The metaphysics of light in Philosophy and Art of the Italian Renaissance

Doctoral Dissertation uoadl:2898747 105 Read counter

Falulty of Philosophy
Library of the School of Philosophy
Deposit date:
Katsarou Georgia
Dissertation committee:
Γεώργιος Στείρης Αναπλ. καθηγητής, Τμήμα Φιλοσοφίας ΕΚΠΑ
Έλση Μπακονικόλα-Γιαμά Αναπλ. καθηγήτρια
Νίκη-Χαρά Μπανάκου-Καραγκούνη Αναπλ. καθηγήτρια
Ι. Πρελορέντζος καθηγητής
Ι. Καλογεράκος Αναπλ. καθηγητής
Γεώργιος Αραμπατζής αναπλ. καθηγητής
Ε. Πρωτοπαπαδάκης Επικ. καθηγητής
Original Title:
Η μεταφυσική του φωτός στη Φιλοσοφία και την Τέχνη της Ιταλικής Αναγέννησης
Translated title:
The metaphysics of light in Philosophy and Art of the Italian Renaissance

The Renaissance of the 15th century was an impetus for a great number of philosophers and theologians to interpret light at a metaphysical, allegorical, and symbolic level in relation to art theory, and at the same time inspired many artists to develop new techniques based on aesthetics of light and color. The main concern of the present work is the way in which Neoplatonic philosophers Plotinus, Proclus, Dionysius the Areopagite and Marsilio Ficino contributed to their studies of the perception of light, influenced the Renaissance cultures in the practical application of the metaphysical function of light, reflecting new techniques and methods through light in their creations.
In the first chapter, there is a reference to Plotinus's neo-Platonic system, in which there are four divisions. At the top lies the transcendent One or the Good, being the supreme principle and equating with God, followed by the Mind as the result of the One, then the Soul and the bottom level of the ontological rank is the Matter. The latter is evil and the Soul must find a way to get rid of it and unite with the One, which can be done by cultivating virtue in the soul of each person individually and on the other is a personal choice for each individual to do freely. The understanding of the function of light plays a decisive role in the perception of light, arguing that true light is only conceivable. From the One, the upper tier, refracts into the ideal world and then into the spirit of the sensible world.
In the second chapter, Proclus follows Plotinus and maintains the downward movement (One-Mind-Soul) and the ascending course (Soul-Mind-En), arguing that the perceived light is bodily, and therefore any level of being that radiated by the One has its own kind of light. Therefore there are the mental and psychic lights, the pure light of the cosmic space, and the visible light in the sky and the earth. The first function of the light is the primordial divine light of the One or God that penetrates all levels of reality, bringing goodness and beauty.
In the third chapter, Dionysius the Areopagite distinguishes an "affirmative" and a "decisive" theology: the first attributes to God the names of all beings, while the second follows the path of denial. There is a dialectical contrast between the material light in the beings and the divine light that surrounds God. All the radiation emanates from God. Christians become the holders of true theology when their mind is illuminated by the uncreated light of the Trinity. The natural light, therefore, attracts the rational being and symbolizes divine unity and transcendance, because it consists of an apocalyptic divine energy.
In the fourth chapter, the metaphysical of light is developed in the philosophical thought of Marsilio Ficino. He was a pioneer of Renaissance neo-Platonism, as in most of his works he emphasized the symbolic dimension of light. It restores the neo-Platonic idea of lumen and lux, based on medieval tradition, of visual representation of the visual arts because of their abstract nature, and has even had a huge impact on a number of artists, painters, sculptors, poets and intellectuals. In this way, she sought to remind the soul of her true origin in the divine world by transmitting the quality of that world through art.
In the fifth chapter, there is a detailed overview of Renaissance art and architectural buildings, with the aim of highlighting the new painting techniques (photoshop, oil painting, light-shadow gradation), which
the application of its metaphysical light has brought about, aiming at the unification of the earthly and celestial world and the faithful rendering of reality. The 15th-century painting is, in essence, an act of light, completely free from any element of the past, which permeates everything: landscapes, bodies, objects, and even as the religious element is intense, it clearly displays a luminous atmosphere, which succeeds in transforming the content of matter into divine action, making light the primary element of attraction. Light, then, as a dominant element, on the one hand leads the artist to establish an innovative style through the metaphysical theory of light in the representation of images and in the rendering of meanings and on the other the viewer in focusing on and recognizing of how light - shadow gradations and light - color ratios are distributed, with the aim of generating senses and meanings.
Main subject category:
Philosophy - Psychology
metaphysics, Renaissance, Neoplatonism, art
Number of index pages:
Contains images:
Number of references:
Number of pages:

3 MB
File access is restricted until 2021-03-05.