This is the essay for the 32nd week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering one question.
The question is: What are some of the qualities and strategies Machiavelli recommends to political leaders? How does this represent a break from the past?
We will also be discussing three artists from the early Renaissance and their major works of art.
Machiavelli was a humanist Italian diplomat. A humanist was a person who believed that human matters were more important than divine ones. There were still humanists who believed in religion, but Machiavelli was not one of them. A famous book he wrote is called The Prince, in which he praises human matters and goes directly against divine matters.
In the book, Machiavelli recommends that princes do anything that maintains their power. By anything he means anything, be it moral or immoral. He says that a person shouldn’t be held back by their moral values if it hurts their power. He even says that it is impossible to be a successful politician without being immoral. Machiavelli isn’t saying that you should be immoral just because you can. He says that you should be moral when it doesn’t hurt your power. Other advice that Machiavelli gives is that you shouldn’t be loved or liked by your subjects because as soon as a better rival appears, they will abandon you. This problem can be prevented if you are feared by your subjects. You have to be careful not to be hated though because otherwise, your people will turn against you.
The principles that Machiavelli recommends, go against many principles that the church holds. The church says that you should be moral no matter what and that being immoral is a sin. There is no mention of natural law whatsoever in the book. The worst offense that the book commits is that there is no mention of the Church either, not a single one. So not only does Machiavelli’s book go against all the principles of the Church, it doesn’t even mention the thing it’s opposing.
In 1401 the governors of the Baptistry of Florence held a bronze working competition. The prize of the competition was the commission of a pair of bronze doors for the Baptistry of the Cathedral of Florence. The judges of the competition managed to narrow the selection of artists down to seven. These artists were given four sheets of bronze to make a panel with the subject “The Sacrifice of Isaac”. Only two of the panels from the competition have been preserved. The first of these is from the winner Lorenzo Ghiberti and the other being from the second-place runner-up Filippo Brunelleschi.
Lorenzo Ghiberti was an Italian artist who lived from 1378 to 1455. He was best at sculpting and his most famous work was the Baptistry doors of Florence. The panels on the first set of doors were originally meant to depict scenes from the Old Testament, but it was decided that the doors should depict the New Testament instead. After the first set, Ghiberti was commissioned to do another set of doors depicting the New Testament. The first set had 28 panels while the second set had 10. It took Ghiberti 20 years to finish both of these works.
The runner-up of the competition, Filippo Brunelleschi was an Italian architect who lived from 1377 to 1446. Even though he participated in the competition, he is most well known for building the Dome of the Cathedral of Florence. This posed a challenge as other architects couldn’t find out how they could build such a big dome over such a big hole. Filippo’s solution was to build an inner and outer shell to the dome instead of one solid dome
Ghiberti’s assistant was Donatello, an Italian sculptor. He lived from 1386 to 1466. His most famous work, a bronze statue of David, was made around 1440. The sculpture was freestanding and nude, which was unique since statues like it had not been made since ancient Rome and Greece. Other statues of the time were clothed and were usually up against a wall.