Professor Denise Wynia-Wedel
Art Appreciation I, 1113.03 ART 1955
The Renaissance was a period based on European history that began in the 14th century Italy and ended up spreading to the rest of Europe in the 16th century. In this period, the feudal society of the Middle Ages was transformed into a society dominated by central political institutions, urban, commercial, economy and patronage of education, the arts, and music. The term renaissance literally means “rebirth”. This name was thought of by Swiss historian Jakob Burckhardt, in his classical work, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. This literature piece defined the Renaissance as the period between Italian painters, Giotto and Michelangelo. Burckhardt characterized it as the birth of modern humanity after a long period of decay.
During the Renaissance Period the art world turned from catering to the Roman Catholic Church and religious scenes. People started questioning the Catholic teachings and wanted to update the Catholic Church to be more in line with how society was changing. Individualism came to light and the paintings weren’t just for the church anymore. More and more people were purchasing art to display their status. People were acquiring wealth and wanting portraits of themselves and families. It became customary for men to go abroad to study various artists and forms of art, to become more well-rounded and knowledgeable. Art became simpler and moved away from religious scenes. More attention was being paid to details and the fine tuning has carried on today.
Giotto, Cimabue, Donatello, and Masaccio are a few artists of the Renaissance that impacted the era. With these artists a cult of genius began in the Renaissance. There was the Age of Exploration when Columbus “discovered” America in 1492, as well as Magellan’s and other Europeans’ discoveries around areas of Africa. The African slave trade fueled European Renaissance. There were several works that helped establish the era such as the “Adrenal Chapels at Pagua” which was a dramatization of Jesus Christ with angles flying overhead, a three-dimensional scene because of the figures standing in different directions, painted by Giotto, but a whole century passed before someone came and surpassed the infamous Giotto. Masaccio, another painter, upped Giotto with his painting called “Tribute Mary” in which the Roman tax collector is shown collecting taxes, with a second scene of the Christ figure standing in a group of other holy members with halo disks on their heads and a third scene where a man is crouched catching fish on the shore, all in one painting. In “Tribute Mary”, Masaccio utilized the space to unify the elements in the space, better known as one point perspective. He utilized perspective to be able to repeat a scene. This showed that it was possible for artists to replicate scenes and aspects of them through perspective.
There were several individuals that helped revive and restore various aspects of this era. Fra Angelico, a notorious priest and talented artist helped to bridge the Gothic Age to the Renaissance. Botticelli, a painter, helped to revive classicism with bold realistic representation and mythology of ancient Rome and Greece with his work, “The Birth of Venus”. Venus was born from seafoam, although some believe she could’ve been born from the rib of Zeus. Some see the painting as the rebirth of Aphrodite. During the Renaissance, Florence was seen as the most affluent and powerful city in Italy, and Europe at the time with politics, and art. Donatello produced one of the first free standing sculptures since the Renaissance. These sculptures were relief objects because before, Romans weren’t allowed to worship them because they were seen heathens. One of his well-known sculptures is of David, the boy who killed Goliath with his slingshot.
The Renaissance brought a rebirth and an expansion of cultural experience. Not only did it include the wealthy class, it is including all the lower classes as well, and it directed society toward more humanist and realistic perspectives. Without the Renaissance, we might not preserve and appreciate the fine arts as we do today. This goes for science too. Science might not have developed in the way it did without a Renaissance man, such as Leonardo da Vinci. Because of the revival of and great interest in the fine arts and sciences during the Renaissance, modern society is enriched with classical and humanistic works and ideas. Without doubt, these advancements of the Renaissance have enriched modern day societies socially, culturally, intellectually, and scientifically.
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