Renaissance Period: Art, Artists, Facts, Definition and more
The Renaissance is not a historical period, but the majority of historians consider it as a period linking the Middle Ages and Modern Times. This transition has been named as such, because we are witnessing a renaissance of the scientific and artistic fields following the darkness left by the Middle Ages. It was during this period that several major artistic works appeared as well as several scientific discoveries that would mark history.
We speak of artistic Renaissance in the sense that the works of this period are inspired more by Greco-Roman art, and less by the medieval era. Read down below and find out more about renaissance period.
What is described as Renaissance art emerged and spread during the period from the 13th to the 16th century. Renaissance art refers to art that emerged soon after the Middle Ages. The course in Renaissance art was taken on the resurgence of art forms that take their roots from the Hellenes and Romans. In the Middle Ages, all aspects of society were affected by the dominant ideology and consciousness of the church. The art also fell under this influence and experienced a major shift from what was possible before.
Many artists appeared during the Renaissance. They created impressive works of art that have influence on artists even in the present day. These techniques could be used effectively only by experienced artists with great mastery of the art. The various Renaissance art techniques used in the creation of Renaissance artworks include fresco. The fresco was made by a mixture of water and pigments combined with wet plaster. The pigment is impregnated in the murals because it binds with the plaster. The painter had to paint very quickly to apply the technique correctly and create a popular work.
While oil paintings were widespread in many parts of Europe, their popularity in Italy did not reach its peak until the late 15th century. The use of foreshortening was relevant in creating perspective and this was used extensively in Renaissance artwork. The idea is to create elements and visuals that can conveniently stay in the background while adding meaning to the foreground visuals. Sfumato was a Renaissance art technique that was used in the creation of many masterpieces and this technique is Leonardo da Vinci‘s favorite. This technique eliminates any outline while creating a blend of tones and colors.
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus is a painting by Italian artist Sandro Botticelli, probably executed in the mid-1480s. It depicts the goddess Venus arriving on shore after her birth in the sea. The painting is now in the Galerie des Uffizi, in Florence. Although not a pair, the painting immediately refers to Botticelli‘s other very large mythological painting, the Primavera, also in the Uffizi. These two paintings, which are among the most famous in the world, are icons of the Italian Renaissance. As depictions of subjects from classical mythology on a very large scale, they are virtually unparalleled in Western art since classical antiquity. The Birth of Venus is also notable for the size and prominence of a nude female figure.
Primavera by Sandro Botticelli
The work Primavera takes this title from the Italian word for spring. This large painting painted in tempera by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, is made in the late 1470s or early 1480s. The painting depicts a group of figures from classical mythology in a garden. However, no mythological story can identify the meeting of this singular group. Most critics agree that the painting is an allegory, evoking the lush growth of spring associated with Renaissance Neoplatonism, which fascinated intellectual circles in Florence at that time.
The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo Buonarroti
The Creation of Adam is a fresco by Italian artist Michelangelo. This detail is part of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted between 1508 and 1512. The scene illustrates the biblical account of creation, taken from the book of Genesis. In it, God gives life to Adam, the first man of mankind. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme. It is chronologically the fourth in the series of panels representing episodes from Genesis. This painting, like many others on this list, has since been reproduced in countless imitations and reinterpretations. Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam is undoubtedly one of the most famous religious paintings of all time.
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
The painting The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is an Italian High Renaissance mural. Leonardo da Vinci painted it between 1495 and 1498. The painting represents the scene of the Last Supper of Jesus with the twelve apostles, as told in the Gospel of John. His management of space, his mastery of geometric perspective, his treatment of emotion and movement of figures have made it one of the most famous paintings in the Western canon. Scholars often consider her to have played a pivotal role in the transition to what is now called the High Renaissance in art.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa
Impossible to miss the Mona Lisa! This full-length portrait is made by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. It is considered an archetypal masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. It is even the best known of all, for the enigmatic expression of the subject, the subtlety of the tones and the atmospheric depth of the light. Painted in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel, the painting very probably represents the Italian noblewoman Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo.
The painting is thought to date from between 1503 and 1506, when it was acquired by King Francis I of France. Currently owned by the French Republic, The Mona Lisa has been in the Louvre in Paris since 1797. It holds the Guinness World Record for the highest known valuation in history for painting insurance, at US$100 million in 1962.
Artists of Renaissance
Leonardo da Vinci
One of the most famous artists of the Renaissance, if not the most famous, is undoubtedly Leonardo da Vinci. Born on April 15, 1452 in Vinci of Florence, Leonardo became a famous painter and a less famous inventor. In 1466 he became an apprentice artist and 4 years later qualified as a master. By 1478 he began to receive commissions for his work and over the years he explored several projects ranging from parade floats to designs for domes and monuments. Among his inventions (notebook drawings) are a flying machine, an armored vehicle, an adding machine and solar energy. The materials to carry out these projects did not exist during his lifetime. His most famous paintings are the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. the Mona Lisa is a portrait of a woman that many scholars believe is actually a self-portrait. Da Vinci painted it between 1503 and 1506. The Last Supper is a mural depicting Jesus having dinner with his disciples. This is when Jesus predicts that one of them will betray him.
Michelangelo is another great artist of the time. He was born in Caprese, Italy, but grew up in Florence. He then became a painter, architect and sculptor. He was an artistic apprentice at 13 and at 14 was invited to live in the palace of Lorenzo de’ Medici, a patron. There, Michelangelo continued to learn from individuals within the Medici social circle. His fame grew and he was eventually commissioned by a cardinal, a cathedral and the pope. His most famous works are his statue of David and his painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Davidis a 17 marble statue of a biblical hero of the same name. The work is considered technically perfect. The Sistine Chapel ceiling was commissioned by the Pope to paint 12 apostles. Instead, Michelangelo painted 9 scenes from the biblical book of Genesis, 7 male prophets and 5 female prophets (sibyls). It took him 4 years to complete, the most famous scene is The Creation of Adam , where God and Adam seek to touch hands.
One of the artists from outside Italy to adopt the humanist approach was Hieronymous Bosch. He lived from 1450 to 1516 and his works were appreciated in the Netherlands, Austria and Spain. Since his father was an art adviser and his uncles and grandfather were artists, historians speculate that one of them taught Bosch painting. No record confirms this hypothesis. He became very popular and received international commissions for his work. The most famous of these paintings is The Garden of Earthly Delights which was painted sometime between 1495 and 1505. It is a triptych, a 3 panel painting that folds. The left panel depicts God presenting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the middle panel shows society and its temptations, and the right panel depicts Judgment Day. Some scholars of the art believe that it is meant to represent the danger of giving in to temptation.
What is the Renaissance?
The Renaissance is a period of history but also an artistic movement that began in Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries, then throughout Europe. It ended towards the end of the 16th century, notably with Mannerism. The Renaissance is also the period that marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of Modern Times.
The term rebirth is formed from the iterative prefix re- and birth. ” Re” is a Latin prefix meaning ” reiteration “, ” birth” comes from the Latin natus , born, from, who received the day of. Therefore, rebirth literally means to be born again.
The Renaissance takes its name from the desire to rediscover the cultural grandeur of the Greco-Roman past, when the Italian peninsula was the center of imperial power. Florence, Rome, Venice, Genoa, Naples and Milan were crucial scenarios in its development
The Renaissance opposes the values of the Middle Ages, a period characterized by the consolidation of a theocentric and anti-individualist culture. In contrast, the Renaissance fought to rescue the values and practices of classical antiquity and to promote anthropocentrism and individualism.
The Renaissance contributed to the development of trade in the Mediterranean and to the formation of an economy described by some as proto-capitalist. It also contributed to the development of scientific research, the secularization of society, the apogee of universities and the separation of the concepts of art and artist, respect for crafts and craftsmen.
Origin of the Renaissance
The Renaissance finds its origin in population growth, the development of cities, techniques (such as printing) and commercial exchanges, but also in the emergence of a new bourgeoisie. The changes that have occurred in society and in the economy have led to significant political changes, in particular the end of feudalism in favor of the notion of the State and centralized institutions.
There is no consensus on the date of the beginning and the end of the Renaissance. There are, however, some references in the literature. According to the authors, the Renaissance is associated with historical events and names of authors, thus it begins:
- in the period that marks the life of Petrarch (1304 – 1374);
- with the first Portuguese settlement in North Africa (1415);
- with the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg (around 1450);
- with the fall of Constantinople (1453) (date chosen by France);
- with the capture of Granada (the end of the Reconquista, January 2, 1492). This date marks the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and the end of the last Muslim kingdom of the Spanish peninsula.
It ends with the abjuration of Galileo (1633) or with the death of:
- Charles V (1558);
- Giordano Bruno (1600);
- Henry IV (1610)
- Shakespeare (1616);
- Galileo (1642).
Characteristics of the Renaissance
The Renaissance is mainly characterized by anthropocentrism, the secularization of society, the valorization of classical antiquity, the appearance of the gentleman, rationalism and scientism, individualism.
The Renaissance proposes the transition from a theocentric society and culture to an anthropocentric society, in which the human being is seen as the center of the universe. Anthropocentrism was philosophically based on anthropocentric humanism.
The secularization of society
It was the process by which the civil sectors of society gained greater political, economic and, above all, cultural influence, compared to the power previously held by the clerical class.
Valorization of classical antiquity
The Renaissance saved many documents produced in classical antiquity written in Latin, Greek and Arabic, which were translated into vulgar languages for the benefit of secularization.
The appearance of the idea of the gentleman: the ideal man
The Renaissance created the ideal of the multiple and learned man who should know all subjects. A virtuous, irreproachable, cultivated man, who not only possesses the virtues, but also has solid knowledge of general culture. A man who loves beauty, who knows how to highlight it and knows good manners. A man freed from the grip of ecclesiastical taboos.
Rationalism and scientism
During the Renaissance period, we were convinced that everything could be explained by reason and science. This is why science flourished and scientists such as Nicolás Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Alonso de Santa Cruz, Miguel Servet and Leonardo Da Vinci stood out.
The Renaissance promoted the idea of self-conception, self-esteem, self-qualification and self-distinction of man. It should not be confused with consumer individualism.
The spread of the Renaissance
Before making its presence felt throughout the European continent, the first ideas related to the Renaissance were born in Italy. Subsequently, thanks to different means of dissemination, the reflections of the Italian Renaissance spread throughout Europe. This dissemination of new ideas took place thanks to the various trips made by the intellectuals of the time and the invention of the printing press (around 1440) which allowed the easier circulation of humanist works.
Despite now being part of the same country, during the Renaissance the great cities of Florence and Rome were competitive rivals that grew into cultural centers. Rome would eventually surpass Florence due to the popes’ efforts to glorify their holy city.
When the Ottomans finally conquered Constantinople, a massive migration of ancient Byzantine scholars fled to Italy and reintroduced their original Greek and Roman texts to the region. This, together with the development of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, which allowed the circulation of ideas and information, would create the conditions necessary for the Renaissance revival.
Kings of the North
The Renaissance contained other movements, including the Northern Renaissance, which took place in Europe outside of Italy. Instead of using elements of the Italian Renaissance, those in the North took an updated version of the Gothic style with very refined details.
Da Vinci treated the creation of art as a science, and he developed a conceptual drawing process that would transform painting and elevate its status to the same level as that of architecture. He is perhaps the most important figure of the Renaissance, and his influence on his contemporaries was unmatched.
One of the most famous works of art in the world is the Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco, which has become synonymous with the Renaissance. We all know that Michelangelo was the genius behind this painting, but it was a work he did against his own will. He preferred to sculpt, and when the project began he worked with other artists whom he eventually fired in order to complete the work alone. It would take him four years to complete the nearly 1,000 square meter space.
Look through the window
One of the distinguishing factors of Renaissance art was the development of linear perspective, where a painting is used as a window into space for the viewer. The architect Filippo Brunelleschi was among the first to disseminate and popularize perspective, which became central to the trend towards realism during the Renaissance.
From Dark to Light
During the Renaissance, many people saw the years after the fall of Rome into the Dark Ages. This was due to the poet Petrarch, the founding father of the Renaissance, who saw those years as a time of stagnation for human culture, and who inspired a new form of humanistic philosophy for him and his contemporaries to pull through. dark times.
The 16th century was marked by the appearance of the modern French language, supported by the royal power of François I , who, with the edict of Villers-Cotterêts (1539), gave this language its status as the official language of law and of the administration of the kingdom of France. The use of Latin begins to decrease, the dialects continue to be spoken by the vast majority of the population. The century is marked by a break with medieval literature. At the same time, new poetic forms appear (ode, sonnet, etc.). Notable writers are:
- Guillaume Budé (1468 – 1540), friend of Erasmus, Rabelais, Thomas More, is a Hellenist, philologist (he had a rich library), theologian. He founded the Collège de France (1530) at the request of François I.
- François Rabelais (1494 – 1553) was a churchman and doctor; his novels like Pantagruel then Gargantua (Pantagruel’s father) combine earthiness and erudition, and develop an optimistic humanism that believes in man and his free will without ceasing to believe in God.
- Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592), French writer, philosopher of skepticism: he does not understand the quarrels between Catholics and Protestants, he is the author of Essays. His work, Les Essais, affirms the rights of individual conscience, and formulates humanist principles: justice, freedom, respect for man, right to happiness…
Renaissance architects pushed back Gothic architecture and returned to the forms and proportions of ancient Roman architecture. For this, artists go to Rome to study the remains of ancient monuments. They then favor aesthetics, organization, harmony and beauty, rather than technique and prowess. Among other things, we notice a respect for proportions, symmetry and regularity (connections at right angles). An abandonment of stained glass for a rediscovery of ancient techniques (the column as well as the dome). Marble is used frequently. The most obvious manifestation of the Renaissance in France was the construction of residential castles in the Loire Valley.
The Renaissance in sculpture is earlier than in the other arts. Indeed, the men of the Renaissance still have ancient sculptures while the paintings have more largely disappeared. This renaissance can be dated, as to its origin, to the 13th century, and originated in the city of Pisa, which is the place of conservation of a large number of ancient sculptures. It was at this time that the nude reappeared in sculpture, long before Michelangelo sculpted his David or Donatello his Bacchus.
Mannerism, also called Late Renaissance, is an artistic movement of the Renaissance period from 1520 (death of the painter Raphael) to 1580. It is a reaction to the artistic conventions of the High Renaissance, a reaction initiated by the sack of Rome (Charles Quint in 1527) which shook the humanist ideal of the Renaissance. Contrary to the preceding artistic movements, the diffusion starting, it is not any more circumscribed with Italy. In reaction to the perfection reached during the High Renaissance in the representation of the human body and in the mastery of the art of perspective, certain artists sought to break deliberately with the exactness of proportions, the harmony of colors or the reality space, so as to achieve a new emotional and artistic effect. This is how we see Mannerist works present: a disunited space, a troubled and obscure image, a deformation and a twisting of bodies, acid and raw tones. Mannerism foreshadows the tendencies of the Baroque.