• ‘Renaissance’ means rebirth • refers to the period of about 1300-1600 that was a new period of learning and creativity in Europe.• Other critics argue that this period only introduced change for the upper classes while the lower classes largely led the same miserable existence as they always had.
When we talk about the Renaissance, it largely began in Italy, especially northern Italy.• Why there?• Economics • Trade was very important to the Italian city-states. Demand for luxury goods increased trade. Increased trade led to more tradesmen becoming wealthy and wanting more luxury goods, and on and on. • Some merchants were richer than the local nobles. • Due to the power and wealth of the merchants and guilds, the feudal system broke down here.
It was primarily the northern Italian city-states that dominated the Italian Renaissance. The central and southern cities remained backwards. • Note that each city- state, as a city-state, was independent of the others. Also, they controlled the surrounding region. • They would sometimes go to war with each other.
While there were several powerful families in Florence, the one that emerged as the leader was the Medici family.• This is primarily due to the skill of Cosimo de Medici.• Cosimo was a brilliant political tactician and also a brilliant businessman.• He amassed a huge fortune and used it to buy political power as well as financing art projects in Florence.
A few years after Cosimo dies, his grandson Lorenzo takes power (Cosimo’s son Piero takes power first, but he was sickly and didn’t live long).• Lorenzo, of course, comes to be known as Lorenzo the Magnificent
• And why was Lorenzo magnificent?• One big reason is the massive effect he had on Florentine Renaissance. • He sponsored a great deal of art and literature with the Medici fortune. • A few of the artists who enjoyed his patronage were Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello. • He also helped to start philosophical academies that reexamined ancient works and philosophies.
Going back to the ancients• One aspect of the Renaissance was reading ancient works • Many of the works were lost to western Europe.• Another factor that helps focus people on the ancients was observing all the ancient Roman aspects around them.
This focus on the classics led to humanism.• Humanism focused on what humans could do. It was in opposition to the divinely based thought of the day. • It also advocated reason and the evidence of senses over traditional Christian introspective values.• It concentrated on the traditional liberal arts: rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, ethics, poetry, and history.
Focus on the good things in life• Breaking with Christianity that focused on self-denial, the humanists liked the finer things: entertainment, art, good food, good company, etc. • This was partially due to the effect of the Black Death. Life was seeming too short not to enjoy it if you could.• This focus, along with the revival of classicism, also led to a revival of homosexuality. • Florence was well-known for widespread same-sex relationships.
When it came to art, it had to be funded and that was done by patrons – typically local wealthy merchant families such as the Medici.• They would sponsor art for themselves and for the city. They liked having portraits of them done, among other things. To be a universal man (or Renaissance man), like Lorenzo here, you strove to become expert in the liberal arts as well as learn to sing, dance, and write poetry.
New art• The Renaissance saw a flourishing of new artistic techniques.• Medieval art tended to be very flat and nearly always had religious overtones.
• The art that started developing in the Renaissance, however, was different. • The biggest innovation was the use of perspective. • When you look at a scene, parallel lines seem to get closer to each other the farther in the distance they go until they meet at a vanishing point. Think of standing on a railroad track and looking down them.
• Renaissance artists started exploiting this optical illusion in their art. The advantage of it is that you created the illusion of a three dimensional image on a flat, two dimensional surface.
• Interestingly, perspective can also be used as to create false perspective, such as here.
• Or in M.C. Escher’s works (though he wasn’t Renaissance).
You also start to see the use of light and shade (chiaroscuro) and blurring outlines so it seems that tones imperceptibly meld in to each other (thereby creating volume: this is sfumato).
Carvaggio’s Crucifixionof St. Peter. Anexample ofChiaroscuro.
Close-up of Mona Lisa’sface. Notice the sfumatoblurring, especially aroundthe eyes, and how itcreates a 3D illusion.
• You also see a renewed interest in some classical forms in sculpture that are at the same time using realism. • Examples are Donatello’s bronze David and Michelangelo’s marble David.
• There’s also more action and animation to the characters in the paintings. They feel like they’re in mid-movement and not just in some stone-like pose.
• The dome of the basilica reaches 448 ft. The Statue of Liberty, from the ground to the tip of the torch, is 305 ft.
• There’s also the Sistine Chapel. Not much to look at from the outside: