Humanism and Clericism of the 16th century

Tabitha Hughes

The two paintings, The conversion of St. Paul by Caravaggio, and lady writing a letter with her maid by Vermeer, reflect the religious conflict between the Protestant and catholic cultures of 16th century Europe.

Before we take a look at why they reflect the religious dispute, first we must know some background on what caused it. Humanism and Clericism. During the renaissance humanism stood for the intellectual attitudes of the ancient world paired with the wide acceptance of the existence of God. Humanists were interested in aesthetics, saw the usefulness of historic knowledge, and were convinced that man's main duty in life, was to enjoy his life soberly and to be active in his community. It was believed that those who studied the past would be able to lead better, more responsible lives. On the contrary, there is something called Clericism, where people believed G-d reigned supreme to all and that humanism remained useless because the mer man was worth so little.

The statue of David best describes the ongoing influence of Protestant and catholic controversy on the visual arts. Michaelangelo uses David, a character from the Old Testament as his subject matter. The story goes that David, a mer man throws a stone with a slingshot at the mighty giant Goliath and kills him. (Your basic good vs. Evil.) Michaelangelo uses Clericism in this piece by incorporating a story from the bible, and on the other hand also incorporates his humanism influence into the work of art by placing himself as the character David; Giving us the impression that even the mer man can overcome his problems with knowledge of how to defeat them, instead of continually relying on the almighty to solve your problems for you. David shows the 2 conflicting views in a magnificent statue form.

Another Magnificent piece of artwork is Leonardo's sketch of a man within a circle. Vitruvius adding a quote to the piece later on, "man in his perfect proportions, is the center of all things", suggests that this piece was influenced by humanism. We say this because the piece portrays a mere man as the center instead of what the catholics may haved placed, that which god would be in the center of the circle. Catholics, Priests, and church officials alike would not approve of this irrational idea and the sketch itself.

A christian priest & scholar, Martin Luther, was a man of thought, as well as a man of action. He was the beginning of the reform within the church, which many people wanted. Instead of changing the views within the church & cleanse it, the reform brought about a split. The protesters formed another branch of the catholic church which was known as the protestant church. The artistic consequence of this reformation caused many artists to become unemployed because their main source of income, the patronage from the church, was no longer available in protestant countries. Instead of being comissioned to create artwork to decorate the church or church officials' home, artists were left to the street to find alternate ways of obtaining another source of income.

When we talk about what helpedcause this sudden revolution in both the catholic church and in art, we are also able to look upon a man named Gallileo. Gallileo discovered that the earth revolved around the sun and not vise versa. The Catholic church believed this was heresy, a belief in conflict with religious beliefs, because it was the idea that God did not control the planets and the stars, but in fact science overthrough those naieve religious beliefs.

Catholicts effect on art (Clericism) was that of the Baroque era. Baroque art attempted to bring people back to the churches and re-establish the power of Rome. Mainly found in southern european countries such as the mediterainian, it was a style widely used as propoganda. This style of art, like many other retains specific attributes that would classify a painting as a 'Baroque' style of art, such as; a direct sense of motion; strong contrast of light and dark; hightened emotion; the blurring of distinction between illusion and reality; and the breaking down of the barrier between the painting and the viewer. All these traits can be found in the painting the conversion of st. Paul by caravaggio (1601). Measuring a grand 90 ? x 70 in.,