouraget spectators to imagine themselves as living, if not physically, at least in sprit, in stage’s world of fiction. In the prologue to is Giocasta, he tells the spectators:

“Ora pesante di trovrvi in tebe....

E, se non sete in lei con la persona,

Siatevi con la mentre e col pensiero.”

[Picture yourselves in ancient Thebes.../And if you cannot be there in person, /you can at least be there with your imagination]43

The involvement of the spectators was not simple enough by just asking them of their attention. In order to get their full attention and participation speak to the audience abut themselves and their problems, then showcase what is current.

Whether writing comedies or tragedies, playwrights persistently pursue the novelty on the genre and argue against the boring imitation of a long dead traditions. Francisco Grazzini, Angelo Beolco O Ruzzante, and Geraldiare among to  those who argue for the modernity of theatre, Dolce gave the most distinctive account of this principle of poetics. In his Medea, The spectators are informed  what the are about to see:

Una Tragedia nova,

Nova dico, per esser novamente

Con Nuovi panni da colui vestita.

[A new traged,/I say new, for it has been/ dressed with new clothes by him(the author)]

Although issues were not resolve, an unusual notion of reality seems to have prevailed: respecting the historical and cultural identity of the characters.

Another good attribute of the Italian Renaissance tragedy was the modern courtly ambiance in which numerous plays were cast. Often times it setting were castle and fortress, and the character knights and princes.

In Rucelli’s Oreste, for example, the princes were seen dressed in his lavish costume, the stage where the setting was dominated  by structure resembled too the Renaissance tower. Some Renaissance tragedies also take on a dreadful and horrifying stories of brigands and pirates with which cinquecento audiences were quite familiar.

Di Maria also explained the role of religion in Cinquecento and how ancient religions and Christian beliefs was connected by the playwrights. He also mention the ideological and dramaturgical development of the deus ex machina expedient. It is easy to find a references even if the tragedies is not exactly a Christian when you unfold the Christian setting. Tragic portrayer expresses Christian beliefs and continuously request for divine comfort and justice. Playwrights most of the time give pagan gods Christian attributes; mythological characters use a language that is often more Christian than pagan; the chorus and helpless victims tend to invoke a Christian deity. The deus ex machina expedient has to be seen not as a opposite but as a "mirror of the changing perceptions that Renaissance society had on religion and its godhead". In fact, in the first part of the century, the humanist ideals that humans could fixed their own affairs and were free to realize their physical and intellectual capacities were shattered by events (such as the sack of Rome) that proved to be too overwhelming for any human being to control. The playwrights' recourse to the ex machina expedient reflects the growing awareness of human limitations and the need to rely on a superior power. In the second half of the Cinquecento, together with the coming of the Counter-Reformation, people were moving forward to the Christian ways, which results to a stricter observance of religion.

Di Maria also tackle the nature of kingship and the debate on Machiavellism beginning with the question whether rulers should follow to Machiavellian precepts or to humanist values. Most Renaissance playwrights built their tragedies around the Sophoclean conflict that pits the interests of the state against the rights of the individual. The Cinquecento tragedy usually convey the defend in the action of the king (on the grounds of ancient traditions and Machiavellian theory) against the advice of his counselor, often of humanist ideals. Giraldi's Orbecche best exemplifies the debate as King Sulmone, the bloodiest and most tyrannical ruler in all of cinquecento tragedies, argues with his counselor Malecche, who exhibits a clear aversion to tyrannical rule. The King was given advised by Malecche to forgive his own son-in-law Oronte because a righteous king should all forgiving like God. His advice points to a view of kingship based on Christian morality. Sulmone is hesitant to forgive because he was afraid it will make as this would give him the character as a compassionate, weak, and vulnerable ruler. This view recalls Machiavelli's advice against appearing cowardly and vulnerable, the point of view in those time that king should rule with fears not by love were established. According to Botero, in beief that power are from God the foundation of kingship should be the religion. Kings, in addition to being pious and observing God's law, should also establish a reputation of being strong and fearsome rulers through the occasional use of violence. Clearly the ideal of politics is beginning to change toward notion of divine justice. He also illustrated how stage was use as instrument to talk about the of a women

Though each generation’s culture had their significant influence in their present and future societal state, the Renaissance appears to be one of the most influential period in history. It has affected the works, thoughts and reactions of the society up now and mostly likely continue to influence the future generations’ creations.


Cole, Bruce. “Italian art, 1250-1550: the relation of Renaissance art to life and society”. Harper  & Row Publishers Inc.1987

Di Maria, Salvatore.( 2002). “The Italian tragedy in the Renaissance: cultural realities and theatrical innovations.” illustrated. Bucknell University Press, Print.

Killenger, Charles.( 2005) Culture and Customs. 5th. Westport: Greenwood Press, Print


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