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Renaissance Antics – History Hijinks

Welcome to Blue’s Dumb History/History Hijinks,
the show where I take a topic and tell you all about why its way more hilarious than
you ever could have imagined. Today, we’re gonna dig into the glories
of the Italian Renaissance and learn about the artists who made it happen. Because we’ve talked about the historical
context, we’ve even discussed some famous works, but we haven’t fully appreciated
just how bonkers and/or badass some of these artists really were. So, to get a sense of what Renaissance life
was really like, Let’s Do Some History! We begin at the turn of the 1400s, when this
Ssance business was juuust starting to be Renai’d. Our first protagonist was born in Florence,
a mister Filippo di ser Brunellescho di Lippo Lapi who —god, I’m sorry, that just SOUNDS
made up. Eheh, anyway, Brunelleschi was educated in
math and trained as a goldsmith, and he caught his first big break in 1401, when the city
held a contest to redecorate the bronze doors of the city’s baptistry. As their task, Filippo and 6 other sculptors
mocked up one scene from the eventual 8-panel door. To his lifelong frustration, the jury passed
on his complex and dramatic scene for the simpler, more classical composition of Lorenzo
Ghiberti. Filippo refused to be second-best at anything,
but he took the loss in stride — just kidding, he stormed out of Florence immediately and
vowed never to sculpt again. And that’s is pretty indicative of Brunelleschi’s
temperament. Innnstead, he devoted his focus to architecture
during the years he spent with his pal Donatello in Rome. When he returned to Florence, Brunelleschi’s
first job was designing the Ospedale Degli Innocenti as a radical reconstruction of ancient
Roman design, but if you look at those arches, it was also a casual audition for a much larger
semicircle: The Dome. When the city launched a new design contest
in 1418 to finish the as-of-then uncapped Duomo, Brunelleschi smoked his old rival Ghiberti. It may have taken two decades, but the revenge
was sweet, and it smelled like construction mortar. According to a popular legend, architects
were tasked to stand an egg upright on a slab of marble, and Filippo’s solution was to
smash the bottom of the egg into a base. This story is almost definitely fabricated,
but that is absolutely the kind of dramatic trick Brunelleschi would pull. Now when it came to building the dome, hoisting
the material 50m in the air was only part of the problem, as Filippo’s most stubborn
components were his workers. For them, just arriving for work all the way
up those stairs was enough of a pain in the butt, so when they broke for lunch and went
back down, they stayed down and just went home. Brunelleschi’s solution was to build a kitchen
inside the dome so that his builders had no excuse to bail early. He also watered down their wine because professionals
gotta have standards. After the dome was finished — Mwah — the
city held another contest to design the lantern on top, which Ghiberti had the gall to apply
for. Brunelleschi would sooner die than let that
hack lay a finger on his masterpiece, so Filippo entered and won the competition. He actually had to overcome the slight hiccup
of a studio assistant stealing his plans and submitting them as his own work, so Brunelleschi
fancied up his own design, in secret, before submitting it again. Some people have described Brunelleschi’s
personality as egoistic, perfectionist, brash, and aggressive, and while true, these all
kinda miss the real point. Filippo Brunelleschi was an absolute Diva,
plain and simple. And truly, nobody can rediscover the nuances
of classical Roman architecture without storming out of their hometown on a decade-long, cross-country
temper-tantrum. A few years later, just outside Florence,
we first meet the man so smart it actually makes me angry: Leonardo Da Vinci. Born the illegitimate child of a notary and
a peasant, the only thing going for our boy Leo was his insatiable curiosity. Italy had painters, and natural scientists,
and maybe even a few talented engineers, but mmmmNot like this. Leonardo’s first job in Florence was in
the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, helping prep and fine-tune the master’s paintings. Famously, his work on the angels and water
in the Baptism of Christ are far better than Verrocchio’s own brushwork on Jesus and
John. Some stories exaggerate that Verrocchio stormed
out and never picked up a paintbrush again but that’s more up Brunelleschi’s alley—
though point stands, Leonardo was flexing on the city’s best painters in just his
20s. In 1482, Leonardo sent a job offer to the
Duke of Milan in the form of a silver lyre cast in the shape of a horse’s skull. I’m gonna breeze past how f*cking metal
that is and be glad our kiddo got himself a promotion. For the next 17 years he worked for the Milanese
as a painter and a theater engineer. You’ve got that right, Da Vinci did tech. It’s here he worked on his best painting,
The Last Supper, where he sometimes painted from dawn until night without a break, and
sometimes went days on end without painting anything. The prior of the convent was extremely frustrated
with Da Vinci’s schedule, so Leonardo very politely asked the Duke if he could use the
prior’s face as his model for Judas. OOof. After fulfilling his art credit requirement,
Leonardo began working on Military equipment for the Duke of Milan and eventually for Cesare
Borgia, with some notable sketches including a 12-barreled gun and a whole-ass tank. Now it’s a good thing Da Vinci was more
of a designer than an inventor because these things are straight-up nightmare fuel, but
we can tell from his notes that he didn’t want anybody building it. He deliberately drew the gearbox for his tank
backwards so that the wheels would lock and the machine would be useless. Aside from the murder-wagon, Leonardo designed
a helicopter, parachute, flying machine, and even a metal robot, but we only discovered
his metric tank-load of inventions when his notebooks were published decades later. See, for most of his life and a good couple
centuries after his death, Leonardo was primarily known as a painter, and everybody could see
that understood the human form, but it was only when we cracked open his notebooks that
we figured out why. Da Vinci sketched dozens of living figures
during trips to and from the market, but also dissected corpses to understand things like
muscle-structure and how our eyes process light. Slightly Illegal, yes, but Leonardo’s anatomy
studies also gave us the Vitruvian Man, the apex T-Pose. Anyway, Da Vinci bopped around between Florence
and Milan and eventually into France before dying in 1519. For all his varied talents, his greatest strength
was still the curiosity to investigate anything and everything, always finding ways to connect
anatomy with painting with physics with invention. Damn, that Da Vinci kid was smart. Now for the shortest but easily most bombastic
story on this list, we’ll follow the life and times and murder and more murder of Benvenuto
Cellini, the only Renaissance artist who acts like they’re somebody’s psychotic Dungeons
& Dragons character. Born in 1500 and given a goldsmithing apprenticeship
in 1515, he was banished from the city of Florence just a year later for starting a
Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Scene 1 brawl. So he moved to Rome, where he ended up defending
the city against a disastrous sacking by renegade Bourbon troops. Now, our source for Cellini is, unfortunately,
Cellini, whose wildly extravagant biography claims that he single-handedly saved a castle,
as well as being the one to shoot and kill Duke Charles of Bourbon. Cellini’s autobiography is particularly
frustrating because it is a decent source for daily renaissance life, so long as you
don’t listen to anything he says about himself. 2 years after the sack, a Roman guard was
killed by Benvenuto’s brother, who was in turn killed by another guard, who Benvenuto
later killed. He also got into a fistfight with a notary
and killed a rival goldsmith, which at this point is just par for the course. Though he briefly had to flee from Rome, the
pope later absolved him. Still, that makes Cellini 2-for-2 on exile. Funny thing is, when he returned to Rome,
he was arrested on embezzlement charges and thrown in prison. Whereafter he did escape, but was immediately
recaptured. For a hot minute he worked for the French
royal court, but he was frustrated that he couldn’t solve his disagreements by murdering
them, so Cellini returned to Florence. He did try to multiclass into being a Priest,
of all things, but he swiftly gave it up, I wonder whether it was the rules on No Murder,
No Philandering, or Worshipping Somebody Other Than Himself that sealed the deal. As for his art career, it’s a recurring
theme that his ability to consistently create art was serially jeopardized by his near-constant
run-ins with the law. His best work, Perseus With the Head of Medusa,
is partially a result of him being too old to commit casual murder while going to and
from his workshop. By all accounts he would have been a much
more prolific artist if he wasn’t so much of a narcissistic murder-hobo. Though, if we asked Benvenuto himself, I think
he’d be pretty satisfied with his choice. The last person on our list isn’t technically
a Renaissance artist, but technically I’m the one in charge here, so it’s my rules. Now, this story begins 1590s Rome, right on
the edge of the Baroque period, where the master Caravaggio and his old pal Orazio Gentileschi
were working together on various projects throughout the city. In 1593 Orazio had a daughter Artemisia, whom
he taught how to paint. Since Artemisia was, gasp, a woman, she was
instantly DQ’d from any of the artist guilds in Rome, so it was only because her dad owned
a workshop that she even had a shot at painting. That said, it did the trick, because she rapidly
picked up some of Caravaggio’s talent for coloration, lighting, and scene composition. Now this is where Artemisia’s story gets
extremely uncomfortable to retell, but her art is fundamentally inseparable from her
trauma, so heads up for assault [Timecode]. At the age of 17, she was raped by an artist
named Agostino Tassi, who was working on a project with her father. And this colossal sh*thead — he then promised
he’d marry Artemisia to restore her dignity, but kept on finding excuses to delay the wedding,
so that their relationship would continue with no strings attached except for the omnipresent
psychological garotte wire but nevermind that. After about a year, Mr Gentileschi found out
about this and immediately took Tassi to court. Artemisia’s testimony was verified by thumbscrew
torture, and at one point she called out to Agostino that her thumbscrews were the wedding
ring he promised. This, dear viewers, is our first major indication
that Artemisia Gentileschi Takes No Sh*t. The trial would go on to reveal that Tassi
was an even greater scumbag than anybody could imagine, but despite his conviction, he was
later pardoned by the Pope. So Artemisia, 100% done with Rome, hopped
up to Florence. But before she left, she completed her first
major painting of Susanna and the Elders, a bible story reframed to show how wildly
uncomfortable it is to be accosted while you’re trying to mind your own damn business. [Timecode] And this marks only the start of Artemisia taking thematic cues from her own experience,
because her next painting was her take on a famous Caravaggio of Judith Slaying Holofernes. And to appreciate her talent, let’s compare
between the two, because just look at this: Caravaggio, buddy, your Judith has never held
a sword in her life, she needs to put her shoulders into it (A) Now theeeere we go,
Artemisia knows what I’m talking about, THAT’S how you decapitate a man! See what I mean? Gentileschi was no slouch, and you can tell
exactly what was going through her mind when she painted that. She’s not just a good artist, or a good
artist despite the limitations on women, she was great because her work was so uncompromising
and vividly autobiographical. Her fame quickly spread, and her time in Florence
saw her painting for the Medici court and earning a spot on the Accademia Di Arte Del
Disegno, and soon enough she was painting for clients in Venice, Naples, and even the
King of England. After Artemisia’s death in the mid 1650s,
she fell off the artistic radar for a few centuries, but since the Feminist Movement
in the 1970s there’s been a huge resurgence of interest Artemisia. And for damn good reason! Her art shows how all of us can take trauma
and turn it into something powerful. Taking the old stabby-stab revenge will just
cause more legal issues, but raking revenge through art means everybody can get some much-needed
catharsis. SO! What have we learned? Well, if you’re gonna be a diva, you’ve
gotta back it up with talent. No matter what your field, it always helps
to be curious. Be mindful of your work-life balance, and
adjust it sharply if that balance includes murder. And finally, when you find yourself in a rough
situation, ask yourself, What would Artemisia Gentileschi do? Because in every situation, the answer is
“Take No Shit”. Thank you so much for watching, and thanks
to our fantastic patrons who voted on the name for this new series! If you’d like to have a say in what’s
coming next or have your name in the credits like these cool cats, hop on over to Patreon.com/OSP. I’ll catch you all in the next video!
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDO4MGcZnUk

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