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To what extent did the context and achievement of the Northern Renaissance differ to those of the Italian?

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To what extent did the context and achievement of the Northern Renaissance differ to those of the Italian? 'All this, although it pleases some persons, is done without reason or art, without symmetry or proportion, without skill, selection or boldness and finally without substance or vigour.' With these words Michael Angelo displayed a typical attitude of people towards the Northern Renaissance. For centuries it has been accused of being 'in the shadow' of the Italian Renaissance. Burckhardt, a Victorian historian, created what is known today as the 'myth of the Renaissance,' glorifying and praising the achievements of the Italian 're-birth', whilst completely dismissing the Northern Renaissance. One might therefore expect to find mainly similarities and attempts to imitate the achievements of the Italian Renaissance, if it had been so flourishing and influential. However, this would seem a biased opinion, as, although there are some similarities, there are clearly many distinctive areas of achievement from the Northern Renaissance that emerged as a result of their own context, which greatly differ from the Italian Renaissance. Thus, Burke's interactive idea of 'creative adaptation' would seem the most accurate explanation. The contexts from which the Renaissances resided, were in some ways similar but were essentially very different. ...read more.


For example, Erasmus and Machiavelli's similar beliefs included that a lot could be learnt from antiquity, and that the classical art of rhetoric was essential for political leadership, were spread more accurately to a wider audience. Although their responses to religion were different, humanists studied classical literature and culture in both Renaissances, and held a huge importance to the potential of the individual. They were important people in society. However, the centre of classical heritage was in Italy. Antiquity became the 'ideal', the source from which ideas were taken, a fascination that influenced most of their works. The remains of the classical world of architecture surrounded them. One of the surviving buildings is the Pantheon in Rome. Also, Italian architects from the fifteenth Century, including Brunelleschi, visited the Roman architectural sites using measurements and principles for themselves. The survival of a treatise on architecture by Vitruvius, aided their studies, emphasising the need for symmetry and proportion and comparing the structure of a building to that of the human body. Increased interest in ancient philosophy, sculpture and art also completely revolutionised Italian culture becoming a model and a vast reservoir of knowledge for Italian people. ...read more.


This was done purposely to stir the religious souls of the spectators, reflecting the fact that the Northern Renaissance coincided with a movement for religious reform. The reform stressed the importance of lay spirituality; hence the appeal of the paintings to everyone, not just the clergy and the literate. Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, whose vision of hellfire seems almost ahead of its time, is another example of melodrama. The detail used for the grass, is another distinctive feature of Northern Renaissance art. By varying the intensities of the oil paint, the full range of tonal colours is achieved and thus the realistic detail results in an impressive overall effect. It takes the art to a new level, assimilating what had already been developed and making it personal and surrealistic, rather than merely realistic. The paintings are a chaotic mix of incongruous objects, but portrayed with such a delicate precision and sense of form, they create the most emotional and bizarre, tangible presence. Returning to Giotto's St. Francis, the contrasting simplicity of it highlights the difference in the use of detail used between the two Renaissances. The comparison between Bosch and Giotto clearly shows how fundamentally different the achievements of the two Renaissances were and it demonstrates how the traditional view held by Burckhardt is clearly superficial and inaccurate. Naomi Burrell. February 2003. Candidate No. 9085 ...read more.

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