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the arts in Italian Renaissance

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The Italian Renaissance was a very difficult time period in European history. The

arts were flourishing, while the city-states in Italy fought bloody battles with each other

and within themselves. Bribery and murder were not uncommon tools for men to use

when they wanted power. Meanwhile those same rulers patronized the arts a great deal

and they would commission the best artistic minds of the time to build, design and paint

their palaces and churches and later on their own portraits and everyday paraphernalia.

In the beginning of Renaissance the artists, as well as the princes, were mostly

interested in religious themes, mostly from the New Testament. They all believed that if

God let them prosper, then they should give thanks in some form. Therefore, the artists

were commissioned to paint the churches, monasteries or nunneries where God was

worshipped. People who could afford it, loved to pray out of expensive books or give

expensive gifts to worship God. Also, many rich courts tried to emulate the papal court.

The Popes in Rome set an example to all the other rulers by having such a vast collection

of artwork that it was doubtful that anyone would ever be able to compete with them.

However the paintings in churches and nunneries had another purpose besides the

one described above. The Pope and the ruler of any particular area needed to have

obedient subjects. Religion was one way to keep people that obedient. The stained glass

windows and the frescoes in the churches and cathedrals often told stories from the Bible

or depicted hell and heaven and what people should or should not do. Since most people

were illiterate, they depended on the priest to interpret the Bible for them. The

illustrations around only supported that interpretation of the Bible which was beneficial

to the rich and ruling classes. Even when some people preached poverty and abstinence

from anything secular, the religious artworks were considered part of religion itself.

As time went on, the illustrations took on yet another purpose. Each city-state

starting using art to depict and immortalize their victories and their rulers. People now

commissioned artists to paint their portraits, design their tabletops, candleholders, fans or

walls in their studies. A lot of themes varied from religion and if someone w...

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...emy’s side but also

from their own. But the hired troops did something very important – they saved lives. No

captain wished to waste his men, so the level of bloodshed dropped and the diplomatic

talks became more frequent.

All this violence made the people more susceptible to religion. After every

slaughter, people would repent and pray and try to be the model of Christianity. People

such as Savonarola and Fra Bernardino, who denounced all the earthly possessions, found

a fertile ground in cities wrecked by war and plague. While such moments of religious

fervor were fleeting, they were very frequent, which shows that bloody slaughter and the

plague were a common occurrence. People who killed today would go to church and

renounce all the worldly possessions tomorrow only to repeat this cycle of sin and

repentance.

All of the above shows that Italian Renaissance was a period of time in European

history when two different elements of life coexisted at the same time. It is very difficult

to understand what moved people to kill for power and then spend money with ease on

gifts to Church through art.