Even after over 500 years were are still discovering things that originate in Florence: gelato ice cream or Florentine steak –T-bone steak typical for Florence, leather products – they are everywhere and art. Slovak version here.
Florence is the capital of Tuscany, region known for its wine, food and with influential role in Italian history, a place where Machiavelli wrote his timeless political ideas, Dante laid down the basics of the modern languages and the Italian Renaissance was born with the antic athlete David.
1, Guide to modern politics
Niccolo Machiavelli is called the father of modern political science. In his works, the most popular being The Prince, he addressed all the issues that were going on in the world during his times. He preferred decision based on intellect to emotions and fear to love. Actually, it is a survival guide followed by many rulers from the period of the rule of terror after the French Revolution, Napoleon, Nazi Germany and even modern dictators and some president can be found in his quotes. Just a few:
- It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
- Politics have no relation to morals.
- The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.
- It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.
- Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.
- A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests.
2, Re-birth of European culture.
Many historians associate Florence with the re-birth of the European culture. Renaissance – Rinascimento literally means „reborn“ and refers to the revival of the ancient Greek and Roman art. Europe was waking up from the Dark Age, when all cultural conventions were dictated by the Catholic Church, including how artist should depict people. Saints had to be fully covered in clothes and the size of the figures was based on the importance: a king or bishop was always bigger than a peasant even if he was standing closer to the observer.
Giotto started to experiment with form and replaced the rigid faces of their saints by smile and emotion. Masaccio painted the Holy Trinity, which introduced the linear perspective that takes into consideration the spatial relations. The picture in the church Santa Maria Novella (picture) was so alive that people wanted to „step into“ and bumped their head. Painting and architecture paved the way to more relaxed culture, where people could afford to expose their bodies and enjoy art forms such as opera. Before, everything had to be church related or prescribed by the king.
3, The ideal of beauty defined
When you look at the statue of David by Michelangelo, you see an ideal that has not changed till now. Artists sought the ideal proportions, going back to the ancient Greek arts – statues of sportsmen and gods – and studied human anatomy. Michelangelo and Leonardo would go to city hospitals, cut up the death corpses and move their bones and muscles to see how they work. It helped them understood human anatomy. The Venus by Sandro Botticelli, or Primavera, are close to the ideal of female body, because no one likes anorectic models. He added more emotional expression to the rationality of his predecessors, who focused on the purpose. David had to be on his feet all day, taking care of his sheep, therefore he could not have big biceps and thighs like modern body-builders. It would cost him lot of energy. If you look at professional soldiers or sportsmen, most of them have bodies like him. Classical ideas are still influential and you can never make a mistake by going back to classics.
4, Stories that we copy
Dante is considered to be the father of modern Italian language, as he was the first one who started to write in the Tuscan dialect, not Latin. He was a political activist and soldier and this influenced his work, as well as the platonic love of Beatrice. Maybe he just started the whole series of cliché characters, but the truth is that many the action of many heroes is fueled by emotion, including Romeo, the Great Gatsby, Darth Vader and even Batman had his Rachel.
In The Divine Comedy, Dante finds himself in a dark forest in the middle of his life, with the right way lost. His search for the right direction had impact on Petrarch, Boccaccio and other writers that influenced even the modern novel. Dante used to read Vergil and later almost all writers were well read in Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare (why Romeo and Juliet take place in Italy, as well as the Merchant of Venice) or Geoffrey Chaucer, who spent some time in Florence and got some ideas for his Canterbury Tales.
5, Money used for art and start-ups
In the early 15th century, Florence was controlled by the House of Medici. They started the first bank in Europe, lending money to foreign „investor“, as we would call them today. Many of them used the money to buy a ship, hire a crew and try to find commodities in the „new world“. Medici also introduced taxes and built up significant wealth and power. –Italian city states could exist independently of the. Medici used the money to build churches and palaces, which provided jobs for the architects, and also supported education. Many of the works by Michelangelo, Leonardo and others were funded by this family. They were a kind of start-up angel, who invests in art.