An Asymmetrical Relationship
The idea that man can be one of the most important parts of creation - in fact the most important one - started to take place in the Humanistic and Renais- sance Age (15th.-16th.centuries). According to a new vision of the world and the man’s role in it, Humanists came to affirm the superiority of man on other creatures thanks to his intelligence and rationality. Pico della Mirandola was one of the most important Italian Humanists and his Oratio de hominis dignitate is considered a manifesto of this new vision of man after the Middle Age.
Leonardo da Vinci drew the Vitruvian Man in order to study the proportions of the human body, in an anthropocentric perspective. This drawing would have been the portrayal of all Renaissance art. It is based on the sixth book of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio’s De architectura, in which it is stated that it is necessary to reproduce the correct proportions of the human body if harmonious work is to be achieved. Leonardo used an experimental calculation of proportions from different human bodies and he explained that the head, measured from the hairline to the chin, lies in the body 8 times. Leonardo drew the body of the man inscribed in a square and a circle and he has only one body and one head; nonetheless, he has four arms and four legs. Already according to Vitruvius, the human shape could have been inscribed in those two geometric figures, because the square was the symbol of the heart, and the circle of the firmament; later on, the circular shape became a statement of God’s heavenly powers, whereas the squared one of the human command on earth. Thus, Leonardo declared the centrality of humankind in the cosmos.
1333 ADBeginning of the rediscovery of ancient texts
1463 AD24th February Pico Della Mirandola was born in Modena
1484 ADDebate with some theologians in Paris
1486 ADPublished Oratio de Hominis Dignitate
1487 ADPublished Apologya
1489 ADPublished Heptaplus: de septiformi sex dierum Geneseos enarratione
1490 ADLeonardo Da Vinci draws the Vitruvian Man
1494 ADPico della Mirandola dies on the 17th of November
HORATIO DE HOMINIS dignitate
5.17 Statuit tandem optimus opifex, ut cui dari nihil proprium poterat commune esset quicquid privatum singulis fuerat. Igitur hominem accepit indiscretae opus imaginis atque in mundi positum meditullio sic est alloquutus: «Nec certam sedem, nec propriam faciem, nec munus ullum peculiare tibi dedimus, o Adam, ut quam sedem, quam faciem, quae munera tute optaveris, ea, pro voto, pro tua sententia, habeas et possideas. Definita caeteris natura intra praescriptas a nobis leges cohercetur. Tu, nullis angustiis cohercitus, pro tuo arbitrio, in cuius manu te posui, tibi illam prefinies. Medium te mundi posui, ut circumspiceres inde comodius quicquid est in mundo. Nec te celestem neque terrenum, neque mortalem neque immortalem fecimus, ut tui ipsius quasi arbitrarius honorariusque plastes et fictor, in quam malueris tute formam effingas. Poteris in inferiora quae sunt bruta degenerare; poteris in superiora quae sunt divina ex tui animi sententia regenerari». Lectio Ecclesiastica (Italian Group)
5.17 The optimum master eventually established that to the one, whom nothing he could have given of his own, had to be assigned the different qualities which belong to each creature. And he picked up the man like work of undefined nature and, after he had put him in the world’s core, he spoke like this: “I did not give you, o Adam, a particular place, nor a specific appearance nor aim, so you will get and preserve the dome, the aspect, the purposes you will have chosen thanks to your own vote and advice. The nature of the other creatures, well defined by the laws I wrote, is limited. Since you are not limited by any hindrance, you will choose for yourself thanks to your free will, in whose hands I have put you. I have placed you in the middle of the world in order to let you easily admire from there anything in the world. I did not make you heavenly nor earthly, mortal or immortal, so, as if you were your own master and just like a sculptor and maker, you will sculpt yourself in the shape you prefer. You will have the chance to degenerate into lower creatures, which are brutish; you can be reborn among the higher ones, which are divine, following the decisions of your soul.”
In his oration composed in 1486, Pico della Mirandola presents a new conception of human- kind. Once man is no longer subjected to a divine despotism, he becomes a beloved creation of God, who gives him the gift of free will. In this text, the author describes how the creation of man, who is completely different from the other creatures, proves divine intelligence. God creates man so that there will be a creature able to appreciate the beauty of the work he has done. As already expressed in the title, the author wants to put attention on the word “dignity”, which stands for those peculiar features which make every man so different from any other creature. Therefore, dignity constitutes the true essence of man, thanks to which he can be fulfilled following his own will. God, who endowed all the creatures with a precise nature, didn’t want to deprive man of the freedom he needs to mould himself according to his own will. In this way, man can choose if he wants to elevate himself and strive for God or if he prefers to degrade himself to the level of the beasts; this possibility makes the man superior to all the other creatures.
THE CREATION OF MAN
The Creation of Adam is a fresco painted by Michelangelo around 1511 and located in the vault of the Sistine Chapel. In a natural, bare background Adam’s figure is semi-recumbent; he is going to rise from the ground directing his hand to God, who is surrounded and carried by highly realistic angels. Both God and Adam have outstretched arms and their index fingers are lifted up, just a moment before the contact, representing the effective metaphor of the vital spark passing from the Creator to the forged creature, Adam. Moreover Michelangelo wants to show the special relationship between man and God: man is the only creature able to perceive the existence of God. Adam’s body still lacks the divine, miraculous breath which will make him a real man, endowed with intellect and spirit.
The piece of music Sus une fontayne, composed by Johannes Ciconia, represents the Renaissance innovation in the current Belgium. Ciconia was born in Flanders, a region with a strong bond to Florence, where the rediscovery of Classicism began. He travelled throughout Europe and, coming into contact with a lot of composers, he learned in particular the Ars Nova style. The piece is in late medieval style approaching the Renaissance one, according to the Ars Subtilior, characterized by a rhythmic complexity with a lot of syncopations and canons.Johannes Ciconia - Sus una fontayne
The piece Par les bons Gédéons et Sanson délivré, composed by Philipoctus da Caserta, has been chosen as an accompaniment for the reading of the Oratio de hominis dignitate because the author was one of the most important composer of the italian Renaissance. In this composition he inserted Renaissance musical elements, like canons, sung in particular by the first voice. Philipoctus da Caserta became an important musician also for his music treatises.Philipoctus da Caserta -Par les bons Gedeons et Sanson delivré