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9-08-2015, 15:21

Music and art

Oral culture involved music along with the spoken word. Plays included music, particularly as interludes called intermedi between scenes, while fairs, market places, and inns provided a place to both listen and perform. Shepherds made and then played bagpipes and fl utes as they watched their fl ocks; street singers accompanied themselves on hurdy-gurdies, fi ddles, guitars, or harps, and then sold copies of their ballads; court musicians provided music for banquets and dances; monks and nuns chanted eight services (called the Divine Offi ce) daily. Village families sometimes sang as they worked or as they came together at night around the hearth-fi re; wealthier urban and aristocratic families sang or played instruments together, and courtiers sang or played accompaniments on a lute. Writers sometimes worried about women using music to lure men into the dangers of love, but by the end of the sixteenth century singing and playing an instrument, especially the lute or the harpsichord, was seen as an “accomplishment” appropriate for a middle- or upper-class young lady. Although by the later sixteenth century amateur performers sometimes used printed music, including special tablecloths with the music for each vocal part or instrument printed separately around the edge, most of this music was transmitted orally, with players improvising on pieces they had learned. Alongside this amateur music, nobles and church offi cials hired professional musicians and composers, both for special occasions such as weddings or processions and as permanent staff. Josquin des Prez ( c . 1440–1521), generally seen as the most important composer of the early sixteenth century, began his career with a position at the chapel of the pope, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina ( c . 1525–94) later became the pope’s offi cial composer. By the early sixteenth century, printers recognized the market for printed music, and by the late sixteenth century the works of major composers were printed very quickly and shipped throughout Europe, so that musicians from Poland to Portugal could play the same pieces. Composers such as Orlando di Lasso (1532–94), the choirmaster to the dukes of Bavaria in Munich, gained international reputations as their music was widely performed. Nobles and bishops maintained ensembles of singers, generally all male, with boys, castrati, or men singing falsetto taking the higher parts. Women did sing, play instruments, and compose in convents, however, and in the 1580s, the Este dukes at Ferrara established a separate group of singing women, the concerto di donne , which quickly became the fashion at other courts as well. During the sixteenth century the most important musicians and composers were trained north of the Alps, especially in the Low Countries, and the courts of the German emperor and many of the territorial rulers in Germany became centers of musical culture. Vocal music was the center of musical composition, with the basic compositional technique the counterpoint, in which independent melodic lines – usually four – were combined in polyphonic (that is, multi-voiced) harmony. Secular vocal music was usually sung by small groups, but sacred vocal music was sung by increasingly large choirs. The four-part pattern of soprano/alto/tenor/bass also extended to instruments, as families of different-sized versions of one particular instrument – recorders, viols, shawms (a type of oboe), sackbuts (trombones) – were also popular. Instruments that could play several notes at one time, such as keyboard instruments, harps, and especially lutes, accompanied soloists or groups of singers, while trumpets and drums were used for playing fanfares on battlefi elds and ceremonial occasions. Small village churches and large urban cathedrals had organs to accompany choir and congregational singing, and the position of organist at a major church was a coveted one. Roman and Greek literature and art served as models for humanist writers and Renaissance artists, but there was no way for anyone to know how Roman and Greek music had sounded. Humanist writers adopted Plato’s notion of a relationship between musical harmony and other harmonies in the universe, and they, along with musical theorists such as Gioseffo Zarlino (1517–90) and Vincenzo Galilei (1520–91), the father of the famous scientist, advocated music that expressed emotion and brought harmony to the soul. Composers of vocal music, including French motets and Italian and English madrigals, sought to translate the meaning and mood of texts into musical language using changes in tempo, pitch, rhythm, and key to illustrate words or phrases. Precisely because it could affect the emotions, music became a matter of debate during the Reformation. Martin Luther saw it as an important tool for strengthening faith, and wrote hymns for the congregation itself to sing, sometimes setting them to popular secular tunes. Other Protestants regarded all music as inappropriate for use in worship, or limited sacred music to unison singing of psalms, with no instrumental accompaniment. (Organ music was so popular, however, that Sunday afternoon concerts were sometimes held in Protestant churches that had banned organ music during the service.) Catholic reformers also worried whether complex multi-part harmonies were suitable in church, and ruled that ecclesiastical music should be composed and sung so that “the words can be clearly understood by all.” Hundreds of songs were written praising the heroism of martyrs on the author’s side and satirizing the ideas and leaders of the other side in the religious controversies of the sixteenth century; they were often sold as printed broadsheets, with words and suggestions of popular tunes that would work as the melody. Though the differences between professional and amateur in music grew during the sixteenth century, in terms of types of instruments and complexity of compositions played, people of all classes still sang and played instruments regularly, and regarded what they did as “music.” They also used paint, wood, metal, cloth, and thread to decorate their surroundings and their persons, but it is less clear whether they would have used the word “art” to describe their products. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, Vasari clearly did not, and it is his defi nition of “art” – painting, sculpture, and architecture – that later became standard. More recent scholarship has broadened to include other genres and forms, but it has generally not rejected Vasari’s notion that this art had a new and innovative style. Vasari highlights the contributions of Italians, beginning with Giotto di Bondone (1266–1337) in painting and Donatello (1386–1466) in sculpture: spatial depth, dramatic scenes, classical themes and settings, expressions of weight and force, and (in painting) pure colors. During the fi fteenth century, individuals who were both artists and artistic theorists, such as Piero della Francesca ( c . 1412–92), Andrea Mantegna (1430/1–1506), and Leon Battista Alberti (1404–72), became intrigued with problems of perspective, developing systems of perspective with a single vanishing point and mastering foreshortening (the portrayal of three-dimensional fi gures on a two-dimensional surface in proportions that match those seen by the eye). Alberti was a humanist scholar and author as well as an artist and architect, writing prose and poetic works in Latin and Italian on literature, love, law, the family, the horse, geometry, cryptology, and fame at the same time as he was writing treatises on painting and architecture and designing palaces and churches. Artists and their patrons viewed the purpose of art as the imitation of nature, which they recognized meant creating an illusion of reality rather than copying it. Sandro Botticelli (1444/5–1510), for example, worked on contraposto (the shape of the body when the weight is mostly on one foot) and the way that fabrics draped. Leonardo da Vinci both theorized about and, in his actual paintings, statues, and buildings, experimented with the effects of light on different sorts of surfaces, systems of proportion based on the human body, and compositional structures based on geometric forms (especially the triangle). In architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446) designed a new hospital for foundlings, set up by the silk-workers’ guild in Florence, in which all proportions – of the windows, height, fl oor plan, and covered walkway with a series of rounded arches – were carefully thought out to achieve a sense of balance and harmony. Brunelleschi later turned his talents to designing and constructing a dome for Florence Cathedral, based to some degree on Roman domes, but higher and more graceful. In the fi fteenth century, Florence was the center of the new art in Italy, but in the early sixteenth century this shifted to Rome, where wealthy cardinals and popes wanted visual expression of the church’s and their own families’ power and piety. Michelangelo, a Florentine who had spent his young adulthood at the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici, went to Rome in about 1500, and began the series of statues, paintings, and architectural projects from which he gained an international reputation: the Pietà, Moses , the redesigning of the Capitoline Hill in central Rome, and, most famously, the ceiling and altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. Pope Julius II, who commissioned the Sistine Chapel frescoes, demanded that Michelangelo work as fast as he could and frequently visited the artist at his work with suggestions and criticisms. Michelangelo complained in person and by letter about the pope’s meddling, but even his “singular eminence” did not match the power of the pope and he kept working. The statue of David, commissioned by the Florentine city council as a symbol of the city, and tombs for members of the Medici family, did take him back to Florence at various points, but in 1546 Pope Paul III appointed him as chief architect of the new St. Peter’s basilica. This had originally been designed by another northern Italian architect, Donato Bramante ( c . 1443/4–1514), and would eventually take more than 150 years to complete. Bramante’s relative Raphael Sanzio (1483–1520) got the commission for frescoes in the papal apartments, and in his relatively short life painted hundreds of portraits and devotional images, becoming the most sought-after artist in Europe. Raphael also oversaw a large workshop with many collaborators and apprentices – who assisted on the less diffi cult sections of some paintings – and wrote treatises on his philosophy of art, in which he emphasized the importance of imitating nature and developing an orderly sequence of design and proportion, which he called buona maniera (good style). Venice became another artistic center in the sixteenth century. Titian (1490–1576) produced portraits, religious subjects, and mythological scenes, developing techniques of painting in oil without doing elaborate drawings fi rst, which speeded up the process and so pleased patrons eager to display their acquisition. Paolo Veronese (1528–88) and Jacopo Tintoretto ( c . 1518–94) learned from Titian, as did Doménikos Theotokópoulos, a painter born on Crete who came to be known as El Greco (1541–1614). These and other sixteenth-century painters developed an artistic style, known in English as “mannerism” (from maniera or “style” in Italian), in which artists sometimes distorted fi gures, exaggerated musculature, and heightened color to express emotion and drama more intently. Until the twentieth century, “mannerism” was a negative term, as critics and art historians preferred the more naturalistic and elegant style of Botticelli or Raphael, but modern critics and artists have appreciated its sense of movement, vivid colors, and passionate expressions. Italy was not the only part of Europe to see extensive and innovative artistic production. In Hungary, King Matthias Corvinus and some of his successors hired Italian artists to rebuild the royal palaces in a more classical style, and in France and Spain architects blended classical styles emanating from Italy with local traditions and building materials, designing buildings that were generally more vertical and ornamented than those in Florence or Rome. In the Ottoman Empire, Mimar (“architect” in Turkish) Sinan (1490–1588), the chief architect for the sultans for over fi fty years, developed a new design for building mosques that was later widely adopted. Like Michelangelo, Sinan had to handle a domineering patron who complained about the speed at which he was working. In the 1550s, Sultan Süleyman the Magnifi cent hired him to design and build a vast religious complex in Istanbul, called the Süleymaniye. Work was delayed, and rumors spread to the sultan that the architect was incompetent and that the main dome of the central mosque was ready to collapse. In a rage, Süleyman stormed to the building site and threatened Sinan with imprisonment. Mimar Sinan responded by promising that the mosque would be fi nished in two months, a promise that everyone at the sultan’s court thought was insane. Sinan stuck to his promise, and two months later the mosque was fi nished, with a central dome that was enormous and perfectly sound. In the Netherlands, the dukes of Burgundy patronized goldsmiths, armor-makers, sculptors, manuscript illuminators, and especially tapestry-makers, and Netherlandish works were shipped throughout Europe to avid buyers. Painters such as Jan van Eyck (before 1395–1441), Rogier van der Weyden ( c . 1399–1464), and Hans Memling ( c . 1433–94) perfected techniques of painting in oil in ways that captured the textures of physical objects, as well as conveying deep emotions. Hieronymus Bosch (1450–1516) and Pieter Brueghel (the Elder, c . 1525–69) drew on popular sayings and biblical stories to depict scenes of everyday life that often serve as humorous or more biting moral allegories about human weakness. In Germany, wealthy cities such as Cologne, Augsburg, and Nuremberg supported numerous painters and sculptors. In Nuremberg Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) produced woodcuts, engravings, and etchings that rendered the human form and the natural world in amazing detail, and, like Raphael, wrote treatises on proportion and measurement. Matthias Grünewald ( c . 1480–1528) concentrated on religious themes, using elongated forms, vivid colors, and expressive forms to provoke an intense emotional response. Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) painted a huge number of altarpieces, portraits, and mythological scenes; he was one of Martin Luther’s closest friends, and created a style of art that refl ected Protestant ideas and themes. Other German artists were not so fortunate; though Luther approved of art as a means of teaching, other reformers were more hostile to any kind of image in churches, and iconoclastic riots in many towns in the 1520s and 1530s destroyed paintings and statues. This hostile atmosphere led Hans Holbein (the Younger, 1497–1543) to leave Basel for England, where he became court painter to Henry VIII. Whether in Italy or northern Europe, most Renaissance artists trained in the workshops of older artists; Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, and at times even Michelangelo were known for their large, well-run, and prolifi c workshops. Though they might be “men of genius,” artists were still expected to be well-trained in proper artistic techniques and stylistic conventions, for the notion that artistic genius could show up in the work of an untrained or “primitive” artist did not emerge until the twentieth century. Beginning artists spent years copying drawings and paintings, learning how to prepare paint and other artistic materials, and, by the sixteenth century, reading books about design and composition. Younger artists gathered together in the evenings for further drawing practice, and by the later sixteenth century some of these informal groups had turned into more formal artistic “academies,” the fi rst of which was the Compagnia e Accademia del Disegno, begun in 1563 in Florence by Vasari under the patronage of the Medicis. Artistic works, whether single portraits or huge buildings, were generally created for specifi c patrons – private individuals, groups such as guilds or religious confraternities, convents, city councils, and territorial rulers. The military leaders who ruled many Italian states by the fi fteenth century, for example, ordered elaborate armor, inlaid and etched with natural objects and battle scenes, had their portraits painted or equestrian statues erected of themselves in that armor, and had palaces or tombs designed to look like something out of Arthurian stories. Burckhardt’s idea of the growing importance of the individual in the Renaissance, traced in chapter 2 , was based in part on the large number of portraits ordered by wealthy nobles and merchants, though they also paid for religious scenes in which they and their family members were pious onlookers. Botticelli’s painting Adoration of the Magi includes three members of the Medici family as the three wise men presenting gifts to the infant Jesus, and also shows other members of the Medici intellectual circle: Pico della Mirandola, Poliziano, and Botticelli himself. Patrons varied in their level of involvement as a work progressed; some simply ordered a specifi c subject or scene, while others oversaw the work of the artist or architect very closely, suggesting themes and styles, and demanding changes while the work was in progress. As we have seen, the relationships between Michelangelo and Pope Julius II during the painting of the Sistine Chapel, and between Sinan and Sultan Süleyman the Magnifi cent during the building of the Süleymaniye mosque, were extremely tempestuous. As certain artists became popular and well known, they could assert their own artistic style and pay less attention to the wishes of a patron, but even major artists such as Raphael or Titian generally worked according to a patron’s specifi c guidelines. The centrality of the patron/artist relationship diminishes somewhat if we look beyond Vasari’s “major arts” to printed images and decorative objects. Simple woodcuts were very cheap, well within the range of artisans, and were readily available through booksellers in towns or peddlers in the countryside. Enterprising printers arranged for copies of popular engravings and woodcuts, giving artists such as Dürer an audience far larger than just the people who had seen one of his actual works. Carved wooden altarpieces mass-produced in the Netherlands were sold to churches from Portugal to Poland; they had standardized sizes and scenes rather than being made to order. Nobles and middle-class people adorned their homes with statuettes, small-scale paintings and reliefs, elaborate tableware, inlaid furniture, embroidered tablecloths, painted ceramic dishes, and a variety of other products that they bought ready-made; large workshops fabricating these items were set up in Italy, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, with the stages of production subdivided between workers. All of the most famous and most prolifi c Renaissance artists were male; there are no female architects, and Properzia de’ Rossi (1490–1530) is the only female sculptor whose name is known. Several women did become quite well known as painters. Stylistically each one’s work is very different from that of the others, but their careers show many similarities. The majority of female painters were the daughters of painters; one of the earliest identifi able female painters, Caterina van Hemessen (1528–after 1587), even signed her work “Caterina, daughter of Jan van Hemessen,” indicating she recognized the importance of this relationship. Those who were not the daughters of painters were often the daughters of intellectuals or minor noblemen with ties to intellectual or artistic circles. Many were eldest daughters or came from families in which there were no sons, so their fathers took an unusual interest in their careers. A signifi cant number came from aristocratic families, whereas most male painters had an artisanal background. Many women began their careers before they were twenty, and after they married produced far fewer paintings, or stopped painting entirely. Of those who married, many married painters. Female artists were generally more successful when there were only a very few of them, for they could then be viewed as novelties. This was the case with Sofonisba Anguissola (1532/5–1625), the fi rst Italian woman to gain international recognition for her art. Anguissola spent ten years as a court painter to Philip II of Spain, and was extremely popular as a portrait painter. The women who took her as a model, such as Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) and Fede Galizia (1578–1630), never received the same level of praise, and were openly resented for their success at winning public commissions. Women were not allowed to study the male nude, which was viewed as essential if one wanted to paint large history paintings with many fi gures, so they generally painted portraits, smaller paintings with only a few subjects, or, by the seventeenth century, still lifes and interior scenes. Neither did women learn the technique of fresco, in which colors are applied directly to wet plaster walls, because such works had to be done in public, which was judged inappropriate for women. Concerns about propriety and morality thus limited the media they could use as well as their subject matter. Worries about morality shaped far more than the works of female artists as the sixteenth century progressed. Though Catholic writers defended the veneration of religious images against Protestants who wanted to do away with them, they also called for decorum and decency in all portrayals of the human form. They were particularly scandalized by nudity, even that of the infant Jesus or saints being martyred, and debated painting over certain body parts in the naked fi gures of Michelangelo’s Last Supper . Such moral concerns have often been seen as a product of the Protestant Reformation, culminating in what is traditionally called “Puritan morality” or a “Puritan” attitude toward the world. In fact, worries about order and morality predated the Protestant Reformation, especially among urban dwellers, and would eventually be just as powerful among Catholics as among Protestants.

 

 

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