Jacob Burckhardt

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Jakob Burckhardt (May 25, 1818 - August 8, 1897) was a Swiss historian of art and culture.

He was born at Basel, educated there and at Neuchtel, and, till 1839, was intended to be a pastor. In 1838 he made his first journey to Italy, and also published his first important articles, Bemerkungen ber schweizerische Kathedralen ("Remarks about Swiss Cathedrals"). In 1839 he went to the University of Berlin, where he studied until 1843, spending part of 1841 at Bonn, where he was a pupil of Franz Kugler, the art historian, to whom his first book, Die Kunstwerke der belgischen Stdte (1842), was dedicated. He was professor of history at the University of Basel (1845-1847, 1849-1855 and 1858-1893) and at the federal polytechnic school at Zrich (1855-1858).

In 1847 he brought out new editions of Kugler's two great works, Geschichte der Malerei and Kunstgeschichte, and in 1853 published his own work, Die Zeit Constantins des Grossen ("The Age of Constantine the Great"). He spent the greater part of the years 1853-1854 in Italy, where he collected the materials for one of his most famous works, Der Cicerone: Eine Anleitung zum Genuss der Kunstwerke Italiens, which was dedicated to Kugler and appeared in 1855 (7th German edition, 1899).

This work, which includes sculpture and architecture, as well as painting, became indispensable to the art traveller in Italy. About half of the original edition was devoted to the art of the Renaissance, so that Burckhardt was naturally led on to the preparation of his two other celebrated works, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien ("The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy") (1860, English translation, by SGC Middlemore, in 2 vols., London, 1878), and the Geschichte der Renaissance in Italien ("The History of the Renaissance in Italy") (1867). In 1867 he refused a professorship at the University of Tbingen, and in 1872 another (that left vacant by Ranke) at Berlin, remaining faithful to Basel.

See Life by Hans Trog in the Basler Jahrbuch for 1898, pp. 1-172.

He is featured on the Swiss one thousand franc banc note.

His work The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy is still widely read and was to become the most influential interpretation of the Italian Renaissance in the 19th century. Burckhardt and the German historian George Voigt were the beginners of a modern historical Renaissance research. In difference to Voigt, Burckhardt interests all aspects of the Renaissance society. Voigt interests the movement and development of the early Italian humanism only.


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