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Humanities Saturday

Today I am going to take my first exam in my humanities class. I love humanities, especially philosophy. The class I am taking is focused on the Enlightenment and Romanticism era, and so a good majority so far has been on art. For this week’s entry, I’m going to post my study guide questions and some answers I’ve come up with. These posts are meant to pass on knowledge to you, in case you are as fascinated by these aspects of our history as I am.

What are some of the characteristics of the baroque style in Italy?
Photo from Wikipedia.

The baroque style was encouraged by the Roman Catholic church which decided that art should reflect religious themes in direct and emotional involvement. Art in all forms was meant to impress the on-looker and express a sense of triumphant power and control. In this period architecture was elaborate with curves and angles and very defined detail. The detail was set up on a grand scale, often forcing the viewer to feel “small,” such as in Bernini’s Saint Peter’s baldachin located in Saint Peter’s Bascilica (see photo).

Statues were very detailed as well, often portraying people in movement or perhaps captured within a moment of life. A painting was created with exaggerated lighting and intense emotions often focusing on facial expressions and the human form. Paintings in the baroque period often glorified monarchy and religion.

What are some of the characteristics of the new imagery of Dutch Vernacular painting?

Photo from Wikipedia.

The most popular subjects of Dutch Vernacular paintings were still life. Still lifes are paintings dedicated to the representation of common household objects and food. Dutch artists of this period used details such as decaying flowers and animals remains to remind the viewer of the frivolous quality of human existence. Another popular subject was landscapes. In landscape paintings the scene was mostly sky often symbolizing God and creation.

Genre scenes are scenes depicting everyday life. There are several ways of doing this. Jan Steen, for example often paints scenes from festivals and celebrations. Johannes Vermeer, on the other hand, paints domestic scenes of Dutch life. Judith Lyster created quiet scenes at home, such as in The Happy Couple (see photo) where we see  a man and a woman simply enjoying each others company.

What are some of the characteristics of Absolutism?

Absolutism is a term used to describe strong, centralized monarchies that exert royal power usually on the grounds of divine right. This meant that the king was was not under any obligations from the church and no other institution prohibited his actions. Louis XIV of France is the best example of a ruler practicing absolutism. He said, “The state, it is me.”

As an absolute monarchy, France was completely in the hands of Louis XIV. Louis had control over the church, the aristocracy, and all other elements of his rule. He was the supreme judicial authority. He could sentence men to death without the right of an appeal. It was his duty to both punish offenses and stop them from being committed. He also had the power to make laws and also to annul them. This is absolutism.

What are some of the differences in the political ideals of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke?

Click for photo source. (I cannot vouch for content accuracy.)

Thomas Hobbes believes that all humans are predominately bad. He wrote “The Leviathan” which explains his belief that the government is a necessary evil and that there must be a leader, either in the form of a monarch or the form of a commonwealth. He believes that humans are driven by two things: the fear of death and the desire for power. There must be a government to then keep the peace in exchange for a social contract in which citizens give up sovereignty over themselves.

John Locke argued that people are perfectly capable of governing themselves. He said that the human mind at birth is a tabula rasa (blank slate) and that our environment fills the slate. Basically if we live in a reasonable society we will grow into reasonable people. Thus, Locke suggested the greatest evil was tyranny. He believed that people agree to a government to protect themselves, but the social contract should not require them to surrender sovereignty over themselves. He then suggested that a good government would have limited authority and be held in check by a balancing system consisting of a separation of powers.

Phew. Here’s to hoping I can hand write my answers this well for the test. 🙂 Wish me luck!

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