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Iconoclasm is the destruction of religious works of art as part of a large political or counter-religious movement. Those who partake of such destruction, or who support such movements, are called iconoclasts. Iconoclasm most often results when a religious sect takes a literalist interpretation of the Old Testament's Ten Commandments, which forbids the creation or veneration of graven images.

Art history is rife with iconoclasm. Most notably, the Byzantine Empire underwent a severe period of iconoclasm during the seventh and eighth centuries. The poorer, mostly eastern, subjects of the empire destroyed and balked at the grandiose religious monuments and symbols beloved in Constantinople and further west.The single largest objection of the iconoclasts was against three dimensional works of art, as the Old Testament singles out "graven images."  This censure would affect European, especially Italian artists for centuries to come as author and art historian John C. Van Dyke notes, "When it ended, the artists were ordered to follow the traditions, not to make any new creations, and not to model any figure in the round. The nature element in art was quite dead at that time, and the order resulted only in diverting the course of painting toward the unrestricted miniatures and manuscripts. The native Italian art was crushed for a time by this new ecclesiastical burden."

A second great wave of iconoclasts rose up during the height of the Protestant Reformation, largely in western and northern Europe. Some mobs of individual reformers hacked and destroyed statuary and religious images, but most of the artwork was removed in an organized manner by local government bodies. The iconoclasm of the sixteenth century reached a fever pitch during an event called "Beeldenstorm." The event, in the summer of 1566, began with the sacking of the Monastary of Saint Lawrence in Northern France. The year saw hundreds of attacks against religious institutions and works of art, deepening the European schism between Protestant and Catholic.

Sadly, iconoclasm continues to this day, largely in the Islamic world. Early religious sites filled with irreplaceable art are being (and have been) destroyed in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria. Entire mosques and ancient shrines have been destroyed by explosions, losing not only the buildings themselves, but the countless works of religious art inside. 

Characteristics Of The Renaissance Period

Classical humanism, was a major factor of the Italian Renaissance. This philosophical movement was based on the idea that every persons life had value and dignity. Humanism also stressed  man's position in the natural world. The Humanists  believed modern man should look to the classical writings and art of the ancient Greeks and Romans as exemplary guides for ethical living and scholarship. Francesco Petrarch,1304-1374,  called the Father of Humanism, Italian Intellectual, Poet, and Humaniststated, "No one intellect should ever strive for distinction in more than one pursuit. Those who boast of preeminence in many arts are either divinely endowed or utterly shameless or simply mad. Who ever heard of such presumption in olden times, on the part of either Greeks or men of our own race? It is a new practice, a new kind of effrontery. To-day men write up over their doors inscriptions full of vainglory, containing claims which, if true, would make them, as Pliny puts it, superior even to the law of the land.. ."

During the Renascence the spirit of an era awoke, revitalized with knowledge and creativity. Although art still served a specific functions, which were primarily religious, painters added more of their individual spirit and personal vision to their creations. John Ruskin, famous art historian declared, "The art of any country is the exponent of its social and political virtues . The art, or general productive and formative energy, of any country, is an exact exponent of its ethical life. you can have noble art only from noble persons, associated under laws fitted to their time and circumstance."

The major painters of the Renaissance were not only artists but men of great genius who gave the world their great intellectual gifts. Florentine and Venetian painting were both formed by extraordinary personalities. These independent creative geniuses tackled mathematical, artistic and philosophical problems of the highest interest, and presented solutions that have never lost their value. The sense of humanism pervading renaissance painting is still palpable. The painters touched on a multitude of  issues regarding the human condition - death, love, reason, religion, universal morality, social problems.

Key Descriptive Words  and Phrases associated with the Renaissance Movement rebirth, rediscovery of the classical world, City-state, Humanism, Humanist, Francesco Petrarch, Reform, The Prince, Theocracy, The Inquisition, Human Reasoning,  publication of Della Pittura, a book about the laws of mathematical perspective for artists, sfumato, chiaroscuro, linear perspectiveHeliocentric Theory, vanishing point, Savonarola, spiritually significant,  illuminated manuscriptidealized biblical themes, scriptorium, emotion, illuminator,  iconoclast, Age of Discovery, axonometric drawing, curiosity about the natural world, mythology,  realistic use of colours and lightBonfire of the Vanities, Old Testament stories, ethereal and foggy backgrounds, Gospel parables, The Blackdeath, romanticized landscapes,  Christian symbolism. Paradise



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