Renaissance world-view can be characterized by its humanistic orientation. The objective of this work is to analyze cultural artifacts from the Renaissance showing how they reflect the values of the time and will incorporate the testimony of two experts in the field.
The manner in which the expression of values that exist within a civilization’s culture during a time period in their production of artifacts has been noted in the study of archaeologist and anthropologists who report the different religious and cultural beliefs that have been revealed in those artifacts.
The artifacts of the Renaissance are no different and study of the artifacts of this time period reveals much as to the values held by those who lived at that time.
- CONSUMERISM IN THE RENAISSANCE REVEALED
In the work of Charles Paul Freund entitled: “Buying Into Culture” published in the June 1998 Reason journal publication is the account of how one form of Renaissance art reflects the cultural values of that time evidenced in the statement of Jardine in the work entitled: “Worldly Goods” a 1996 history of the Renaissance.
Stated by Jardine is:
“Titian’s canvases of statuesque naked women in recumbent poses were regarded as learnedly symbolic by nineteenth century art historians….Only recently did contemporary correspondence come to light which showed that these works of art were painted to meet a vigorous demand for bedroom paintings depicting erotic nudes in salacious poses.” (Jardine, 1996; as cited by Freund, 1998)
Jardine gives the account of the Duke of Urbino referred to the painting entitled: “The Venus of Urbino” as a ‘naked woman’ and of how that he was visited by a churchman in 1542 specifically the Cardinal Farnese who upon seeing the painting: “…rushed off to commission a similarly erotic nude of his own from Titan in Venice.” (1996) To support the statement above of: “…a vigorous demand for bedroom paintings depicting erotic nudes in salacious poses…” being the driver for these type paintings which characterize art during this time period Jardine relates the fact that when a report came concerning the progress of the painting’s completion: “…the Papal Nuncio in Venice expressed the view that the Cardinal’s nude…made The Venus of Urbino look like a frigid nun. “ (Jardine, 1996; as cited by Freund, 1998)
Freund makes the comment in relation to the analysis of Jardine of the Renaissance that: “What we regard as “consumerist” behavior does not begin with industrialization and the manufacture of cheap, ready-made goods; it can be traced to antiquity. One revealing way to trace its past is through the proclamation through history of so-called sumptuary laws that attempted to control acquisitiveness.” (1998) Freund relates the fact that it was those selfsame laws that effectively and “expressly limited the quality of things…that any given individual was allowed to own or display” stating additionally that these laws had as their purpose to “…maintain the political and status quo.” (1998) The actual expression as noted by Freund concerning the work of Jardine is that Jardine is relating the “…the translation of material wealth into an assertion of individualism.” (1998)
- ACCUMULATION, PRODUCTION AND EXCHANGE
In the work entitled: “The Production of English Renaissance Culture” by authors David Lee Miller, Sharon O’Dair, and Harold Weber and published in the Modern Philology Journal in February 1997 are nine essays that review subjects of literature from the Renaissances time period. Miller, O’Dair and Weber have as their focus in their study upon how it is in this Renaissance society that: “…the cultural treasures and values of Renaissance England are entangled with the economic and political dynamics of accumulation, production, and exchange” p.1 (1997)
III. SEXUALIZATION OF CHRIST IN RENAISSANCE ART
Renaissance art was very focused on the depiction of Christ in a sexualized manner. The work of Janet Heer in a National Post article entitled; “The Sexuality of Christ” states that our ancestors “had a healthier sense of the body than we do. Where we fear to glance at the right nipple of Janet Jackson, Renaissance artists lavished attention on the penis of Christ.” (2004) Heer goes on to state that the art historian Leo Steinberg, “In his 1983 classic “The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion’….stated that: ” …the first necessity is to admit a long-suppressed matter of fact that Renaissance art, both north and south of the Alps, produced a large body of devotional images in which the Genitalia of the Christ Child, or of the dead Christ, received such demonstrative emphasis that one must recognize an ostentatio genitalium comparable to the canonic ostentation vulnerum, the showing forth of the wounds.” (Heer, 2004)It is additionally related in the article written by Heer that “Steinberg demonstrated that these erotic images of Christ served a very specific religious purpose: they embodied the doctrine of the incarnation showing that Christ was fully human even though divinely perfect.” (2004)
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The Renaissance was a time of rebirth or reassertion and as shown by the works reviewed during the course of this study, the assertion of consumerism in the Renaissance society was a great driver in the production of art or artifacts from that time period. This work has further shown that the economic and political dynamics or the “accumulation, production and exchange” of goods is that which was the driver of the production of cultural treasures throughout the world during the period of time known as the Renaissance. However, it cannot be said that consumerism only drove the production of art during the Renaissance. In fact, it appears that the art or artifacts produced during the Renaissance period reflect a spiritual shift in the world that was occurring in what seems to be a time that the world questioned more deeply their ‘human” selves specifically as to their inherent ‘human-ness’ and that connection to the spiritual world.
Freund, Charles Paul (1998) Buying Into Culture: How Commerce Cultivates Art. Reason June 1998. Online available at: http://reason.com/9806/fe.freund.shtml.
Miller, D.; O’Dair, S.; and Weber, H. (1997) The Production of English Renaissance Culture. Journal of Modern Philology, Vol. 94, No. 3 February 1997 pp. 372-376. University of Chicago Press.
Heer, Janet (2004) The Sexuality of Christ. National Post 2004 Feb 27. Online available at: http://www.jeetheer.com/culture/christ.htm.