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The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy, 3rd Edition

The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy, 3rd Edition

Peter Burke

ISBN: 978-0-745-64825-5

Dec 2013, Polity

312 pages


In this brilliant and widely acclaimed work, Peter Burke presents a social and cultural history of the Italian Renaissance. He discusses the social and political institutions which existed in Italy during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and analyses the ways of thinking and seeing which characterized this period of extraordinary artistic creativity. Developing a distinctive sociological approach, Peter Burke is concerned with not only the finished works of Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and others, but also with the social background, patterns of recruitment and means of subsistence of this ‘cultural elite’. New to this edition is a fully revised introduction focusing on what Burke terms ‘the domestic turn’ in Renaissance studies and discussing the relation of the Renaissance to global trends. He thus makes a major contribution to our understanding of the Italian Renaissance, and to our comprehension of the complex relations between culture and society.

This thoroughly revised and updated third edition is richly illustrated throughout. It will have a wide appeal among historians, sociologists and anyone interested in one of the most creative periods of European history.

Illustrations vii

Introduction 1

The Theme 1

The Approach 4

A Revised Edition 8

Part I The Problem

1 The Arts in Renaissance Italy 17

2 The Historians: The Discovery of Social and Cultural History 32

Part II The Arts in their Milieu

3 Artists and Writers 47

Recruitment 47

Training 56

The Organization of the Arts 67

The Status of the Arts 80

Artists as Social Deviants 88

4 Patrons and Clients 94

Who are the Patrons? 95

Patrons v. Artists 107

Architecture, Music and Literature 118

The Rise of the Market 125

5 The Uses of Works of Art 132

Magic and Religion 133

Politics 138

The Private Sphere 148

Art for Pleasure 151

6 Taste 152

The Visual Arts 153

Music 161

Literature 164

Varieties of Taste 166

7 Iconography 171

Part III The Wider Society

8 Worldviews: Some Dominant Traits 187

Views of the Cosmos 188

Views of Society 198

Views of Man 203

Towards the Mechanization of the World Picture 211

9 The Social Framework 215

Religious Organization 215

Political Organization 220

The Social Structure 228

The Economy 234

10 Cultural and Social Change 241

Generations 242

Structural Changes 249

11 Comparisons and Conclusions 255

The Netherlands 256

Japan 259

Appendix: The Creative Elite 264

References and Bibliography 266

Index 314

- Fully-revised introductory chapter and updates throughout to encompass the latest research
- New material on the ‘domestic turn’ in Renaissance studies
- Added contextual consideration of the relationship between the Italian Renaissance and wider global trends

"A superb introduction to Renaissance culture and society."
Renaissance Quarterly

"A fascinating tour de force."
American Historical Review

"An indispensable study for historians, sociologists, and anyone interested in one of the most remarkable periods of European history."
  • New edition of a brilliant and widely acclaimed social and cultural history of the Italian Renaissance - a classic text in the field
  • Highly readable and richly illustrated, bringing the relations between culture and society vividly to life
  • Thoroughly revised and updated for this third edition, combining key figures and events with new interpretations
  • Written by a leading figure in social and cultural history and, in particular, an expert on the Renaissance