The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy, Third Edition
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In this brilliant and widely acclaimed work, Peter Burke presents a social and cultural history of the Italian Renaissance. He discusses the social and political institutions that existed in Italy during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and he analyses the ways of thinking and seeing that characterized this period of extraordinary artistic creativity.
Developing a distinctive sociological approach, Peter Burke is concerned not only with the finished works of Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and others, but also with the social background, patterns of recruitment, and means of subsistence of this 'cultural elite.' He thus makes a major contribution to our understanding of the Italian Renaissance, and to our comprehension of the complex relations between culture and society.
Burke has thoroughly revised and updated the text for this new edition, including a new introduction, and the book is richly illustrated throughout. It will have a wide appeal among historians, sociologists, and anyone interested in one of the most creative periods of European history.
arguments are valid, to talk about ‘Renaissance realism’ is to talk nonsense. However, Riegl’s arresting formulation is in danger of unfalsifiability, of circularity. The evidence of an artist’s conception of nature comes from his paintings, but the paintings are then interpreted in terms of that same conception. It seems more useful to start from the empirical fact that some societies, like some individuals, take a particular interest in the visible world, as it appears to them, and that
drawn from their collective biographies or ‘prosopography’.1 The choice of the six hundred is necessarily somewhat arbitrary, though no more arbitrary than the choice of named individuals in other studies of the Renaissance.2 In this context the terms ‘architect’, ‘composer’ and ‘scientist’ are convenient but problematic. The emergence of the architect, as opposed to the master mason, was taking place in this very period.3 Although the word compositore existed in this period, men whom we call
between them.93 Examples of the sale of uncommissioned works of art go back at least as far as the fourteenth century. The demand for Virgins, Crucifixions or St John the Baptists was sufficiently great for workshops to be able to produce them without a particular customer in mind, although they might be left unfinished in order to accommodate special requirements. Some merchants – the ‘merchant of Prato’ Francesco Datini, for instance – dealt in works of art as in other commodities.94 Cheap
that he was wrong. The Venetian Council of Ten took it more seriously when they issued a decree against it in 1488. Several Italian treatises on the subject from the later part of our period have survived. The most famous is a Latin poem, Giovanni Augurello’s Chrysopoeia, published in 1515 and dedicated to Leo X; there is a story that the pope rewarded the poet with an empty purse. A certain ‘J. A. Pantheus’, priest of Venice, also dedicated an alchemical work to Leo before inventing a new
court of law. Justice involved calculation, as the classical and Renaissance image of the scales should remind us. Ragione also meant ‘proportion’ or ‘ratio’. A famous early definition of perspective, in the life of Brunelleschi attributed to Manetti, called it the science which sets down the differences of size in objects near and far con ragione, a phrase which can be (and has been) translated as either ‘rationally’ or ‘in proportion’. The habit of calculation was central to Italian urban