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Paper Assignment One
As we have seen in The Republic (which includes the “Allegory of the Cave”), the Greek
Plato, did not have a favorable opinion of the visual arts; he thought that they were
far removed from
ideal Forms and in that way, led people away from the truth. In opposition,
Pliny, who wrote his book
Natural History during the time of the ancient Roman Empire, praised
such artists as Zeuxis whose
work was so skillful that he was able to fool both man and “beast”
into thinking what they viewed was real/the truth. Later, in the Renaissance, writers like Alberti
in his book, On Painting, and Vasari in his Lives of the Artists, celebrated the artist’s ability to
create works that “lived and breathed” and
praised their illusory nature. Renaissance
Neoplatonists such as Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio
Ficino sought to reconcile Plato’s ideas
with Christian thought, emphasized the Platonic notion of the demiurge, which reconciled the
heavenly and earthly realm though the act of creation.
For this Essay, you are being asked to discuss why you think Plato’s opinions differ from
subsequent writers on the subject of images and image-making. For example, you may want to
-Why did Plato think that images had the potential to be so destructive? Why does his discussion
image-making occur in The Republic? What point is he trying to make in for example, the
“Allegory of the Cave” as it relates to the idea of knowledge?
-What might Plato have thought about Pliny’s story about Zeuxis and the grapes and/or Cicero’s
of Zeuxis and the Croton maidens? Explain your answer.
-How does Alberti’s idea of painting as a “window on the world” relate to Pliny’s account? What
might Plato have thought about Alberti’s instructions to the novice painter to think of a painting
“window on the world?”
-What does Vasari’s account of the history of art emphasize? What does he consider to be the
highest form of achievement? What would Plato think of his ideas?
-How might the idea of Neoplatonism (as expressed in Pico’s “Oration on the Dignity of Man and
in Ficino’s account of Diotima’s ladder) have affected the Renaissance theory of the arts?
-How does Raphael’s letter to Castiglione relate to Plato’s ideas on divine form?
NOTE: you are to pick ONE or TWO of the above to address in your essay; you do not need to
discuss all of the topics.
This essay is intended to be a Thesis-driven/ Argumentative essay.
In brief, this type of essay requires that you:
– Formulate an argument (a thesis) about a text or texts
– Write a well-structured essay proving that argument with carefully selected and
evidence from the text(s) in question
– Provide appropriate citations for that evidence using a recognized citation style (MLA)
As you are just getting used to this type of material, your first paper will be a short one of 3 pages.
Although it is relatively brief, however, you still must make sure
that you formulate a thesis statement and provide a cohesive argument.
In your paper, you must discuss Plato as one of your writers. You
may, however, then choose
any of the remaining authors (or any combination of them) to craft your