Economic and Political Foundations
of the Renaissance
• Wealthy merchant families were involved in
business and politics. In addition, many were
patrons (supporters) of the arts.
– Medici Family of Florence
a. Cosimo de Medici was involved
in banking, ruled Florence,
and was a supporter of artistic
and scholarly projects.
b. Lorenzo de Medici (also known
as Lorenzo the Magnificent) was
involved in banking and also ruled
Florence. He was a patron to
many artists, most notably
– Sforza family in Milan
(Caterina Sforza ruled Milan)
– Isabella D’Este of Mantua
was a patron of the arts.
• Trade flourished in Italy during the Middle
Ages and the Renaissance,
wealth in Florence, Genoa,
and Venice. Goods traded
included woolens, leather,
and silk. Florence was
particularly known for
banking (Medici family) and
• Usury (charging interest on money loaned)
and using letters of credit became accepted
practices during the Renaissance.
• The Italian city-states
were independent and
enjoyed a democratic
atmosphere. The Pope
during this time was in
Avignon and did not
interfere with politics.
Humanism—a movement celebrating the glory and
power of humans as an important part of the world.
Classicism—a return to the ideals of Greece and Rome
in intellectual thought, art, and architecture.
Secularism—interest in the non-religious world and
enjoyment of worldly pleasures.
Left: Saint Peter’s
Basilica, built around
Right: The Pantheon,
built around 126
Both are built in a
Humanism and Literature
• Petrarch is considered the “father of humanism.” He
wrote in prose and poetry about classical virtues and
his unrequited love for a woman he called “Laura.”
He wrote in both Italian and Latin. Supposedly, he
died with a pen in his hand.
• Dante’s The Divine Comedy
emphasized politics and human
interests. He wrote in the
vernacular instead of Latin
• Castiglione wrote The Courtier,
a handbook on how to be a
“Renaissance Man.” Castiglione
thought that men should speak
Greek and Latin; be charming,
polite, and witty; and be
physically strong and graceful. Baldassare Castiglione
The book is organized as a series of fictional
conversations that occur between the courtiers
of the Duke of Urbino in 1507.
• Machiavelli’s The Prince served as a secular
treatise on how to be a good ruler. An idea
attributed to Machiavelli is “The ends justify
the means.” He frequently discusses ancient
leaders as illustrations of what a good ruler
The Prince was first
published in 1532. It
is still studied today.
• Erasmus wrote The Praise of Folly, which
poked fun at the clergy, scholars, and
merchants. He was from Flanders, a center of
the Northern Renaissance.
• Shakespeare, an English playwright, wrote
about the human condition in both tragedies
Early Renaissance Artists
–Giotto di Bondone painted frescos (painting wet plaster) of
human figures that show depth and emotion.
–Ghiberti carved the doors to the Florence Baptistry.
–Brunelleschi designed the dome of the Cathedral of Florence,
the first dome since antiquity.
Begun in 1296, the Cathedral
of Florence was completed
• Donatello sculpted the first
freestanding nude statue
• Masaccio used perspective in painting to show
distance and is considered the “father of
A close up view of
Masaccio’s “Tribute Money”
High Renaissance Artists
• Michelangelo sculpted the “David” and the “Pieta”;
he is likewise known for painting of the Sistine
Chapel ceiling with “The Last Judgment.” He also
designed a dome for St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome
for Pope Julius II.
four years to
paint, and is 40
feet wide and
45 feet tall.
• Leonardo da Vinci painted “The Last Supper” and
“The Mona Lisa”; he is also a renowned engineer and
architect. A later patron of Leonardo is Francis I of
Jesus an his apostles are
depicted in “The Last Supper”
cannon was found in
Croatia in 2011. It is
believed to be based
on DaVinci’s design
• Raphael painted “The School of Athens” and many
The “School of Athens” was
painted in 1509-10
Northern Renaissance Artists
• Durer created woodcuts and engravings.
• Hans Holbein the younger is famous
for his portraits, including “Henry VIII”.
• Van Eyck is known for his paintings
with vivid color and detail,
such as “The Marriage Portrait.”
The original Henry VIII was destroyed
in a fire. This is one of may copies.
Painted in 1434, this painting is
considered one of the most complex
paintings in Western art. The entire
scene is reflected in the mirror on the
• Peter Bruegel the Elder is known for his paintings of
weddings, festivals, and detailed peasant life.
The “Peasant Wedding”
“Hunters in the Snow” 1569
“The Painter and The
Connoisseur,” 1565, is
thought to be
Important Cultural Centers of the
• The center of the Italian Renaissance
in the 1400s (Quattrocento) was
• In the 1500s, Rome became a center
of art with Pope Julius II (1503–1513).
He loved art and power and built a
new St. Peter’s Cathedral with the
help of Michelangelo.
• The Renaissance spread north as artists and
ideas traveled. We refer to this as the
Flanders (the region of
was a center of the
Art and Humanism of the Northern
• The Northern Renaissance saw a fusion
between Christianity and humanism. Art and
literature were still primarily
based on religion.
–Northern Renaissance artists
included Durer, Hans Holbein
the Younger, Van Eyck, and
Peter Bruegel the Elder.
One of Albrecht Durer’s most
• Northern humanists included Erasmus
and Sir Thomas More. Their writings
tended to be infused with Christianity.
• In 1450 Johannes Gutenberg
invented a printing press that used movable type.
The Bible became an instant best seller.
A page from the
Only 48 copies of the
original Gutenberg Bible
A replica of Gutenberg’s
• Protestant Reformation – Martin Luther breaks away
from the Catholic Church
A 1533 portrait of
Martin Luther. His
battle with the
began over the sale
of “indulgences” to
The Ninety-Five Theses were
written by Martin Luther in
1517, and are widely regarded
as the initial catalyst for the