Apocalyptic Art of the Renaissance

Apocalyptic Art of the Renaissance - Apocalyptic Art of the...

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Apocalyptic Art of the Renaissance Although the Renaissance (14 th to 16 th centuries) is classified as a revival (lit. "rebirth") of artistic and intellectual thinking, there was also a great deal of religious unrest in Rome and within the church. The corruption within the church was intensifying as the abuses of papal power were creating a great "preoccupation with the apocalypse" and an extremely pessimistic mood toward religious and national politics ( Patridge , 12). Since the church and politics went hand-in-hand, prophecies during the Renaissance usually corresponded to a political situation; common people were outraged and looked for someone to blame. As in the Medieval Period, the people of the Renaissance, in their obsession with the apocalypse, anticipated and expected the Antichrist, the great power that would bring the cosmic eschatology to their doors. They believed that the end time prophecy was unavoidable and inevitable, and that the powers able to carry out the divine plan were in their presence, a belief that can be seen in the religious artwork of the time. However, some of these works deviated from the Book of Revelation even further than the earlier Medieval works. In addition, they borrowed descriptions from non-biblical literature based on the judgment day. Examples of such works include the artistic renditions by Albrecht Dürer, Michaelangelo, and Luca Signorelli. Even though Albrecht Dürer was a German, his life's second greatest love was Italy, specifically Venice. His first love was for the church and its teachings, a subject that found its way into a great majority of his artwork. The religious unrest of Dürer's time, especially with the Reformation, which led to the separation of the Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church, inspired artists like Dürer to depict the prophecies of the apocalypse. In 1498, Dürer compiled 14 original woodcuts that corresponded to the text from the Book of Revelation, such as the four horsemen in Rev 6. The historical events of the times, coupled with the inclusion of other works, such as Dante's Inferno , were often transformed into various artistic renditions, which developed the trend of less literal biblical interpretations. During Medieval times, interpretations were motivated by the desire to humanize the symbolic figures, such as the Antichrist. During the Renaissance, the use of non-biblical texts influenced and encouraged less literal interpretations. Apocalypse imagery was highly sought after in Germany during the 14th and 15th  centuries, attributable to the millenialist belief that the world was coming to an end in the  year 1500. This Christian conviction was supported by the reality that Germany  experienced social unrest, such as peasant revolts, famine and church criticism towards  the end of the 15th century. These events were inter- preted as signs that the Apocalypse  was imminent. Consequently, apocalyptic imagery prepared its viewers for the end of the 
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