Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Next Renaissance

 From Spencer Klavan at Law and Liberty:

Cardinal John Henry Newman, in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, wrote that a new philosophical movement is like a stream bubbling up from its source in the earth: “It necessarily rises out of an existing state of things, and for a time savours of the soil. Its vital element needs disengaging from what is foreign and temporary.” The same might be said of Renaissance art, which had a long way to travel from Giotto and Duccio before it achieved its full potential. 

Vasari describes this gradual development in three stages: birth, development, and perfection. After that original moment in the 1200s, meticulous technicians like Paolo Uccello labored to perfect the visual mathematics of depth and perspective, while students of gesture and expression like Masaccio suffused the new landscape with human passion (the raw anguish of his Adam and Eve is still harrowing as they stumble perpetually forth from Eden in the frescoes at Santa Maria del Carmine Church). This period of refinement ultimately enabled the consummation of the new art, which Vasari identifies in the breathing marble of Michelangelo and the stately tableaux of Raphael.

Here, too, Vasari is telling a true story of how individual genius arises out of developments in history, then shapes the course of that history in turn. Collaboration and invention, patronage and political circumstance all interlock in a delicate machinery—and none but God can tell in advance how the whole thing will be orchestrated. “The nature of this art, like those of other arts and like the human body, has its birth and its growth, its old age and its death,” writes Vasari: centuries of grandeur and discovery have a natural lifespan because they are creations, shaped by the same artist who sculpted the human form out of dust. (Read more.)


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