Academy | renaissance academies in italy

Renaissance academies in Italy

With the Neoplatonist revival that accompanied the revival of humanist studies, accademia took on newly vivid connotations.

15th-century accademie

During the Florentine Renaissance, Cosimo de' Medici took a personal interest in the new Platonic Academy that he determined to re-establish in 1439, centered on the marvellous promise shown by the young Marsilio Ficino. Cosimo had been inspired by the arrival at the otherwise ineffective Council of Florence of Gemistos Plethon, who seemed a dazzling figure to the Florentine intellectuals.[citation needed] In 1462 Cosimo gave Ficino a villa at Careggi for the Academy's use, situated where Cosimo could see it from his own villa, and drop by for visits. The academy remained a wholly informal group, but one which had a great influence on Renaissance Neo-Platonism.

In Rome, after unity was restored following the Western Schism, humanist circles, cultivating philosophy and searching out and sharing ancient texts tended to gather where there was access to a library. The Vatican Library was not coordinated until 1475 and was never catalogued or widely accessible: not all popes looked with satisfaction at gatherings of unsupervised intellectuals. At the head of this movement for renewal in Rome was Cardinal Bessarion, whose house from the mid-century was the centre of a flourishing academy of Neoplatonic philosophy and a varied intellectual culture. His valuable Greek as well as Latin library (eventually bequeathed to the city of Venice after he withdrew from Rome) was at the disposal of the academicians. Bessarion, in the latter years of his life, retired from Rome to Ravenna, but he left behind him ardent adherents of the classic philosophy.

The next generation of humanists were bolder admirers of pagan culture, especially in the highly personal academy of Pomponius Leto, the natural son of a nobleman of the Sanseverino family, born in Calabria but known by his academic name, who devoted his energies to the enthusiastic study of classical antiquity, and attracted a great number of disciples and admirers. He was a worshipper not merely of the literary and artistic form, but also of the ideas and spirit of classic paganism, which made him appear a condemner of Christianity and an enemy of the Church. In his academy every member assumed a classical name. Its principal members were humanists, like Bessarion's protégé Giovanni Antonio Campani (Campanus), Bartolomeo Platina, the papal librarian, and Filippo Buonaccorsi, and young visitors who received polish in the academic circle, like Publio Fausto Andrelini of Bologna who took the New Learning to the University of Paris, to the discomfiture of his friend Erasmus. In their self-confidence, these first intellectual neopagans compromised themselves politically, at a time when Rome was full of conspiracies fomented by the Roman barons and the neighbouring princes: Paul II (1464–71) caused Pomponio and the leaders of the academy to be arrested on charges of irreligion, immorality, and conspiracy against the Pope. The prisoners begged so earnestly for mercy, and with such protestations of repentance, that they were pardoned. The Letonian academy, however, collapsed.[20]

In Naples, the Quattrocento academy founded by Alfonso of Aragon and guided by Antonio Beccadelli was the Porticus Antoniana, later known as the Accademia Pontaniana, after Giovanni Pontano.

16th-century literary-aesthetic academies

The 16th century saw at Rome a great increase of literary and aesthetic academies, more or less inspired by the Renaissance, all of which assumed, as was the fashion, odd and fantastic names. We learn from various sources the names of many such institutes; as a rule, they soon perished and left no trace. In the 1520s came the Accademia degli Intronati, for the encouragement of theatrical representations. There were also the Academy of the " Vignaiuoli", or " Vinegrowers" (1530), and the Accademia della Virtù [it] (1542), founded by Claudio Tolomei under the patronage of Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici. These were followed by a new academy in the " Orti" or Farnese gardens. There were also the academies of the " Intrepidi" (1560), the " Animosi" (1576), and the " Illuminati" (1598); this last, founded by the Marchesa Isabella Aldobrandini Pallavicino. Towards the middle of the 16th century there were also the Academy of the " Notti Vaticane", or " Vatican Nights", founded by St. Charles Borromeo; an "Accademia di Diritto civile e canonico", and another of the university scholars and students of philosophy ( Accademia Eustachiana). As a rule these academies, all very much alike, were merely circles of friends or clients gathered around a learned man or wealthy patron, and were dedicated to literary pastimes rather than methodical study. They fitted in, nevertheless, with the general situation and were in their own way one element of the historical development. Despite their empirical and fugitive character, they helped to keep up the general esteem for literary and other studies. Cardinals, prelates, and the clergy in general were most favourable to this movement, and assisted it by patronage and collaboration.

In Florence, the Medici again took the lead in establishing the Accademia e Compagnia delle Arti del Disegno in 1563, the first of the more formally organised art academies that gradually displaced the medieval artists' guilds, usually known as the Guild of Saint Luke, as the bodies responsible for training and often regulating artists, a change with great implications for the development of art, leading to the styles known as Academic art. The private Accademia degli Incamminati set up later in the century in Bologna by the Carracci brothers was also extremely influential, and with the Accademia di San Luca of Rome (founded 1593) helped to confirm the use of the term for these institutions.