Architecture in the Culture of Early Humanism: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Eloquence 1400-1470

pub_fac_smith_architecture_culture_early_humanismThe impact of early Italian Humanism on the development of Quattrocento architecture has received much attention in recent years. Providing the foundation for the reevaluation of architectural principles in the age of Humanism, Christine Smith focuses on the ways that works of architecture or architectural imagery became important vehicles for the expression of the Humanists’ ethical, political, and cultural concerns. Smith looks at the writings of the Humanists and investigates what they believed was important in the “built environment.” Since the Humanists’ accounts of architecture responded to other literary texts, she analyzes in detail their relations with specific Classical, medieval, and contemporary sources. Although few early Renaissance authors evinced much interest in architectural style as we understand it today, the early Humanists frequently used architectural imagery in order to make moral discussion more vivid. In Humanist thought, buildings also served as evidence for the cultural status of their times and for the dignity of humanity. They were seen as historical documents useful for evaluating the past and for transmitting the desired image of the present to the future. Smith organizes the essays around three themes: the use of architecture in ethical discourse, the critical criteria with which the early Humanists did and did not approach architectural experience, and the development of architectural description as it relates to the Renaissance recovery of eloquence. She also gives special attention to the importance of sensory experience in early Renaissance epistemology, the problem of the Middle Ages, and the contribution of Byzantium to early Humanist culture.

Oxford University Press