Introduction: The Renaissance

“In fifteenth-century Florence, many people believed themselves to be living in a new age. The term “Renaissance,” already coined by the sixteenth century, describes the “rebirth” from the dark ages of intellectual decline that followed the brilliance of ancient civilization. In Italy, especially, the Renaissance was spurred by a revival of Greek and Roman learning. Works by classical authors, lost to the West for centuries, were rediscovered, and with them a new, humanistic outlook that placed man and human achievement at the center of all things.”
The Early Renaissance in Florence, National Gallery of Art 

Perspective view of Florence
Perspective view of Florence

The word Renaissance literally means “rebirth;”  it refers to the rediscovery of classical art and culture in 15th century Italy.  People living during this time believed they were living in a new golden age that rivaled the cultural and intellectual achievements of ancient Greece and Rome.  To them, the long period of the Middle Ages was a “dark age” that had finally come to an end.

The birthplace of the Renaissance was Florence, a thriving commercial center, with a government modeled on the great democracies of ancient Greece and Rome.  The Florentine Republic was also a center of Humanist learning, and it was home to a wealthy class of enlightened patrons eager to advertise their status and learning through artistic commissions.

With this new source of commissions, Florentine artists were encouraged to explore new approaches to religious subjects that reflected the Humanist aspirations of their patrons, drawing on the art of ancient Greece and Rome. The growing demand for domestic art also stimulated exploration of secular themes such as portraiture and classical mythology.  Architects similarly looked to classical architecture as the model for a new building style based on logic, rationality, and proportion.

This video provides a fun overview of the main ideas we will be covering in this section.  It’s worth watching before you read through the chapter sections, and then reviewing at the end:

TICE ART 1010 Renaissance Art

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