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The Renaissance Period

The term Renaissance comes from the French word rebirth. The Renaissance was a period of European history, considered by modern scholars that occurred between 1300 and 1600. Many dramatic changes happened during the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a period of new inventions and beliefs. This period of time was drastically different from the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages the church had most of the power and its economy was based primarily on agriculture. Exploration and learning was almost put to a stop.

During the Renaissance days, society was transformed into a society which became more and more dominated by central political institutions with an urban commercial attitude. Also, people’s curiosity overcame their fear and many people started to venture out and explore the new world. New schools and colleges became more and more common. The Renaissance was started by many rich Italian cities, such as Florence, Ferrara, Milan, and Venice. Because these cities were very wealthy, many merchants started to spend money on different things, such as painting, learning, new banking techniques, and new systems of government.

These things gave rise to a new type of scholar, the humanist. Humanism was a subject concerned with humankind and culture. They studied various things such as Latin, Greek language, literature and philosophy. Music and mathematics were also studied as well. The Renaissance gave way to new forms of painting, art and sculpture. During the Renaissance, artists were no longer treated as mere artisans, as they had been to the medieval past, but for the first time emerged as independent personalities and were treated with respect and were even compared to poets and writers.

Many artisans merged mathematics with art, in order to become more precise in their measurements and to make sure an object was supported both rationally and proportionally. As a result painters tried and often succeeded into making their paintings a window to the world. Artists also studied the way light hits objects and the way our eyes perceive light. A new kind of paint called oil paint was used. This allowed the artist to create texture, mix colors, and allow more time for corrections they had to make before it dried.

The printing press was probably the most important advance in technology. Europeans first used movable metal type to print a book. On small pieces of metal they engraved single letters of the alphabet. These could then be arranged and rearranged to form words and sentences. Johan Gutenberg is usually given credit for the first book printed which was a copy of the Bible. By the 1500’s printing presses were pretty much a common thing. The printing press had many effects on the world. First of all, it made books much easier to come by, which made them cheaper.

That meant common people could afford them. As a result, literacy became more widespread, in contrast to the Middle Ages where usually monks and church officials were the only people able to read. Second, since many more people were able to read, they wanted to read subjects other than religious or scientific work. So books on other subjects were published as well. Also many books were published in languages other than Latin, such as English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Italian. And third, it meant that scholars had better access to one anothers work.

They could also read the great works of the ancient and medieval periods. The Renaissance also had an effect on the general society. Many people became interested in politics. Also, people became interested in the world outside of their towns. Many became explorers, merchants, and mapmakers. Religion especially changed during the Renaissance. In the Middle ages people were primarily concerned with serving the church and getting to heaven. But the increase in arts and education gave people something to look forward to, and a life worth living.

So, people based their lives around various other things besides the church. Because of the increase in literacy people learned that the Catholic Church only told the people what they wanted them to hear. This caused many people to break away from the church and form Protestant religions. The Renaissance produced many great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci. Although he was not regarded as a genius, he had numerous works of art such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. He also is now regarded as a great inventor. He is credited for coming up with the idea of the helicopter.

He dissected corpses to learn more about the human anatomy. Another great man was a German monk, Martin Luther. He taught Biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg. Luther’s beliefs challenged the church although many people agreed with his ideas. He was eventually excommunicated from the Catholic church and became a Protestant. In conclusion, the Renaissance was a time of new awakening in Europe. It includes the general loss of power by the church, an increase in literacy and education, and an exploration period.

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Home » Fear » The Renaissance Period

The Renaissance Period

The Renaissance period had a great impact in many areas. One of the most obvious areas to see is in the Renaissance art. Renaissance art was something new to everyone at the time and varied from previous art in many ways. Renaissance art and Medieval art for example had many differences. In order to see a difference between these two different styles of art, characteristics of each must first be given. The first to be discussed will be the Renaissance. The Italian Renaissance was called the beginning of the modern age.

The most obvious changes during Renaissance times are seen in the paintings and sculptures. Artists began to experiment for the first time with oil-based paints. They mixed powdered pigments with linseed oil. 1 1Martindale, Andrew, Man and The Renaissance (McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York: Toronto, 1966) p. 8 The paints dried slowly, and remained workable for a few months. Stonemasons of the Middle Ages began to be replaced by Artists. They used materials like bronze to make the scenes in their bas-reliefs more lifelike. 1 Perspective and light were introduced into art.

Many Renaissance works of art showed subjects taken from the Bible. Non-religious subjects from Greek and Roman Mythology were also popular. The painters and artists that lived during the Renaissance changed the way the world looked at art for all time. The 1400s (called quattrocento in Italian) and 1500s (cinquecento) bore witness to a dazzling creativity in painting, architecture, and sculpture. 2 In all the arts, the city of Florence first led the way. In the period art historians describe as the High Renaissance (1500-1527) Rome took the lead.

The main characteristics of High Renaissance art-classical balance, harmony, and restraint-are revealed in the masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Raphael (1483-1520), and Michelangelo (1475-1564), all of whom worked in Rome. 2 1Martindale, Andrew, Man and The Renaissance (McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York: Toronto, 1966) p. 8 2McKay, Hill, Buckler, A History of World Societies (United States, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996) p. 472 In early Renaissance Italy, art manifested corporate power. Powerful urban groups such as guilds and religious confraternities commissioned works of art.

The Florentine cloth merchants, for example, delegated Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) to build the magnificent dome on the cathedral of Florence and selected Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) to design the bronze doors of the baptistry. 2 These works were signs of the merchants’ dominant influence in the community. Corporate patronage is also reflected in the Florentine government’s decision to hire Michelangelo to create a sculpture of David, the great Hebrew hero and king. 2 The subject matter of art through the early fifteenth century, as in the Middle Ages, remained overwhelmingly religious.

As the fifteenth century advanced, the subject matter of art became steadily more secular. Religious topics, such as the Annunciation of the Virgin, remained popular among both patrons and artists, but classical themes and motifs, such as the lives and loves of pagan gods and goddesses, figured increasingly in painting and sculpture. 2 The individual portrait emerged as the distinct artistic genre. 2McKay, Hill, Buckler, A History of World Societies (United States, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996) p. 472 People were conscious of their physical uniqueness and wanted their individuality immortalized.

In the fifteenth century, members of the newly rich middle class often had themselves painted in a scene of Romantic chivalry or in courtly society. 2 Rather than reflecting a spiritual ideal, as medieval painting and sculpture tended to do, Renaissance portraits mirrored reality. As important as realism was the new “international style,” so called because of the wandering careers of influential artists, the close communications and rivalry of princely courts, and the increased trade in works of art. 2 Rich color, decorative detail, curvilinear rhythms, and swaying forms characterized the international style.

As the term international implies, this style was European, not merely Italian. 2 Medieval art will now be described. In spite of the vast production of works of art during the Middle Ages, little is known about their creation. Most of the contemporary references to creativity are tantalizingly meager and some of these are even fanciful. 3 2McKay, Hill, Buckler, A History of World Societies (United States, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996) p. 472 3Virginia, Wylie, Egbert, The Mediaeval Artist at Work (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton, University Press 1967) p.

To medieval minds, imbued with the conception of God as the “great artificer,” legends about are miraculously wrought were especially appealing. The Virgin Mary was often credited with coming to the aid of artists, and many stories relate the supernatural origin of art objects. 3 The predominantly didactic character of medieval art would lead one to expect the great majority of representations of artists as illustrations for texts, for episodes from the Bible, or from the lives of saints. Over half however are the portrayals of artists for their own sake.

Among these, only a few are unquestionably self-portraits, and the only instance of an artist shown making such a portrait is a miniature executed in 1402. 3 By far the largest number of artists shown in the act of creating works of art belongs to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Not only has more art of that period survived, but it was a period which gave rise to a greater interest in naturalism and in everyday life. Now the differences between Medieval art and Renaissance art will be explained. The Renaissance witnessed the birth of the concept of the artist as genius.

Virginia, Wylie, Egbert, The Mediaeval Artist at Work (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton, University Press 1967) p. 19 In the Middle Ages, people believed that only God created, albeit through individuals; the medieval conception recognized no particular value in artistic originality. 4 Boastful Renaissance artists and humanists came to think that a work of art was the deliberate creation of a unique personality, of an individual who transcended traditions, rules, and theories. A genius had a peculiar gift, which ordinary laws should not inhibit.

Renaissance humanists were a smaller and narrower group than the medieval clergy had ever been. In the Middle Ages, high churchmen had commissioned the construction of the Gothic cathedrals, but, once finished, the buildings were for all to enjoy. 2 Nothing comparable was built in the Renaissance. A small, highly educated group of literary humanists and artists created the culture of and for an exclusive elite. They cared little for ordinary people. 2 It is acceptable that Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam are not like typical works of the preceding Middle Ages, the sculptures of Chartres or the mosaics of Monreale.

All four wish to state something believed by referring to things in the world that have been seen before. 4 2McKay, Hill, Buckler, A History of World Societies (United States, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996) p. 473 4Gilbert, Creighton, History of Renaissance Art (Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , New York, 1973) p. 15 But in the Middle Ages the concept believed plays a stronger role, so that the qualities of the things in the world can be freely altered to help in expounding it.

For example, human beings can be shown near each other in very different sizes, which is different from our experience but effectively states the claim that one is more important than the other. The Renaissance does not permit such violations of outside reality; at most, it uses a convention agreed on as being true to it. 4 Either the artists must report just what they see, as in portraits (it is typical that the Middle Ages practically excluded portraits), or, when they present an invisible subject, such as God creating man, they are required to find a means that assimilates the theme to standards of visual truth.

The event is then shown just as actors, even in the Middle Ages, might perform it in a pageant. 4 You might also notice that very much unlike the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century, literature in the High Renaissance makes the drama its greatest vehicle. But before that happens the dramatic imagery of human situations is central to the greatest painting and sculpture, 4Gilbert, Creighton, History of Renaissance Art (Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , New York, 1973) p. 5 ust as the device of perspective sets up a stage-like environment for human events in painting first and in the drama later.

Another difference between Renaissance art and Medieval art could be explained by saying that in the Renaissance the lead in the visual arts changes from architecture, where it had certainly been before, to painting, where, if in any single place, we wold have to locate it in the later age. It seems characteristic that many Renaissance painters and sculptors receive architectural commissions, and not the reverse.

But it may be better to think not of a shift from one medium to another but of a decline in the value given to all-embracing systems and organizations. The career of the Renaissance artist shows a changed relation to his public. Today there is widespread understanding of the status of medieval artists. They are viewed as skilled craftsmen who might command respect for their mastery of the specialty, with an established and secure social position but neither ranking high nor expected to express their personalities; the most successful might be compared to dentists or instrumental musicians today.

The position of the Renaissance artists is quite different. 4Gilbert, Creighton, History of Renaissance Art (Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , New York, 1973) p. 16 They are like celebrities within the society, and are comparable to the trial lawyer or architect today, a professional sought out by usually rich clients to serve their ends by articulating his own personality. He is often the more famous the more he has idiosyncrasies, but his imagination genuinely is used to help the client.

Today we would not expect the lawyer to “express himself” in a case, nor, usually, the architect, and the Renaissance artist likewise was entirely committed to his society; an outsider’s standpoint would not have occurred to him. 4 To accept this motivation in Renaissance art is easier if we avoid an unhistorical universalizing of our own habits for other ages, in the way that anthropology has taught us not to apply our attitudes to other civilizations of the present.

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