The quest for an appropriate past in literature, art and architecture
Enenkel, Karl A.E.
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When thinking about the creation of “national literature” and “national styles” in art and architecture, most people will associate these developments with the nineteenth century: this period was characterized by the emergence of national states and attempts to codify specific geographically and nationally defined identities in art, architecture, and literature, based on models from a glorious past.1 However, in the period from 1400 to 1700, as a result of a complex amalgam of political, intellectual, and religious developments, humanist scholars, artists, noblemen, and political leaders all over Europe were engaged in a similar effort.2 The numerous developments and changes in politics and religion represented a challenge. And this challenge called for a response in terms of new efforts of legitimization and authorization. Central in these attempts was the search for suitable and impressive roots in a distant past, which one may call “antiquity”. In late medieval and early modern Europe, “antiquity” was all the more important because political authority was formally based on lineage.
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