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University Extension Lectures


of a

Course of Six Lectures


The Renaissance in Italy



Staff-Lecturer in European History for the American Society for the

Extension of University Teaching.

No. 220

Price, 10 cents

Copyright, 1903, by
The American Society for the Extension of University Teaching,

111 South Fifteenth Street, Philadelphia, Pa.

BOOKS. Best single book: Symonds' Fine Arts of the Renaissance. Next two: Berenson's Florentine Painters and Gardner's Florence (Medieval Towns Series).

Other books recommended: Armstrong, Lorenzo de' Medici. Berenson, Italian Painters of the Renaissance (3 vols.). Boccaccio, Decameron (Morley's Universal Library). Browning, Fra Lippo Lippi, and Andrea del Sarto. Bryce, Holy Roman Empire. Church, Essay on Dante. (Sir Martin) Conway, Early Tuscan Art. Dante, The Divine Comedy. George Eliot, Romola. Emerton, Mediæval Europe. Freeman, Italian Sculpture of the Renaissance. Grimm, Life of Michael Angelo. Kugler, Hand-book of Italian Painting. Latham, Dante's Eleven Letters. Machiavelli, The Prince. Masters in Art Magazine, the numbers dealing with the

Renaissance artists, such as Giotto, Fra Angelico, Bot

ticelli, Titian, etc. Walter Pater, The Renaissance. Perkins, Giotto. Robinson, Petrarch. Roscoe, Lorenzo de' Medici. Ruskin, Stones of Venice; Giotto and his works in Padua;

Mornings in Florence; Val d' Arno.
Scartazzini, Companion to Dante.
Symonds, The Renaissance in Italy, especially the volumes

on the Fine Arts and Literature.
Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters.
Villari, Savonarola.
Karl Witte, Essays on Dante.


The Close of the Age of Faith: Dante.

“This period, though from the point of view of Roman civilization a period of destruction and decay, was in the history of the civilization of the world a period of birth and growth. Each breaking wave of inroading barbarians, which shattered the monuments and submerged the institutions of Imperial Rome, carried the seeds of a larger lífe. The education of the new savage or semi-savage inhabitants began with the very day of their arrival upon the soil of the Empire.”

Sir Martin W. Conway, Early Tuscan Art. “The writers who are most revolutionary in their ultimate effect are not those who violently break away from the institutions of the past and set up a new principle against them, but rather those who so thoroughly enter into the spirit of those institutions that they make them, so to speak, transparent,

As Plato in his Republic developed the ruling ideas of Greek politics to a point at which they necessarily break through the form of the Greek State and destroy it, so Dante, in giving a final and conclusive utterance to mediaeval ideas, at once revealed the vital source of their power, and showed where they come into contradiction with themselves and point beyond themselves for their completion.

Dante interprets the religion of the cloister in such a way as to carry us beyond it. His Divina Commedia may be compared to the portal of a great cathedral, through which we emerge from the dim religious light of the Middle Ages into the open day of the modern world, but emerge with the imperishable memory of those harmonies of form and color on which we have been gazing, and with the organ notes that lifted our soul to heaven still sounding in our ears.

Edward Caird.

“Dante could not stay the fall of the decaying Middle Age, but he has built for it a colossal monument, the like of which is found nowhere else on the border-land which commands the last view of a worldperiod coming to its close. In the Divina Commedia he has chanted the swan-song of the Middle Ages.”—F. X. Wegele, Leben Dantes.


Between the age that produced the civilizations of Greece and Rome and that which has seen the brilliant advance of the last six hundred years, there lies a long period which seems

at first sight to be an age of darkness, in which it is hard to see that any contribution was made to the world's progress. For after the collapse of Roman dominion in the west (fifth century A. D.), Europe was overrun by savage or semi-savage Teutons. The universal peace of the Romans was gone, and the Church, with such other forces as made for law, order, and refinement, struggled apparently in vain for centuries against a chaos of brutality. But the struggle was a victorious one.

It was a period of adjustment and assimilation rather than of darkness. Terrible as was the misery and lawlessness of the time, and deep as was its intellectual stagnation, it was yet an age of faith and of heroic ideals-an age too of preparation for the leap forward that came with the Renaissance. Of the whole period, especially as it worked out in Italy, Dante (1265-1321), believer in Pope and Emperor and in what they stood for at their best, is the supreme interpreter, partly perhaps because during his lifetime the break-up of the Middle Ages was beginning.

All over Europe faith and chivalry were waning in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Faith was giving place to criticism and individualism, feudalism to absolutism or popular power, the emphasis of sanctity and the purely spiritual to a new love of beauty in form and color, a new searching into the profane wisdom of antiquity, and an interest in the world for its own sake. Great movements begin and end slowly, but the age of faith was closing when Dante died. He saw and portrayed in its perfection, with entire faith in its permanence, a system which was already tottering to its fall.


1. The Mediaeval Empire, (a) Charlemagne, (b) Frederick Barbarossa, (c) Frederick II (read especially Bryce and perhaps Emerton). 2. The mediaeval view of the hereafter (Divine Comedy). 3. Dante's relation to the Middle Age and to the Renaissance (Edward Caird in Literary and Philosophical Essays, Church, Scartazzini, and Witte).

4. Florence in the Age of Dante (Latham's Dante's Letters, first letter and comment, Church's Essay, Gardner's Florence, and Scartazzini).


The New Birth of Art.

Among the spoils brought home by the Pisan fleet was a very fine sarcophagus in which was an admirable representation of the chase of Meleager, hunting the Calydonian boar.

Niccola, considering the excellence of this work, which greatly delighted him, applied such diligence in imitating that style, studying carefully both the sarcophagus and other excellent sculptures on other antique sarcophagi, that before long he was considered the best sculptor of his time." - Vasari.

“The endless flood of misfortunes which overwhelmed unhappy Italy not only ruined everything worthy of the name of a building, but completely extinguished the race of artists, a far more serious matter. Then, as it pleased God, there was born in the year 1240, in the city of Florence, Giovanni, surnamed Cimabue, to shed the first light on the art of painting.”—Vasari.

“Cimabue is not to be regarded as the first master of the new epoch, but as one of the last and one of the greatest of the old. What he was at Florence, that was Duccio at Siena-great masters both of them, Greeks at heart, the last of their artistic race. With Niccola Pisano, Cimabue, and Duccio the old order passed away, and the promise of an immediate classical revival ceased. Niccola in his old age experienced and yielded to the new influences; Cimabue and Duccio never gave way to them. They must have felt the changes that were at hand; but the dignity of the past had mastered their minds, and the old ideals lived too strongly in them to be abandoned. It is at the moment of perishing that some societies show themselves at their best. Their last flower is finest. Thus it was with the aristocratic classical Renaissance in Italy. It produced great works and seemed to be on the verge of producing greater when life was withdrawn from it, and it made way for a new movement, animated by a new and conquering ideal, and carried on by a new class of men.”

Sir Martin W. Conway, Early Tuscan Art.

“The tale told about Giotto's first essay in drawing might be chosen as a parable: he was not found beneath a church roof tracing a mosaic, but on the open mountain, trying to draw the portrait of the living thing committed to his care. What, therefore, Giotto gave to art was, before all things else, vitality.”.

Symonds, Renaissance in Italy: The Fine Arts.

“In nine cases out of ten, the first expression of an idea is the most valuable: the idea may afterward be polished and softened, and made more attractive to the general eye; but the first expression of it has a freshness and brightness, like the flash of a native crystal compared to the lustre of glass that has been melted and cast. And in the second place, we ought to measure the value of art less by its executive than by its

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