Cultural immersions

Cristian Ispir
2 min readDec 15, 2023
Foregrounding the classics: the Battle of the Nudes by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, ca. 1465–1470. The engraving is widely assumed to have been based on an ancient sculpture excavated in Rome in 1489.

The humanists, scholars and artists of the Renaissance were the architects, agents and actors of Europe’s first immersive age.

While in hindsight the Humanism during the Renaissance was a cultural and intellectual movement that emphasized the value of human beings, their capabilities, and their potential for achievement, it was first and foremost, for the men and women who shaped it, a period of cultural and artistic immersion, driven by a fascination with Greek and Roman antiquity.

The scholars recovering the lost texts of the ancient world, the artists discovering the figurative artistic inheritance of Greece and Rome, sought to surround themselves with the spirit of the ancients, and started seeing their contemporary world through the lens of the classical period.

It was a widespread immersive experience taking Europe by storm. Reading and imitating Cicero, travelling to Rome, Naples and Athens to admire and reproduce the relics of the classical past, adopting the techniques, models and frameworks of ancient art, bringing back the secular view of a reconstructed age, became the transformative activities of generations of men and women who didn’t want just to observe, but to experience in their daily lives what the excavated Antiquity had to offer.

The classical world they were bringing back to life through books, paintings, sculptures and the like wasn’t of course the world of the ancients, but a complex reinterpretation, as is always the case when a culture looks back to its perceived roots. In its confrontation with the distant past, the late medieval world of the 15th and 16th centuries didn’t become classical, nor did it stay medieval. It became something completely different, something that nobody could at the time could understand or foresee. It became modern, and an age, which we call the Renaissance, was born to come to terms with the unprecedented transformations. It is still work in progress