In this article, we have a brief look at the Renaissance from the perspective of Jawaharlal Nehru, which is mentioned in the letter 83 to his daughter in the book “A Look at the History of the World”.
Letter Date: August 5, 1932
From the anxious and anxiety state of struggle that existed throughout Europe, the beautiful and fragrant flower of the Renaissance blossomed. This flower first grew in Italy, but from ancient times it looked to ancient Greece and was inspired and nourished by it. He adapted the love of beauty from Greece and added something deeper to the beauty of physical forms that came from the mind and had a spiritual aspect. This flower was an urban product and was sheltered by the cities of northern Italy. The city of Florence particularly was the center of the early Renaissance.
Florence had previously raised Dante and Petrarch, two great Italian poets, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. During the middle Ages, the city was for a long time the financial capital of Europe, where large money changers lived and gathered there. There was a kind of rich republic in this city where people were not very good and often abused their great and worthy men. The city was dubbed “Florence Metlon and Unstable.” But despite money changers, bullies, and tyrants, in the second half of the 15th century, the city had three famous men, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. These three were very great artists and painters. Leonardo and Michelangelo were great in other ways as well.
Michelangelo was an excellent stonemason and sculptor, who carved unparalleled sculptures of hard marble and at the same time, was also a talented architect, and the great church of St. Pierre in Rome was greatly promoted by him. He lived for a long time and lived for near 90 years and even worked at St. Piper Church in the days leading up to his death. Michelangelo was a sad and unhappy man who was always looking for something beyond everything. He was always thinking, and he was always doing great and amazing things, and he was saying that human beings paint with his brain, not with his hands.
Leonardo da Vinci was the oldest among these three and in many ways the strangest and most exalted. In fact, he was the most prominent man of his time, and remembers that the time of when many famous men existed. Leonardo was not only a great painter and sculptor, he was also a great thinker and scientist who were always experimenting, always researching and trying to discover the causes of the existence of objects. He is the first in a series of great scientists who founded the new sciences. He says that “Nature is so kind that we can learn from it anywhere in the world,”
Leonardo was a self-taught man who began studying Latin and mathematics at the age of thirty. He became a great engineer and was also the first to receive blood flow in the human body. He was amazed about the perfection of the structure of the human body and saying: “Violent people and those who have bad habits and short-sighted and low judgment, in fact do not know how to use a great and beautiful tool and a fully equipped device such as the human body. “They just have a bag full of food, because their bodies are really nothing but a tube and a device for transporting and absorbing food!” He himself was a vegetarian and treated animal with kindness. One of his habits was to buy the caged birds in the market and release them immediately.
Leonardo’s most astonishing work was his attempt to fly in the air. Although he did not succeed in doing so, but tried so much for achieving his goal. Unfortunately, no one followed his theories and experiments. Perhaps if there were two others like him to follow his rules, today’s airplanes would have been invented two or three hundred years earlier. This extraordinary and strange man lived from 1452 to 1519. As it is said, his life was “a conversation with nature”. He always asked questions and tried to find answers to them through experience and experimentation. He always seemed to be moving forward and trying to capture the future.
I wrote more about these three great men of Florence, and especially about Leonardo, because they and Leonardo in particular, are my favorite. The history of the Republic of Florence is not very pleasant and positive with its provocations, coercions and lowly rulers. However, this city and this government and even its shameless money changers and usurers can be forgiven for these three men who were raised in this city. The shadow of these three children still remains over the city, and when you walk through the streets and alleys of this beautiful city, or when you look at the beautiful river “Arno” that flows under the medieval stairs, it seems that you are overwhelmed with joy and happiness and the history of this city become alive. Dante walks in and “Beatrice” the women he loved, passed and the pleasant and gentle scent that is drawn after her remains and Leonardo seems to be engrossed in his thoughts on the secrets of life and nature through the narrow alleys.
Thus the Renaissance flourished in Italy from the 15th century and gradually traveled to other Western countries. Great artists sought to bring life to the rough and lifeless stones and fabrics, and now the galleries of European exhibitions and museums are full of his paintings and sculptures. In Italy, the Renaissance art movement declined in the late 16th century.
In the seventeenth century, the Netherlands had great painters, one of the most famous one was Rembrandt. Around this time, the painter Velasquez lived in Spain. But I do not want to give you names. These names are too many. If you are interested in great masters and famous painters, you should go to the galleries and see their works. Their names are not important so much. Their art and the beauty they created are important and can tell us something and inspire us.
During this period, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, the sciences gradually came forward and achieved their proper position. Science had to fight hard against the church. Because the church did not believe in forcing people to think and experiment. According to the church, the earth was the center of the universe and the sun revolved around it, and the stars were fixed points in the heavens. Anyone who said anything except that was an infidel and an apostate who dealt with the Inquisition nevertheless, a Polish man named Copernicus shook this idea and proved that the earth revolves around the sun, thus laying the foundation for a new way of thinking and imagining the universe.
Copernicus lived from 1473 to 1543, and in any case he was able to escape the wrath of the Church despite his revolutionary and secular beliefs. But the others who came after him did not have as much luck as he did. An Italian named Giordano Bruno was cremated by the church in Rome in 1600 because he believed that the earth revolved around the sun and the stars themselves were sun.
One of his contemporaries, Galileo, who built the astronomical camera, was threatened by the church, but he was weaker than Bruno and denied the idea. For this reason, due to the pressure of the church, he stated that he had made a mistake and his belief was foolish, and of course (!) The earth is the center of the universe and the sun revolves around the earth. Nevertheless, he was forced to spend part of his life in prison for what he had said.
One of the most famous men of science in the sixteenth century was Harvey, who conclusively proved the flow of blood in the body. In the seventeenth century one of the brightest and greatest names in the history of science lived, and his name was Isaac Newton, who was a great mathematician. He discovered what is called the “law of gravity”, according to which objects fall, and thus he discovered another mystery of nature.
We are satisfied with what we have said, or rather with this brief about science.
Literature also flourished during this period. The new energy that was moving everywhere had a profound and powerful effect on the young European languages as well. These languages have existed for a long time, and we have seen that Italy used to raise great poets. There was also “Chaucer” in England. Until then, however, Latin was still the language of the scholars and the Church, and it cast a shadow over all the Europe and other languages. Other languages were called “vernacular” and (indigenous languages) slang or, as some call it, Indian languages, as they unknowingly call it.
Italian was the first language to flourish, followed by French, English, Spanish, and finally German. In France, some young writers in the sixteenth century decided to write in their own language, not Latin. And strive to perfect their so-called vernacular language as a means of expressing the best literary works.
Thus European languages evolved and became worth full and empowered to become the perfect languages of today. I will not name many famous authors. I will name just a few. The famous poet Shakespearean lived in England from 1564 to 1616, immediately after him, in the seventeenth century, Milton was found that was a blind poet who wrote the Lost Paradise poem. In France, the philosopher Descartes and the playwright Moliere were both in the seventeenth century. Moliere is the founder of Comedy France, the largest state theater in Paris. One of Shakespeare’s contemporaries was the Spanish Cervantes, who wrote the book Don Quixote.
I would like to mention another name, not because of its greatness but because it is so famous. This is the name of Machiavelli, another Florentine who was a very ordinary politician in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but wrote a book called “Prince” which became famous. This book shows us a picture of the thoughts of the princes, and politicians of that time. And Machiavelli tells us that religion is essential for a state, but not to make people pious, but to make it easier for them to dominate. It may even be the duty of a ruler to help spread a religion that he does not believe in and considers to be false!
Machiavelli says, “A prince and ruler must know how to play the role of man and animal at the same time, be a lion and a fox, he should not and cannot fulfill its promise when it comes to its detriment; it must be said that honor and integrity are always harmful. Slowly, it must be said that honesty and integrity are always harmful. What is useful is to make a person seem pious, believer, human and self-sacrificing. “Nothing is as useful as a pious and virtuous appearance.”
These Machiavellian dialogues are very obscene and vile. Isn’t that so? The more vile and dishonorable a person is, the better the prince and ruler! If this was the mindset of a European ruler at the time, it is not surprising that there was constant turmoil. But why go so far back?
Even today, imperialist and colonial governments behave like Amir Machiavelli. Underneath of their pious appearance hides greed and cruelty and depravity, and beneath the soft, velvety gloves of civilization hide the red, bloody claws of a predator.”
Source: A look at the history of the world, written by Jawaharlal Nehru, translated by Mahmoud Tafazli, Amirkabir Publications, Volume One