Florentine Humanism in Triumph and in Conflict
As the humanist revival of antiquity saturated Florence, elites hungered for Greek and Latin classics. Translations from Greek to Latin, and to vernacular Italian, made works like Homer’s epics available to new readers, and even to the illiterate who heard orations from the street and gossip from the palaces. Humanist culture was one of erudite tension as scholars engaged in fierce debates regarding Latin grammar and style. Feuds ranged in from treatises and translations, to personal missives publicly circulated.
Humanism also transformed Florentine art. Pagan narratives became frequent subjects, while classical realism dominated religious painting. Gold leaf backgrounds gave way to landscapes or architecture, and stylized figures to detailed bodies modeled on classical examples, including nudes.
Pagan literature and imagery had a complex reception among Church leaders. Some embraced humanism, founding the Vatican library and commissioning art replete with classical imagery. Others opposed humanism, leading to Inquisitorial investigations and condemnations of major scholars.