Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Introduction to Italian Renaissance

The Renaissance started in Italy because these crises within Christendom benefited Italy. It gave Italy an independence and freedom which it had not previously enjoyed. It must also be noted that the ruins of Roman civilization where more visible in Italy than elsewhere. The Italians had never quite forgotten that heritage even during the Dark Ages. Urban life had never disappeared entirely in Italy, the way it had in the rest of Europe.Renaissance was started by the rich and ruthless Medici family in Florence . And when trade and towns revived, the Italian communes had flourished most of all. As we have noted earlier, the Lombard League had fought the centralizing efforts of the Hohenstaufen emperors and had become virtually independent city states. Feudalism and a landed nobility had never become as entrenched in Italy as elsewhere.

The Early Medici

Cosimo de Medici, or Cosimo the Elder, was born in 1389. Growing up, Cosimo had the best education available in 14th century Florence, and grew up with a sense of respect for classical knowledge and ideals. He became a humanist. Florence during Cosimo's early years was split between two factions - the faction of the upper class, captained by the Albizzi family, and the middle class, also supported by a few important families such as the Medici.
When Giovanni died of natural causes in 1429, Cosimo took over the helm of the family enterprises. In 1433, Cosimo moved to the outskirts of Tuscany, letting matters cool off in the partisan battles. But Rinaldo degli Albizzi was still nervous. He arranged for the arrest and detention of Cosimo, and eventually, his banishment to Venice. Popular unrest in Florence led to a new Signory, and Cosimo was brought back to Florence and given vast power.Medici Bank became the largest bank in Europe and later Cosimo de Medici became Europe's richest man. He continued to build that power, however. He consolidated all power in his hands in dealings with the rest of Italy and finance.Under the rule of Cosimo, Florence increased both its wealth and its cultural prestige. Cosimo de Medici possessed the largest private library in Europe and he later initiated Platonic Academy in Florence.Among the most lasting impacts of Cosimo's reign are his large library (including a large classical collection) and his patronage of artists such as Donatello and Fra Angelico.Cosimo's successor, Piero, was less successful than Cosimo, but generally followed his policies and so survived his term leaving Florence much the same as he found it.

The Medici family established themselves as the taste-makers of Italy.

Lorenzo the Magnificent

Following the rule of Piero came the tyranny of his sons, Lorenzo and Giuliano. Giuliano died young. Lorenzo di Medici, who became known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, did not have the economic ability of his predecessors, and was a tyrant and a hedonist.Lorenzo was not concerned with the banking much but he had a passion for Arts and was quite well in politics.He made an arts school to train best artists and Michelangelo was one example.His father Piero de Medici sponsored the arts and was a collector. His mother, Lucrezia, was a poet of sorts and mingled with the literati. He not only studied mathematics and record keeping, but was instructed in the art of diplomacy. Even as a teenager, Piero sent him on diplomatic missions including one to Rome to meet the Pope.Medici were the greatest bankers of their age, and the Medici bank pioneered crucial aspects of modern finance. They were "foreign exchange dealers" who enacted a "transfiguration of finance", points out the financial historian Niall Ferguson. In 15th CenturyWhen we look at Botticelli's Venus, we are  looking at money.But he also patronized the arts, and presided over Florence's Golden Age. Such noted artists as Boticelli and Michaelangelo flourished during this height of the Renaissance under the patronage of Lorenzo. Lorenzo's political ineptitude would hurt him in foreign affairs, and his tyranny deprived him of what had always been the Medici's strongest base of support: popular acceptance of their rule.After 1492, as notable for the death of Lorenzo de Medici to some as the Spanish defeat of the Moors and the voyages of Columbus, Piero de Lorenzo took control of the family affairs. Some say that if Lorenzo was not present we might not be able to see artists like Michelangelo ,Botticelli, Leonardo or Raphael.

Lorenzo, in fact, can lay as definitive a claim to the epithet ‘Renaissance man’ as his contemporary (and employee) Leonardo da Vinci. (The young Michelangelo worked for him, too.) He was a poet and scholar, a master horseman and huntsman, a creditable dancer and musician, patron of arts , influential ruler and politician, an important banker (though his heart wasn’t really in the family business), the ruthless "boss of bosses" and, above all, as Unger calls him, “the foremost statesman of the age”. 

Lorenzo de Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent)
BBC DOCUMENTARY :The Medici Makers of Modern Art

Godfathers of Renaissance

Medici Family started to rule Florence from 15th till 18th Century.

The Monk Who Would Be King

Girolamo Savonarola was born in 1452. One feast day in 1475, Savonarola left home to seek admittance to the monastery of San Domenico at Bologna, a Dominican monastery. Savonarola was sent out by the monks to preach everywhere in Italy. In 1489 he settled in 1489 at the monastery of San Marco. His preaching was famed within Florence for its sincerity and fervor, and he attracted huge crowds. Lorenzo respected him greatly, even though Savonarola preached against the Medici Tyranny. After Lorenzo's death, Savonarola's warnings of disaster and criticisms of the Medici increased in magnitude. 'Repent, O Florence, while there is still time.'

And disaster did indeed come. In 1494, Charles VIII of France invaded Italy. Without the support of the cadet branches of the family, and with the populace aroused against him by Savonarola, Piero had no chance to fight. Florence now belonged to Charles. As Charles continued his march south, Florence was now under the control of Savonarola. He made changes in Florence: unbecoming dress was outlawed; fasting was continuous. Savonarola was not listening to the Pope very well, however. In 1495, he was forbidden to give any more sermons. In February 1496, he returned to the pulpit, and in 1497, Savonarola was excommunicated in June. In 1498 the Franciscan monks of the area challenged Savonarola's claim. Eventually, the challenge was resolved in a 'duel', where a Franciscan monk and a Dominican would walk through fire. But when their challenge failed to materialize, the pent-up energy of the mob turned against Savonarola. He was tortured and burned to death.
The Return of the Medici

In December 1503, Piero de Medici drowned. His son Lorenzo was 12. Therefore his uncle, Cardinal Giovanni de Medici, was the head of the family. Under the steady approach of the Spanish army to the city of Florence, the pro-Medicean partisans skillfully encouraged by Giovanni, regained control of Florence in 1512. In the purge of the previous officials, Machiavelli was replaced by a Medicean. He then went to his country house in Percussina and wrote The Prince.
Cosimo I was the next truly important duke within the Medici family. Cosimo purged the House of Medici and the city of Florence from the foreign entanglements, and from the interference of his ministers, two areas of control which had been strong since the Savanarolan era. He became the 'Grand Duke' after conquest of the neighboring areas in 1569. Cosimo was not an extremely popular figure. While he brought Florence stability, he took away its freedom. The heirs of Cosimo lacked even his heavy-handed ability to promote stability and pursue business interests.
Decadence and Decline

Renaissance writers were wrong to slander the Middle Ages as a Dark Age. We have seen how varied that 1000-year period of history was. They also overemphasized just how radical a break they were making with the medieval past. In many ways the Renaissance built on the culture of the High Middle Ages. DANTE ALIGHIERI (1265 - 1321) is considered to be a figure of the Middle Ages, yet he wrote his Divine Comedy in the Florentine dialect and thereby created the literary language of modern Italian.

The Renaissance began in the Italian city-states because they had the wealth from the commerce and trade of the Middle Ages. Renaissance started in Florence(capital of Tuscany) and was known as Cradle of the Renaissance, then came the era of High Renaissance in Rome in 15th Century.Meanwhile In the mid to late 15th century Venice was also part of Renaissance and it produced many top artists. Merchant banking families, such as the Medici in Florence, were able to profit from these commercial endeavors and became the ruling elite. These wealthy bankers were able to finance and patronize the arts, providing employment for the famous painters, sculptors, and architects of the time.

In addition, Italy had many reminders of the Roman past: the road network, the aqueducts, the public buildings, the monuments. Wealth, a standing heritage from the past, the freedom of the urban elite society—all of these factors contributed to a shift in attitude, which would soon include respect and admiration for the classical age.
Gentile da Fabriano's Adoration of the Magi. Gentile was Early Renaissance painter

Doom of Florence Baptistery, Florence

Florence ,the city where Renaissance started

Botticelli's Birth of Venus,a famous Florentine painting

Uffizi Gallery,Florence

Statue in Florence

Florence Dome

                                                  Video:Florence, World Capital of Art

 The Political Situation in Italy

Italy divides naturally into three regions: North, Central, and South. In the South after the destruction of the Hohenstaufen dynasty ultimately led to the establishment of a Kingdom of Sicily ruled by Spain and the Kingdom of Naples ruled by France. This once prosperous and culturally advanced region became impoverished by foreign misrule. It also brought Spain and France into Italian politics. Foreign intervention and occupation increased after 1490 with the invasion by Charles VIII. In the center, the Papal States were ruled by the popes. Even during the Avignon Papacy, nominal control was maintained by the papacy. In the North, a miniature state system had formed by the time of the Renaissance. The Republic of Venice, the Duchy of Milan, The Republic of Florence, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy with its capital at Turin were the main “Powers” in the North. Compared to the national States that developed during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Spain, France, England, Prussia, Russia, these were small city-states. Indeed, the North Italian state system can be compared to that of ancient Greece. Perhaps this relative smallness is what stimulated the individualism and creativity in both ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy.

Literature and poetry

The thirteenth-century Italian literary revolution helped set the stage for the Renaissance. Prior to the Renaissance, the Italian language was not the literary language in Italy. It was only in the 13th century that Italian authors began writing in their native language rather than Latin, French, or Provençal. The 1250s saw a major change in Italian poetry as the Dolce Stil Novo (Sweet New Style, which emphasized Platonic rather than courtly love) came into its own, pioneered by poets like Guittone d'Arezzo and Guido Guinizelli. Especially in poetry, major changes in Italian literature had been taking place decades before the Renaissance truly began.

With the printing of books initiated in Venice by Aldus Manutius, an increasing number of works began to be published in the Italian language in addition to the flood of Latin and Greek texts that constituted the mainstream of the Italian Renaissance. The source for these works expanded beyond works of theology and towards the pre-Christian eras of Imperial Rome and Ancient Greece. This is not to say that no religious works were published in this period: Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy reflects a distinctly medieval world view. Christianity remained a major influence for artists and authors, with the classics coming into their own as a second primary influence.

In the early Italian Renaissance, much of the focus was on translating and studying classic works from Latin and Greek. Renaissance authors were not content to rest on the laurels of ancient authors, however. Many authors attempted to integrate the methods and styles of the ancient Greeks into their own works. Among the most emulated Romans are Cicero, Horace, Sallust, and Virgil. Among the Greeks, Aristotle, Homer, and Plato were now being read in the original for the first time since the 4th century, though Greek compositions were few.

The literature and poetry of the Renaissance was largely influenced by the developing science and philosophy. The humanist Francesco Petrarch, a key figure in the renewed sense of scholarship, was also an accomplished poet, publishing several important works of poetry. He wrote poetry in Latin, notably the Punic War epic Africa, but is today remembered for his works in the Italian vernacular, especially the Canzoniere, a collection of love sonnets dedicated to his unrequited love Laura. He was the foremost writer of sonnets in Italian, and translations of his work into English by Thomas Wyatt established the sonnet form in that country, where it was employed by William Shakespeare and countless other poets.

Petrarch's disciple, Giovanni Boccaccio, became a major author in his own right. His major work was the Decameron, a collection of 100 stories told by ten storytellers who have fled to the outskirts of Florence to escape the black plague over ten nights. The Decameron in particular and Boccaccio's work in general were a major source of inspiration and plots for many English authors in the Renaissance, including Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare.

Aside from Christianity, classical antiquity, and scholarship, a fourth influence on Renaissance literature was politics. The political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli's most famous works are Discourses on Livy, Florentine Histories and finally The Prince, which has become so well-known in Western society that the term "Machiavellian" has come to refer to the realpolitik advocated by the book. However, what is ordinarily called "Machiavellianism" is a simplified textbook view of this single work rather than an accurate term for his philosophy. Further, it is not at all clear that Machiavelli himself was the apologist for immorality as whom he is often portrayed: the basic problem is the apparent contradiction between the monarchism of The Prince and the republicanism of the Discourses. Regardless, along with many other Renaissance works, The Prince remains a relevant and influential work of literature today.

Niccolo Machiavelli,father of modern politics

Machiavelli's work "The Prince" eventually came to be dedicated to Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici, the head of mighty Florentine Medici family, though his work was never read by Medicis and not published while he was alive.His work was an attempt to win the favour of the Medici.


“Humanism’ is the name given to the basic philosophical orientation of the Renaissance. It entailed, as we have already said, a strong desire to recover and understand the classical heritage of Rome and Greece. This interest in the past was more than an antiquarian’s curiosity. There was the belief that much of importance for the present could be learned from the past. For example, many of the Italian city states had been republics which were being torn apart by class struggles and were becoming tyrannies. Rome had been a republic until internal strife transformed it into the principate. What lessons could be learned from Roman history? The humanists wanted to re-examine classical history without the distorting lenses of Christianity. The Romans had been pagans. What had these pagan practices been? What did Stoics like Cicero really say?

FRANCISCO PETRARCH (1304-1374), is known as the Father of Humanism. He labeled the Middle Ages as “a time of darkness.” Petrarch’s goal was to unearth classical writings. He discovered fragments of Livy’s Roman History, as well as the letters and orations of Cicero in old monasteries and churches. His scholarship set a standard of excellence for other humanists to emulate. In Latin, he wrote Letters to the Ancient Dead and Lives of Illustrious Men, which glorified his Roman heroes of the past. His greatest honor was to be crowned poet laureate by the King of Naples. No poet had been awarded this honor since Roman times. Petrarch is, however, best remembered for his poetry, Sonnets to Laura (1360), which were written in Italian rather than Latin. He was almost ashamed of these writings.

Another Latin scholar LORENZO VALLA (1406-1457) developed the technique of critical textual analysis through the use of language (philology). Valla proved that a document allegedly written in the fourth century A.D., The Donation of Constantine, could not have possibly been written then. It used Latin words unknown in the fourth century. It was, instead, an eighth century forgery. Valla’s On the False Donation of Constantine (1444) was a thorough textual investigation and influenced many subsequent scholars. Although he had discredited important papal claims to territorial sovereignty over the entire Western Roman Empire and spiritual authority over the whole Christian church, the Renaissance pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) hired Valla to be Apostolic Secretary. Nicholas V shared the ideals of the humanists and founded the Vatican Library as a repository for ancient manuscripts. The Vatican Library today houses the world’s largest collection of classical writings.

There was also the attraction of classical art. Roman sculpture was so much more lifelike than the flat, stylized figures in Medieval paintings. Painting should not be merely allegorical or a teaching device for Christianity. The individual persons were valuable in themselves. Humanists were interested in mankind. They were man-centered, rather than God-centered.

Humanism also appealed to the upper bourgeoisie which dominated the Italian city-states and had a fierce civic pride in their communities. Classical ideals of beauty appealed to them. Many were attracted to to Neoplatonism.


Neoplatonism was a movement that blended of classical thought with Christian doctrine and sometimes astrology. The Neoplatonists formed an unofficial academy in Florence under the patronage of COSIMO DE MEDICI and the inspiration of MARSILIO FICINO (1433-1499) and PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA (1463-1494). Ficino translated Plato’s works from Greek to Latin. The Academy even held birthday parties for Plato. Many famous artists, such as Michelangelo and Botticelli, became advocates of Neoplatonism. Pico penned the “Oration on the Dignity of Man,” which accorded humans a special rank in the universe, somewhere between the beasts and angels. But because of the spark of divinity implanted in man by God, there are no limits to what man can accomplish. “...O supreme generosity of God the Father, O highest most marvelous felicity of man! To him it is granted to have whatever he chooses, to be whatever he wills.” Here again you have the emphasis on man and his potential in this world.


One memorable humanist historian and forerunner of modern political thought was NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI (1469-1527). He looked at the realities of politics, not the ideal Christian moral behavior that was promulgated in the Middle Ages. He wrote a “how to” book that has been read and followed by many past rulers, such as Napoleon. In it he describes unscrupulous, amoral behavior by rulers in the pursuit of defending their state. He holds that rulers use any means to gain power and princes may have to be deceitful to maintain power. Machiavelli also suggests that fear may keep the state together:

Here the question arises; whether it is better to be loved than feared or feared than loved. The answer is that it would be desirable to be both but, since that is difficult, it is much safer to be feared than to be loved, if one must choose. For on men in general this observation may be made: they are ungrateful, fickle, and deceitful, eager to avoid dangers and avid for gain, and while you are useful to them they are all with you, offering you their blood, their property, their lives, and their sons so long as danger is remote, as we noted above, but as it approaches they turn on you... Men have less hesitation in offending a man who is loved than one who is feared, for love is held by a bond of obligation which, as men are wicked, is broken whenever personal advantage suggest it, but fear is accompanied by the dread of punishment which never relaxes.

Do you think generally men possess the personality traits that Machiavelli describes? The term Machiavellian has since stood for power politics which may include bad faith, treachery, and dishonesty in diplomatic dealings. Machiavelli wrote The Prince (1513) while in exile from his beloved city-state of Florence. He dedicated it to one of the Medicis, the family who had been responsible for his exile, in a possible bid to return to that town. He also wrote  The Art of War,Florentine Histories and Discourses on Livy.His work gave new meaning to the realities of power politics. If the safety of the state is at stake, he advises the Prince to use any means, including force, to gain and retain power. Many of the monarchs of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries seemed to have acted in the way Machiavelli predicted they would. Do today’s rulers?Even the 19th century philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche wanted his "Übermensch" (German for Overman) to be Machiavellian .Many modern politicians follow him and many top political philosophers are influenced by him , including Leo Strauss , Harvey Mansfield etc.
NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI,the greatest writer of Renaissance period

The Prince,a masterpiece of literature that explains the "actual truth of things".This book was dedicated to  Lorenzo di Piero de Medici.


Over the 200-year period of the Italian Renaissance, from 1350 to 1550, new techniques evolved in the fields of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Figures show emotion in their movement and facial expressions. The beauty of the human body reveals itself, as it did to the classical Greeks, in the nude as an art form. In what was called naturalism, artists focused primarily on showing the beauty of nature. The laws of linear perspective, making flat two-dimensional drawings appear as three-dimensional, are discovered. Along with the invention of oil paint (rather than quick-drying tempera or wet plaster painting), shading areas and the use of shadows are introduced. Because of the use of oils on a canvas medium, the artist could now blend color, create a haze, and work much longer and more effectively.

Although painting still focused on the religious themes of the Middle Ages, a change gradually occurred in the figures and subjects of the times. It was a Florentine, GIOTTO DI BONDONE (c.1266/76-1337) who broke away from the stiff, expressionless, elongated figures of Byzantine and medieval art. He developed “foreshortening”* of figures arranged to tell a story with movement and emotion. His frescoes (wall paintings made with fresh plaster) included scenes from the lives of Christ and of St. Francis of Assisi. Other Renaissance artists, such as Michelangelo, studied Giotto’s work.

LORENZO GHIBERTI (1378-1455) won a design competition for bronze doors to a baptistery in Florence in 1401. For 50 years, Ghiberti worked on his panels depicting Old and New Testament scenes. The panels, called “The Doors of Paradise” by Michelangelo, required 16 castings per panel until they achieved Ghiberti’s standard of perfection. Besides Ghiberti, other skillful artists used the laws of linear perspective discovered by FILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI (1377-1446), who designed the dome of the Florentine Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore. Although he borrowed from Roman architects, he still used innovative techniques, including a self-supporting double shell to bear the weight of the 27,000 ton Cathedral dome, which had a diameter of over 130 feet.
Giotto's The Presentation

Ghiberti's Gate of Baptistery,when first seen by Michelangelo it was called by him as "Gate of Paradise".Many say that this art work inspired Cosimo de Medici to start Renaissance and promote art in Florence and Italy.
Magi Balthazar by Benozzo Gozzoli
Italian Renaissance Art
The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy by Peter Burke

Among Brunelleschi’s circle of friends was DONATELLO (1386-1466), another Florentine. Donatello gave birth to a full-size equestrian bronze statue, the Gattamelata, the first since Roman times. His free-standing bronze statue of David is notable for its nudity and realistic detail—quite unlike medieval models.
David by Donatello. The first famed sculptor of early Renaissance.

Donatello worked in both marble and bronze. The Florentine sculptor, LUCA DELLA ROBBIA (c.1400-1482), used both marble and clay in his works. He established a family workshop that originally used enameled terra cotta (ceramic clay) to produce decorative accessories to larger marble sculptures. Later, terracotta became a popular medium for Madonnas, altar-pieces, and other religious subjects. A Madonna by ANDREA DELLA ROBBIA (1435-1525), the highly-skilled nephew of Luca, is pictured in this book.In Painting the important painters include Piero della Francesca and Paolo Uccello who were innovators of two and three dimensional painting technique.Though the first painter was Giotto, who was considered the first master artist of Florence.Some of the main artists of this period are TITIAN, MICHELANGELO,LEONARDO DA VINCI,BOTTICELLI,ROSSOI,FIORENTIN,PONTORMO,TINTORETTO,GIORGIO VASARI,MASOLINO Da PANICALE,RAPHAEL, PONTORMO, BRONZINO, GHIRLANDAIO,ROSSOI, UCCELLO,GIORGIONE,PONTORMO,TINTORETTO, MASACCIO,FILIPPO LIPPI(Botticelli's teacher), FRA ANGELICO,MASOLINO ,Da PANICALE,RAPHAEL, and Raphael's pupil GIULIO ROMANO.BENOZZO GOZZOLI(Fra Angelico's student).Fra Angelico and his student Benozzo Gozzoli were Florentine painters who made remarkable paintings for Medici .
Fra Angelico's Painting
                                       The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello.

The paintings (Battle of San Romano)were much admired in the 15th century; Lorenzo de' Medici so coveted them that he purchased one and had the remaining two forcibly removed to the Palazzo Medici.
The Battle of San Romano by Uccello.
Portrait of Lorenzo de Medici by Giorgio Vasari
Giotto's Cappella degli Scrovegni,

The Tribute Money by Masaccio
Cappella Tornabuoni by Ghirlandaio

Madonna and Child by Filippo Lippi

The High Renaissance

The creative genius of Renaissance art reached its peak with the well-known Italian names of Raphael, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo, who dominated Renaissance art in the late 1400’s and early 1500’s, a period called the High Renaissance. Much of their work has never been equaled. These artists were no longer the craftsmen from medieval times, but “all-around” geniuses who took on a “superhero” status to the people of their times. For emphasis, Michelangelo was called “The Divine One.” These artists were celebrated like rock or movie stars are today.
School of Athens by Raphael

Statue made during High Renaissance,Rome
Achieving balanced composition (one side must equal the other), mathematical proportions, awe-inspiring colors, RAPHAEL SANTI (1483-1520) excelled in painting tender, sweet Madonnas with the infant Jesus, using live Italian women as models. Some of the Madonnas, like the Alba Madonna and The Sistine Madonna, have appeared on modern Christmas cards. His portrait of Pope Leo X illustrates psychological insight into character, whereas his fresco The School of Athens painted on the walls of the Vatican Library shows balance, harmony, and the use of the laws of perspective. The classical philosophers Plato and Aristotle, framed in a series of Roman arches, are surrounded by famous philosophers and scientists: Socrates, Euclid, Ptolemy, and their students. This fresco proclaims the spirit of humanism interwoven with classical inspiration.
Vision of the Cross by Raphael

Trevi Fountain ,Rome(High Renaissance started in Rome) .Architect:Nicola Salvi

Journey of the Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli(The famous fresco in Medici Riccardi Palace)
Journey of the Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli
Detail of Mount Olympus by Giulio Romano

'Adoration of the Magi '  by Leonardo Da Vinci
Boticelli's Mystische Geburt

Journey of the Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli(Cosimo de Medici in Black dress)

The Last Supper by Da Vinci
LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519) worked on one of the most famous paintings of all time, La Giaconda better known as the Mona Lisa for about four years, and still left it in an unfinished state. Besides being a consummate artist, da Vinci dissected cadavers to learn anatomy. His notebooks, written backwards so one has to use a mirror in order to read them, illustrate skeletal and muscular structures of humans, birds, plants, and technological innovations far ahead of his time, including sketches of the submarine, tank, and machine gun battery. Because da Vinci was so well respected, his ideas helped to promote the growth of science.

Leornado Da Vinci, the Renaissance Man and most diverse and probably the most intelligent man to have ever lived.Michelangelo and Leonardo were considered the Heroes of Renaissance

Mona Lisa , the world's most famous painting.

Many art historians and critics acclaim MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI (1475-1564) to be the greatest artist/sculptor of all time and also a great painter.He was very versatile and is known as the Hero of Renaissance. Believing his figures were imprisoned in blocks of marble, he just had to release them. Lorenzo de Medici trained Michelangelo in his own arts school after realizing genius of Michelangelo at age of 15.The Pieta, sculpted when Michelangelo was only 26 years old, portrays the emotion of Mary cradling a dead Christ in her arms. The citizens of Florence paraded the 18-foot marble statute of David around the city for three days in triumph and ecstasy before according it a place of honor in front of the city hall. Both the Medici rulers of Florence and the popes recognized Michelangelo’s talents and fought for his services. Michelangelo made the masterpiece work in Sistine Chapel and The Palazzo Medici on request of Medici family.He received commissions from four popes. Employed by Pope Julius II (1503-1513), Michelangelo spent four years crouching, standing, lying on a scaffold, paint dripping into his eyes and face, in order to paint and create he Sistine Chapel. Over 340 powerful figures adorn the huge ceiling (128 by 44 feet); the scenes include God Dividing the Light from Darkness, The Creation of Adam, and The Flood. His architectural genius must also be recognized, and the designs of the Laurentian Library and the dome of St. Peter’s stand as monuments to his universal accomplishments.

Last Judgement by Michelangelo

Michelangelo's work in Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo 's David

The most prolific and influential artist of the 1600s(High Renaissance), Gian Lorenzo Bernini  left a legacy of sculptures, buildings and fountains throughout Rome , including work at Vatican and St.Peter's Basilica.

Fountain of Four Rivers

Ecstacy of St. Theresa

Venetian School

 In the 15th century Venetian painting developed through influences from the Paduan School and Antonello da Messina , who introduced the oil painting technique of Early Netherlandish painting. It is typified by a warm colour scale and a picturesque use of colour. Among the leading early masters were the Bellini and Vivarini families.Followed by Giorgione and Titian, then Tintoretto, Giovanni Bellini and Paolo Veronese. In the 18th century Venetian painting had a final flowering in Tiepolo's decorative painting and Caneletto's and Guardi's panoramic views. The extinction of the Republic by French Revolutionary armies in 1797 effectively brought the distinctive Venetian style to an end; it had at least arguably outlasted its rival Florence in that respect.

Tiziano Vecellio or Titian ( 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576) known in English as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school.  During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth.
Feast of the Gods by Giovanni Bellini
Recognized by his contemporaries as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars", Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of color, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.
The Tempest by Giorgione

Assumption by Titian
The Family of Darius before Alexander by Paolo Veronese

Perspective à Venise by Giovanni Bellini


Marriage at Cana by Paolo Veronese

Philip II Offering Don Fernando to Victory by Titian
Ducale Palace, Venice (Venice was also a part of Renaissance)
Gentile Bellini's Procession in St Marks Square


In his later years, Michelangelo was tormented by his desire for eternal salvation. His sculptures and paintings changed from the classical Greek style of balance, correct proportion, and harmony to one of emotional exaggeration. The bodies become elongated, contorted, and full of powerful feelings. For example, in The Deposition, Christ’s twisted torso is held up by Joseph of Arimathea, who resembled Michelangelo. This style of art is referred to as MANNERISM, “in the manner of Michelangelo.”

Some of the most interesting artists of the Mannerist school are El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopuli, c.1541-1614), who was born in Crete and did his most notable work in Spain, and the Venetian painter Tintoretto (1518-1594). Working on enormous canvasses, TINTORETTO theatrically painted religious themes including The Crucifixion and other aspects of Christ’s passion. One project he undertook was reminiscent of Michelangelo. Tintoretto painted Old Testament scenes, such as Moses Striking Water from the Rock, on the ceiling of a room. EL GRECO used elongated figures, bizarre colors, such as green skin, and movement to heighten the viewer’s emotion. An art historian would say that El Greco (the Greek) was a forerunner of modern surrealist painting; his work was not appreciated in his time period. Look at the Laocoon at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. or The View from Toledo at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and see what feelings they evoke within you.

A one-time pupil of Michelangelo was BEVENUTO CELLINI (1500-71) whose statue, Narcissus, shows clearly the influence of mannerism. Cellini, however, had diverse styles and occupations. He was an exquisite goldsmith, and a vivid, candid writer, as well as a sculptor. Cellini described the making of his most famous sculpture, the bronze Perseus, in his Autobiography, parts of which are presented at the end of this chapter.

Northern Renaissance Art

The first northern painter who paid extreme attention to detail and symbolism was JAN VAN EYCK (c.1390-1441). For example, The Arnolfini Wedding (1434) has a little terrier in the foreground whose every hair is meticulously painted, showing dark and light contrasts. His photographic-like pictures, which illustrate his development of oil paint as a medium, satisfied his wealthy patrons’ desires for portraits. Two other northern artists who excelled in portrait painting were German, Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) and Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543). DURER (sometimes called the German Leonardo) used the art form of engraving in metal and wood with exceptional artistry. He was honored wherever he traveled throughout Europe. HANS HOLBEIN THE YOUNGER illustrated Erasmus’s book In Praise of Folly His introspective portraits of Erasmus, Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII, Christina of Denmark, and Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss Protestant reformer, are masterpieces from the time period when there were no photographers.

Erasmus and More

Other scholars in northern and western Europe sought to apply humanistic methods to the study of Christianity. These scholars care-fully identified and edited the texts on which Christianity is based. DESIDERIUS ERASMUS (1469-1536), a Dutch monk, seeking to create a more perfect world, stressed church reform based on Christian ideals. His advice was sought on a variety of questions, for he was the leader of a group that criticized the weaknesses and abuses of the Church. Erasmus of Rotterdam, as he was called, introduced humanism into Eng-land during his term as a scholar at Oxford. His most famous work, In Praise of Folly, is a satire on the frailties and foibles of all classes of mankind; he delighted in poking fun at monks and other members of religious orders. He is known as a Christian humanist because his emphasis is on reforming and educating within the Church. A contemporary of Martin Luther, Erasmus debated Luther in 1524-1525 over the issue of free will. Erasmus argued that man has control over his salvation, whereas Luther’s position is that only God has the ultimate authority in the afterlife. Not capitulating to Luther, Erasmus remained an independent thinker to the end. His objective was to reform the Church from within, returning to the original message (simple piety) of Jesus and the apostles. Because of this Prince of Humanists’ scholarship, his New Testament editions in Greek and Latin were used by Protestant re-formers as a basis for their translations of the Bible.

A friend of Erasmus was the English statesman and author, SIR THOMAS MORE (1478-1535). More went on several diplomatic missions for King Henry VIII of England and served as his Lord Chancellor. However, More was executed by Henry in 1535 after his former Lord Chancellor, a loyal Catholic, had refused to recognize the king as the supreme head of the Church of England. More’s most famous work was Utopia, which literally means “no place.” On this imaginary island, land is held in common, religious toleration is granted, and every-body receives an education. No wonder utopia has come to mean an ideal but unrealizable state! The book was intended as a satire to criticize the oppression of the poor and other social evils of More’s day.

National Literature

Spain and England developed a national literature that should be familiar to you. The modern play Man of La Mancha is based on Spain’s most brilliant novel, Don Quixote. Written by MIGUEL DE CERVANTES (1547-1616) as a satire on chivalry, Don Quixote and Man of La Mancha focus on a romantic knight’s quest for adventure while his faithful, practical squire, Sancho Panza, keeps telling his master to see things as they really are and not as he imagines them to be. Ironically, at the novel’s conclusion, the roles are reversed, so that the reader obtains the insight that perhaps the two points of view are necessary for man/woman’s being. The song “The Impossible Dream” high-lights the idealism of a Don Quixote—”To dream the impossible dream...”
Don Quixote, written by MIGUEL DE CERVANTES

Representative of English literature is the gentleman most English-speaking critics consider the world’s greatest playwright, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616). Writing and producing 37 plays in his lifetime, Shakespeare epitomized the ideal of the “universal man” of the Renaissance. As a poet, psychologist, and dramatist, he is unmatched. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, prince of Denmark, emphasizes the Renaissance view of man and his potential in this world when he says in Act 2, Scene 2:

What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!

There are other examples of national literature. In France, FRANÇOIS RABELAIS (c.1494-1553) wrote a satirical series about the giants Gargantua and Pantagruel that poked fun at the institutions of his time, especially the Catholic Church and Scholastic learning. Monasticism and Scholasticism were the chief targets of another satire, Letters of Obscure Men. ULRICH VON HUTTEN (1488-1523), a German humanist, was a major contributor to this last work.


St. Peter's Basilica. The dome, completed in 1590, was designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, architect, painter and poet .

In Florence, the Renaissance style was introduced with a revolutionary but incomplete monument in Rimini by Leone Battista Alberti. Some of the earliest buildings showing Renaissance characteristics are Filippo Brunelleschi's church of San Lorenzo and the Pazzi Chapel. The interior of Santo Spirito expresses a new sense of light, clarity and spaciousness, which is typical of the early Italian Renaissance. Its architecture reflects the philosophy of Humanism, the enlightenment and clarity of mind as opposed to the darkness and spirituality of the Middle Ages. The revival of classical antiquity can best be illustrated by the Palazzo Rucellai. Here the pilasters follow the superposition of classical orders, with Doric capitals on the ground floor, Ionic capitals on the piano nobile and Corinthian capitals on the uppermost floor.
Villa Lantes Fountain in Villa Lantes Garden
The Villa d'Este,Italy. Villa d'Este is perhaps the greatest Renaissance garden.

Villa d'Este

The Villa d'Este,Italy
Villa Lantes Garden

Vatican Museum,Rome
Florence Dome , designed by Filippo Brunelleschi

Facade of Florence Dome or Florence Cathedral , designed by Filippo Brunelleschi

Ducal Palace, Urbino

Ducal Palace,Urbino .Luciano Laurana designed this wonderful Renaissance masterpiece

St. Peter's Basilica(designed by Donato Bramante),Rome
Interior of St. Peter's Basilica

Pitti Palace, the royal palace of Medici family is also a Renaissance Palace with famous Baboli Garden in it as well.

Leone Battista Alberti's building

Church of Gesù in Rome designed by Giacomo della Porta

In Mantua, Leone Battista Alberti ushered in the new antique style, though his culminating work, Sant'Andrea, was not begun until 1472, after the architect's death.

Donato Bramante's Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio

The High Renaissance, as we call the style today, was introduced to Rome with Donato Bramante's Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio (1502) and his original centrally planned St. Peter's Basilica (1506), which was the most notable architectural commission of the era, influenced by almost all notable Renaissance artists, including Michelangelo and Giacomo della Porta. The beginning of the late Renaissance in 1550 was marked by the development of a new column order by Andrea Palladio. Colossal columns that were two or more stories tall decorated the facades.

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