Italian Renaissance

Renaissance period is understood to have been a period of rebirth. It was a period of rebirth in virtually every aspect of the society. It was then an initial stage in history that artistic expressions were becoming popular in Europe and artists at this period were not just mere craftspeople but people with unique talents who were in positions to redefine their talents and their views towards nature and humanity.

Consequently, mathematical innovations had an impact on renaissance art since it allowed the artists to redesign and portray objects and other human forms in real perspective and proportions. Renaissance in Italy began in the year 1400 and ended in the year 1600. During this period various ideas regarding to the ways of life were spread through Europe in dissimilar ways but during the similar period. There were several reasons as to why renaissance began in Italy. These reasons are:

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City States: The strategic location of Italy and particularly, the Mediterranean Sea factor which boosted Italian trade in the production of textiles and luxury goods. This trade was spurred by crusades, which facilitated the development of large city states in the northern part of Italy. During this period, the northern part of Italy was urban while the rest of Europe was still rural and since cities are home to information and exchange of ideas, the Italian city states became ideal ground for intellectual revolution.

Prior to renaissance, the northern cities had been struck by Bubonic plague, which killed approximately 60 percent of the population. This had an impact on the economy, and since there were few laborers, they demanded higher wages. The plague also led to the reduction of business opportunities and this prompted merchants to pursue other ventures like art (Mantin 10).

Merchants and the Medici: Wealthiest cities of trade at that time only existed in Italy, and they included Naples, Venice and Genoa. These cities had survived the economic crises which had befallen most parts of Europe during the late middle age period. There also existed a wealthy class of merchants who cropped up in the cities.

Cities like Milan and Florence, due to their small geographical area made it easy for citizens to actively involve themselves in politics. Merchants dominated politics in these cities but unlike the nobility class, those merchants did not inherit a social rank, and they used their wits to succeed in business. Wealthy merchants developed the belief that they deserved leadership primarily because of their merit. This belief on personal achievement became instrumental during the period of renaissance.

Trade: Trade brought new ideas, and Italy was at that time a renowned trading machine. Consequently, Italy was special because it was the centre of ancient Roman history; its architectural remnants, statues and amphitheaters were considered to be the Glory of Rome. These factors were a recipe for the renaissance (Mantin 12).

During renaissance, man began thinking more of worldly things contrary to life after death. It was characterized by the ability of man to splendidly dress himself with jewels; man surrounding himself with paintings and statuary, indulging himself with several pleasures and growth of obsession towards objects of art.

During the renaissance period, people concentrated on the activities and matters of life contrary to seeking fame, wealthy, honor or glory in their lives. Italy considered herself as the foundation of renaissance due to her assumption of Rome and Greece, which involved adoption of ancient Greek life and art, politics and literature. Renaissance was characterized by innovations in arts and sciences, and the rejuvenated interest in history, literature and arts revolutionized thinking (Plumb 32).

In Italy, renaissance was considered to be a period of artistic and cultural realizations. The period was characterized by various distinct ideas concerning life and particularly secularism, individualism, humanism and materialism. Renaissance period influenced the European society for several generations making the period a golden age in history of Europe.

Florence was considered as a symbol of renaissance because, just like other ancient states like Athens, it attracted various people of different talents from all the Italian city states. Florence developed well when Medici, which was a strong family in Florence, exercised power and influence over the city. Medici family provided Florence with strong political and artistic leadership (Gundersheimer 4).

The most conspicuous changes during the period of renaissance were evidenced in paintings and sculpture, though there were some few elements of medieval tradition, which involved the use of religious subjects.

Renaissance combined this and the classical ideals of human form, which enhanced the depiction of nature. During the period, secular objects were prominent, and they were inspired by the Greek and Roman mythology. It was at this period that artists started using oil-based paints while also utilizing the fresco technique (Paoletti and Radke 87).

The period of renaissance began in the city of Florence, Italy, and it was characterized by numerous innovations, particularly in art, which, was the main concern regarding perspective, composition and the subject matter. During this period, emphasis was placed on depiction of nature in landscape design while moving towards the portrayal of religious figures in dissimilar light (Essortment 1).

The renaissance period led to enhanced creativity on art and writing. In Italy, it referred to the rebirth of learning and art. The educated elite of Italy had desired to bring to active life the ancient culture of Greece and Rome but renaissance had new things for them.

It was in Florence that intellectual and artistic flowering took place hence making it to serve as a perfect example in Italy that was worth emulating. During the period, Florence had grown exceedingly rich due to its woolen industry. It was the Medici family that controlled the guild that produced wool. Money is also considered to be the foundation of Florentine greatness. The city was considered to be the greatest banking centre at that time, and it was under the control of the leading families (Osman 12).

Renaissance took place first in Italy since the rejuvenation of commerce and constructions of towns was deeper in Italy. It was also due to the fact that feudalism had taken a toll in Italy; consequently, there was a presence of antiquity, which was stronger in Italy as compared to other parts of Europe. Renaissance was a period of rebirth in various sectors, including economy, society, arts and literature (Hartt and Wilkins 4).

Concerning renaissance economics, church doctrines were being superseded in the primacy by profit making activities. These profit-oriented people used their wealth to activate philanthropy to guise their guilt. The high profit in Italy led to the diversification of the economy. During the period of renaissance economics, arts and art works were used as a medium to advertise their economic success.

On renaissance society, elitists dominated this period. This was due to the nature of Italy where the northern part was urban and commercial while the southern part was not. The period of renaissance was also characterized by a family-oriented society where marriages were in several occasions arranged to strengthen business ties.

In the Italian renaissance, it was the father who had overall authority over his own family but there were rare circumstances where wealthy women played critical roles particularly in the Italian city states, this was evidenced by Isabella d’Este of Mantua. Wealth was more concentrated in few great families, a phenomenon referred as “Populo grosso”.

The renaissance society in Italy was characterized by strong social stratification, which was divided into factions along the lines of wealthiest families.

The cult of the individual and the ability of the poor to improve their status was the order of the day, and this phenomenon was referred as Ciompi Revolt, which was considered as the fight by the poor. The cult of the individual during this period was called Populo minuto.

The societal portraits that were created and painted during the period of Italian renaissance illustrated focus of individual who was a true nobleman. Italian renaissance also witnessed the emergence of humanism and secularism in the context of Christianity, which stressed on the free will of an individual. This kind of life had some efforts of strongly rewarding life in an excellent manner.

Renaissance Politics: The Italian cities followed a pattern similar to that of Greek city states whereby there were infighting and warfare among the city states; this led to the advancement of diplomacy that was aimed at achieving balance of power. 1300 republicanism later developed to be 1400 despotism in the states and cities with an exception Venice.

During this period, Niccolo Machiavelli emerged as the classical philosopher and critical thinker. According to Machiavelli, the prince must be driven by the desire to amass power; he explained the cynical and immoral view of human nature that is often driven by fear and not affection. The politics during the period of Italian renaissance was considered as the art of deception. Henry VIII emerged as the prince of the renaissance period (Italian Renaissance 29).

There were also renaissance art and architecture; these were characterized by the proliferation of portraits, portraiture and its importance. Most of the portraits depicted nudes or were a reflection of nudity. The artists were interested in the imitation of nature.

There were also pagan scenes and pagan myths, which were portrayed in the image of popular subjects without making apologies to the church. The status and portrait of individuals were elevated to the level of cultural heroes. Italian renaissance art placed emphasis on proportion, balance and harmony and ignored other aspects. Matters of perspective that often emerged as artistic problems were solved by stressing on the mathematical aspect of painting.

This was depicted in the Brunelleschi’s principle of linear perspective. Rome developed as the heart of high renaissance while Leonardo Da Vinci is regarded to be the true face of renaissance. The building of renaissance projects was achieved using Romanesque architecture as reflected in the Brunelleschi’s church of San Lorenzo (Italian Renaissance 37).

Regarding renaissance education and philosophy, there were various kinds of humanisms. An overwhelming fervor was evidenced in the finding and the collection of documents. Education was used as moral instruments. The education at this period was a true liberal one that was typified by the love for history.

The introduction of education led to the disappearance of the Greek language. The father of Italian renaissance humanism was Petrarch. Education in the renaissance period influenced the development of secondary education and stressed the relevance and importance of law, and rhetoric characterized renaissance education. It was through education that classical political ideals were created and nurtured because there was a need for a useful knowledge.

During the period of Italian renaissance, papacy lost influence over nation-states, this impacted on the moral prestige and leadership of the popes. This, however, could not stop the pope to be considered as the patron of renaissance art. Nepotism was widely widespread, and it was applied in the promotion of family interest (Italian Renaissance 45).

During the renaissance period, Italy was subdivided into city states with officials who performed both government and public duties. During the period, constitutions existed with full time elected officials. The city states were under the control of merchants who were rich. The Medici family was the prominent one during the period, and it controlled the state of Florence.

The Medici family consisted of established entrepreneurs, bankers and merchants; they also believed in education and were understood for their art and poetry. It was their money that assisted in driving arts as well as a starting renaissance. During the renaissance, there existed powerful merchants who used their wealth to achieve economic and political leadership. Bankers, for example, achieved fame and prestige by making loans available for expansion of business activities across Europe.

Humanism was the defining moment of renaissance. Humanism was a literary movement which started in Italy at the period of renaissance, but it was distinct since it broke from the tradition of medieval age where the creation of art or literature was only a product of moral religious motivations.

Humanist writers and artists moved away from religious themes to worldly or secular subjects, this was driven by their materialistic perspective about the world. Humanist artists and writers glorified individuals due to their belief that man was a measure of all things. The emergence of humanism marked the end of the influence and dominance of the church. Examples of humanists who lived during the age of Italian renaissance were: Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Francesco Petrarca and Leonardo Bruni (Bloom 118).

There also existed renaissance popes. Popes were stationed in Rome, which was considered the cultural centre of Italy. People of talent traveled from all corners of the world to Italy at the request of the pope. Popes had several ambitions, and they were rich politically with determination to make Rome centre of spiritual, cultural and political activities of the world. Renaissance popes were sensual, self-indulgent but excellent administrators and generous patrons of arts.

Michelangelo was considered as the supreme artist of the renaissance period. He belonged to an aristocratic family, but their wealthy had declined and that is when he started developing ability in imitating classical styles of sculpture. Michelangelo created David, which was Florence’s symbol of strength.

Michelangelo was contracted by pope to design and construct the greatest tomb in the Christian world. Michelangelo also developed the ceiling of the Sistine chapel which took him four years to complete. To date, Michelangelo is considered as an epitome of arts and painting that is still used today (Chase 4).

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. The Italian Renaissance. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing, 2004. Print.

Chase, Marilyn. Italian Renaissance. Dayton, OH: Lorenz Educational Press, 1971. Print.

Essortment. What Is The Italian Renaissance? Essortment, 2011. Web. 02/11/2011.

Gundersheimer, Werner. The Italian Renaissance. Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993. Print.

Hartt, Frederick and Wilkins, David. History of Italian Renaissance art: painting, sculpture, architecture (7th ed). New York, NY: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.

Italian Renaissance. Key concepts. Italian Renaissance, 2005. Web. 02/11/2011.

Mantin, Peter. The Italian renaissance. London, UK: Heinemann, 1992. Print.

Osman, Karen. The Italian Renaissance. New York, NY: Lucent Books, 1996. Print.

Paoletti, John and Radke, Gary. Art in Renaissance Italy (3rd ed). London, UK: Laurence King Publishing, 2005. Print.

Plumb, John. The Italian Renaissance. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. Print.

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