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Passage to Modernity - Essay Example

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The transition to one epoch to another is a controversial and blurry terrain. At the early stages of modernism, medieval ideas still lingered while new conceptions of nature, form, human, and divinity arose. There are as many similarities as there are differences between these two ages.
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Passage to Modernity

To them, form was an ideal to be achieved. This concern, combined with the growing interest in nature, awakened curiosity and sensitivity towards cosmic harmony.
For the poets and artists of the early modern age, aesthetic form perfection had an ontological significance. According to Dupre, the importance of rhetoric at this period of time can be explained by the belief that, if form has a spiritual quality, language -as the most spiritual expression of the mind- is the ideal medium to obtain perfection on form. "Form became an ideal partly realized through divine creation and partly to be realized by the human word".
For the painters, a new pursuit of individual form commenced. The shift from the medieval universalistic approach, to the modern focus on the particular, is specially observable in the portraits. Flemish painters like Van Eyck, Van de Weyden or Memline for example, were truly interested in the individual features, inner emotions and the aesthetics of the human face.
A new spatial conception was introduced in the Renaissance aesthetics as well. The artists had to find a balance between their subject and their environment, which assumed an "independent, homogeneous quality". With this, "figures become weightier and acquire a tactile quality". (p.47)
The concern for depicting nature in the most realistic and detailed manner was one of the fundamental characteristics of the new aesthetics. The ancient principle of art imitating nature was reinstated, yet nature was not taken simply as a model to copy but to use it as a creative force. Leon Battista Alberti "exhorts the artist to emulate nature rather than to copy her" (p.48). Through the mind, the artists are challenged to achieve perfection and higher beauty of an imperfect nature. Leonardo was specially inclined to think of the human mind ("il modello del mondo" as he proclaimed it), as a powerful creator.

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At the early stages of modernity, artists still viewed themselves as creating in unison with nature; "mind and nature relate harmoniously to one another" (p. 49).
Moreover, nature's perception began to change. Galileo expressed the idea of natural form in mathematical terms, "loosening the union between physical essence and artistic ideal" (p.51).
He found a systematic study of nature, rather than depending on direct observation. This notion of rational knowledge of the world become central to the transformation from medieval age to modernity.

In the emergence of modernity, chemistry played an important role towards the scientific revolution. Alchemy is frequently forgotten when we talk about the breakthroughs of science that changed our perception of the world. Alchemists believed in the harmony between the individual and the cosmos. "at the basis of the alchemical enterprise is the concept of a microcosmos perfectly tuned to the macrocosmos of nature".

The notion that we are should interfere with natural processes in order to achieve harmony transforms the perception of nature. "rather than serving as nature's assistant, the person now becomes its controller." (p.54). There was a thorough rejection to the idea that the stars controlled man, that we were passively submitting to matter. Nevertheless, the ... Read More
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