The quest for an appropriate past in literature, art and architecture
Enenkel, Karl A.E.
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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