Clark describes Medieval Rome, maybe too harshly, as a time when the Romans lived in their city, essentially as people without a past. Pressed down by the weight of the giants of Antiquity, which they no longer understood, they treated the city as if it was a natural phenomenon. This is, according to Clark, what changed with the Renaissance, when Antiquity no longer oppressed, but was taken as a challenge. Concentrating on art, as always, Clark describes three “heroes” of the Renaissance: Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci.
In the Pazzi Chapel, Clark says, the beginnings of the Renaissance are visible. Though often considered small, Clark claims that this is actually because of a new perspective, so to speak, in culture in which “everything is adjusted to the scale of reasonable human necessity.” This whole change in outlook he catches in one phrase, coined by Protagoras:”Man, the measure of all things.”
This leads into a discussion of the ideal of Courtly Love. This, Clark says, is an invention of the Middle Ages – unknown to Antiquity. He offers three possible theories for its invention: Firstly, that Courtly Love as an idea was derived from Persian literature that Crusaders encountered in the Middle East. Secondly, Clark puts forward that it might have been the social position of noble women that inspired a sort of admiration that had to remain distant. Thirdly, he mentions the link between Courtly Love and the veneration of the Virgin Mary.
In part II of this 1969 thirteen part series, art historian Kenneth Clark (1903 – 1983) discusses what he calls the “great acceleration of development” around 1100, which took place worldwide, but was “strongest and most needed in Western Europe.” He describes the profound changes in Europe at the time as an outpouring of energy in all branches of life, but will, for the most part, be concentrating on art, particularly architecture. He uses the monumental buildings of the age as his evidence for the “heroic energy, this confidence, this strength of will and intellect” with which they were built.
In part one of this thirteen part series, art historian Kenneth Clark (1903 – 1983) discusses a great range of topics. The disappearance of the Mediterranean centred Graeco-Roman Civilisation through exhaustion. The Celtic Church and it’s unique development, focused on the pictoral element, on the edge of the world, culminating in the Book of Kells. The Carolingian Renaissance and its rediscovery of the Mediterranean world and the written word.