Dawn of the Renaissance
Dawn of the Renaissance

Dawn of the Italian Renaissance (1275-1400)

The Italian Renaissance represents a high point of early Western European culture. Italian writers and artists first recaptured and reinvigorated the artistic accomplishments of classical antiquity. The republican communes erected monumental civic palaces and other major architectural works, such as fortifications and public fountains. Duccio, Giotto, Simone Martini, and Giovanni Pisano entered new territory in painting and sculpture, paving the way for later artists such as Masaccio and Brunelleschi. Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio wrote their masterpieces in verse and prose, which Chaucer would later retrieve and reimagine in the English language. The music of the Trecento and Ars Nova paralleled the significant achievements in art, architecture, and literature. 

Commemorating the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth and presented in collaboration with the Consul General of Italy in San Francisco, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Leonardo da Vinci Society, and the Department of History, Stanford.

Friday, October 23, 2015 | 7:30-9:30 pm

Tim Rayborn

How the Renaissance Began / Paula Findlen (Stanford). What inspired the creative impulses that we associate with the Italian Renaissance? When we consider the age of Leonardo, Machiavelli, and their contemporaries, we see the Renaissance in its maturity without fully understanding how such a world began. The roots of many features of the Italian Renaissance can be found in a world of commerce, politics, faith, and culture that emerged during the Middle Ages. The world before and immediately after the arrival of plague in western Europe in 1347-48–shaped by ambitious merchants, a papacy absent from Rome, new experiments in politics– gave birth to a society that would ultimately see itself as being “reborn” in some fundamental sense at the dawn of an era that came to be known as the Renaissance.

Performance: The Ars Nova and Beyond: Italian Music from the Borders of the Renaissance / Shira Kammen (early strings and voice), Tim Rayborn (percussion, lute, and voice), and Phoebe Jevtovic Rosquist (voice). 

Saturday, October 24, 2015 | 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Courtly Culture at the Dawn of the Renaissance / Carol Lansing (UC Santa Barbara)

In the early Renaissance rising, urban merchants adopted models derived not only from Antiquity, but also from multi-cultural southern Italy. This is a lost history: after 1260 and the defeat of the Emperor Frederick II and his sons, it was politically easier to imagine that culture came from France and the north. But in truth, the vibrant southern mix of Greek, Jewish, Muslim and Latin influences produced fascinating worlds, major centers of intellectual and artistic life. Frederick and his sons were military leaders who also wrote treatises and exquisite love poetry. Frederick travelled in the north for decades, building a chain of massive forts that included elegant palaces decorated with classicizing sculpture. Frederick’s travelling court included not only his elephant and hunting leopards and his troop of Muslim archers, but his gold and enamel throne. This culture profoundly influenced the fascination of young townsmen like Dante and his contemporaries with love poetry, knighthood and courtliness.

Italian Civic Palaces in the Age of the City-Republics / Max Grossman (University of Texas at El Paso). With the death of Emperor Frederick II in 1250 and the subsequent defeat of his Hohenstaufen successors by the Angevins and their Guelph allies, the city-states of central and northern Italy enjoyed a long period of political autonomy and economic prosperity that paved the way for what has come to be called the “Italian Renaissance.” During the century leading up to the Black Death of 1348, major Italian cities projected their power and authority by constructing monumental civic palaces, which were embellished with sumptuous marble ornament and sophisticated cycles of frescoes. The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, and Palazzo Ducale in Venice are among the most celebrated examples. An analysis of their architecture and decorative programs reveals much about the culture and civilization of the republican age.

The Subtle Art: Courtly Love at the Beginning of the Renaissance / Calextone, with Allison Zelles Lloyd (voice and medieval harp), Frances Blaker (recorders and hackbrett), Letitia Berlin (recorders anddouçaine), and Shira Kammen (vielle and rebec

Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio: The Perspectives of Literature in the Early Renaissance / David Lummus (Stanford). The literary works of the “three crowns of Florence” have long been recognized as monumental achievements of human genius. Their works, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Petrarch’s Canzoniere, and Boccaccio’s Decameron, all respond to crises, both individual and cultural, of human solitude, historical isolation, and the uncontrollable events that shape the lives of men. They are poetic universes that provide new perspectives on the world and help confront, if not answer, the fundamental questions of human life. This lecture will address how each author uses literature to try to come to terms with mankind’s changing place in the cosmos. It will conclude by addressing how their works and worldviews were translated and transmitted across Europe, becoming–from Chaucer onward–models for using the powers of the imagination to understand and perhaps overcome the limitations of human existence.

Performance: Dante Across the Centuries. Featuring Julija Zibrat (violin), introduced by Kayleen Asbo

  • Violin Sonata No. 2, “Obsession”   (Eugene Ysaye, 1923)
  • Violin Sonata No. 2, “Melancholia” (Eugene Ysaye, 1923)

Panel Discussion with Presenters

4 pm Conclusion