The Renaissance period is defined as a cultural movement that spanned approximately from the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe (Brotton 2006, p. 6). This period in the history of art included the painting, decorative arts and sculpture of the period and for many was considered a reawakening or rebirth of historic and ancient traditions based on the classical antiquity and the inclusion of more recent developments by applications of contemporary scientific knowledge.
The Renaissance was seen as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the modern era. The period also marked a cognitive shift from religious perspectives to a more intellectual and social focus. Classical texts previously lost to European scholars became readily available and included science, drama, poetry, prose, philosophy, and new considerations regarding Christian theology. The medieval ages, a period in European history dated from the 5th to the 15th century preceded the dawn of the early modern era, and was considered a deviation from classical learning but later reemerged with its connectivity to scholarship in the Renaissance (Stokstad 1986, p. 3).
During the high medieval period (1000-1300), architecture and art based on religion is said to have flourished and the art reflected a move toward international Christianity (Renaissance Art, web). Purportedly, there was an attempt to integrate reason with faith. However, interest grew in the values of ancient Rome and Greece, and the Renaissance began to emerge. During the Renaissance, there was a shift in the focus of art from medieval religion-based artistic style towards a humanistic art interpretation because of the emphasis on individuality as opposed to powerful figures such as the gods and political leaders.
Renaissance and the influence on Art
There were many notable artists during the Renaissance period that earmarked the transition from the medieval era. Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452-1519) was an Italian renaissance painter, scientist, musician, sculptor, mathematician, engineer and inventor. His work has been described as epitomizing the renaissance humanist ideal, and has frequently referred to as the Renaissance man, a man of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination" (Gardner 1970, p. 450). Although Leonardo da Vinci made many contributions in the form of art, he is most known for "Virgin of the Rocks" (1480's) "The Last Supper" (1490's) and "Mona Lisa" (1500's) (Gardner 1970, p.451).
Another renowned artist of the period was Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) who was known as a sculptor, architect, painter, engineer and poet, who is credited with significantly influencing western art (Hughes 1997, p. 327). Many of Michelangelo's sculptures, architectural designs and paintings have been noted as famous throughout the modern day world. He is particularly known for "David" and "Pieta," two of the sculptors completed when the artist was approaching his thirtieth birthday. Additionally the scenes the artist painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel I Rome of the "Last Judgment" has been transformative and significantly influential in fresco in western art.
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, most known as Raphael (1483-1520) was an artist during the High Renaissance period. He was an Italian architect and painter, and his work has reportedly been admired for it clarity of form, visual achievement of the human body and ease of composition. He along with Michelangelo and da Vinci are noted as the trinity masters of the Renaissance (Hugh & Fleming 1982, p. 357). Many of the most notable pieces of artwork by Raphael can be found in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, including the "School of Athens" and "Stanza della Segnatura."
Giotto di Bondone most regarded as Giotto (1266/7-1337), was an Italian architect and painter in the late Medieval or Middle Ages, and is most often considered a significant contributor to the Italian Renaissance. Giovanni Villani, a contemporary of Giotto's wrote of the artist, "the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature. And he was given a salary by the Comune of Florence in virtue of his talent and excellence" (Bartlett 1992, p. 37). What many consider his masterwork is the Arena chapel, decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, which depicts the life of Christ and of the virgin Mary. Many regard this piece as one of the ultimate masterpieces of the Early Renaissance (Bartlett 1992, p. 39). Although not as widely known as some of the other artists of the Renaissance, Giotti's work has garnered a great deal of scholarly discourse as it was considered controversial for its time as scholars have been unable to agree as to his place of birth, his apprenticeship, the order in which his works of art were created nor even the place in which the artist is buried.
Painting in Renaissance art continued to progress from the Gothic period, toward more realism and three dimensions, reaching a peak during the High Renaissance. Famous artists, Painters and sculptors, competed against each other and many times were influenced by each other. There was a noted turning point from god to man. Science and art were becoming more important. Despotism a form of government wherein a single entity rules with absolute power, originating from the Greek and offered significant influence and depiction in the art (Acidini 2002).
Transition from Medieval Era to Renaissance/Humanistic Era
Renaissance humanism represented the return to preference of the pagan classics inspired by the philosophy of exclusion of religion from public affairs, the appreciation of worldly pleasures, and the encouragement of personal independence and individual expression (Makdisi 1989, pp. 175-182). Philosophy and method of learning - a method of critical thought, which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100 -- 1500, was known as Scholasticism.
Move towards individualism
Humanism is said to have sought to develop citizenry rather than strict practice or professional jargon that would be capable of writing and speaking clearly and eloquently. With these skills, the humanists would be capable of better engagement in community and civic life through the study of the humanities as it is known today (Makdisi 1989, pp. 175-182). In Italy, there was purportedly wide acceptance of the humanist educational program with many of the highest Church officials being active humanists.
During this time, large scale printing helped the spread of humanism to England, Germany and France where it was frequently associated with the protestant reformation. This was seen as the period that moved toward emancipation of the individual and emphasized the virtues of individual expression and intellectual freedom as well as opposition to authority which at the time was the Catholic Church (Kreis 2008, web). The focus of humanistic art was purportedly the human being wherein humans were praised for their achievement. There was greater attention paid to the individual rather than concerns of the church (Kreis 2008, web).
Famous Humanist Artists
There were several noted humanist artist as evidenced by the following. Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Fillipepi better known as Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), was an Italian Renaissance artist and painter of the Early Renaissance. Botticelli is said to have been a part of the Florentine school under the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici and characterized as part of the golden age. Renaissance politics were dominated by the Medici family beginning in 1434 when Cosimo de' Medici took over. The Medici family grew rich from banking but has been credited with stimulating the arts (Acidini 2002). Lorenzo the Magnificent (Cosimo's grandson) increased family power and connection to the papacy. He is most noted for his works "Primavera" and "The Birth of Venus." These works were noted for their gothic realism tempered by the artists' study of the classic and antiquities (Levey 1960, p. 291).
Agnolo di Cosimo, (1503-1572) referred to as II Bronzino, was an Italian Renaissance artist and Mannerist painter from Florence. The artist is said to have initially received patronage from Medici in 1539 when chosen amongst other artists to handle the decorations of a Medici wedding. Bronzino's most famous works as official court painter of the Duke include "Lucrezia," "Cosimo" and "Eleonora" (Pilliod 2001, p. 175). These pieces have received increased attention due to the meticulous details the artist so realistic recreated on canvas.
Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), is considered one of the most prolific Italian architects of the Early Renaissance. He has been created with creating linear perspective as well as designing the dome of the Florence Cathedral. Moreover, the artists' accomplishments reportedly include engineering, mathematics, bronze artwork, clock work and even ship design. The linear perspective is credited as helping other artists paint with greater realism and three - dimensionality (Walker 2003, p. 5)
Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), was an Italian Renaissance artist/sculptor of the Late Renaissance and was considered one of the most notable artists of Mannerism. In addition to Cellini's work in silver and gold, he completed large scale sculptures most notably "Perseus with the Head of Medusa" and a medallion he created of…