Write in a continuous prose in an essay form, integrating your visual and textual analysis as much as possible.
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How might the virtue of magnificence be manifest in Renaissance art?
Answer with close reference to:
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Art and Visual Culture: A Reader, pp. 80–83)
Benvenuto Cellini, salt cellar of Francis I, 1540–43, gold and enamel, 26 x 34 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, KK–881, Art and Visual Culture 1100-1600: Medieval to Renaissance, Plates 5.21 and 5.22
An additional work of art of your own choice, drawn from Book 1, Part 2.
The aim of this assignment is to build on the work you completed for TMA 01 by developing further your skills of visual analysis, this time in combination with textual analysis. You are asked to assess the provisions of the rubric in addition to a choice of your own. Benvenuto Cellini’s salt caller highlights that art in the Renaissance ventured outside the realm of religion, which was certainly very important for Medieval art, as Book 1, Part 1 demonstrates. You can draw your example either from religious or from secular art, but please ensure that your choice serves your argument and clearly supports your answer.
In structuring your essay, you should consider the parameters of the rubric carefully. Aristotle’s text suggests that it was acceptable for people to spend wisely and within acceptable parameters to achieve the ideal of ‘magnificence’. The rubric does not ask you to evaluate Aristotle’s position but rather how this was understood in Renaissance artistic production. Thus, it would be useful to present briefly what this passage tells us and explain how it was perceived in western Renaissance society.
You will then have to apply this explanation on the work the rubric asks you to examine. In doing so, you have a further opportunity to develop your visual analysis skills and to build on any feedback you may have received for TMA 01. The basis of your answer thus far should then inform your choice of a work of art that (a) both fits with Aristotle’s writing and its ‘interpretation’ in the Renaissance and (b) in combination with the salt cellar further supports this.
You may wish to engage with the function of the works you discuss (for example, the salt cellar does not have a religious function; in fact, it represents gods of the pagan antiquity). However, please remember that this is not what the exercise asks you to do, so you should evaluate how such information adds to the validity of your argument.
In order to ensure that you engage with all the material presented in Book 1, Part 2, it would be preferable if your choice was drawn from a chapter other than Chapter 5; however, rest assured that you will not be penalised should you decide to stay with Chapter 5 for your choice.
This exercise asks you to engage, ideally, more broadly with material presented in Book 1, Part 2 (Chapters 5, 7 and 8) and to make an informed choice with the help of the rubric, which provides you with specific reference points: the textual source is in the Art and Visual Culture: A Reader, pp. 80–3 (no. 1, entry on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics); the salt cellar is examined in Book 1, Chapter 5, Part 5 (Etiquette, pp. 191–94). You may find useful to consider Study Guide 1.7 (Section 4.4, Issues of gender in commissioning and collecting; Activity 7.6, focusing on ‘magnificence’).
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