Art History/Renaissance

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Introduction[edit]

School of Athens by Raphael (1505)

The Renaissance is a period in European history that covers the 15th century to the 17th century. The word "renaissance" means "rebirth" in Italian and describes the rediscovery of the knowledge and art of Classical Greece and Rome. The roots of the Renaissance can be found in the Crusades of the 11th century onwards. The Crusaders main aim was to liberate Jerusalem from Muslim control and one of the more positive effects of the Crusades was the rediscovery of ancient texts and art. News of books and artifacts that had been unavailable in Europe were brought back by Crusaders and this led to a renewed interest in Classical Greece and Rome. It must be noted that diplomatic contact and trade between Europe and the East continued throughout the Crusades and many texts were acquired by Europeans perfectly peacefully. One of the most quoted finds is The Almagest by Ptomely; a work on astronomy. The Almagest was written in the 2nd century C.E and translated into Arabic in the 9th century. It was rediscovered in the 12th century by European scholars and translated into Spanish and Latin. This influx of texts and art from the East revitalised Classical studies in the West. Scholars in the West could now compare their Medieval texts (sometimes complete or fragments) against earlier copies or read works that had been known about in the West but had been presumed to have been permanently lost. These discoveries had a great affect on European culture and art. There was a determined effort by Renaissance composers to bring back to life the plays of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Renaissance painters used the themes and mythology of the Classical period for inspiration. Renaissance sculpture absorbed the Classical aesthetic on form and many Renaissance statues show a sense of balance in portraying the human form that would be instantly recognisable to an Athenian of the 5th century BC.

Popular Works:

  1. Primavera (The Birth of Spring), Birth of Venus - Sandro Botticelli
  2. Bronze David, Marble David - Donatello
  3. David, Pieta' - Michelangelo
  4. School of Athens - Raphael
  5. Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, Ospedale degli Innocenti Loggia, San Lorenzo (Florence), Santo Spirito (Florence) - Brunelleschi
  6. Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, Vitruvian Man, Annunciation - Leonardo
  7. North and East Doors, Baptistry of San Giovanni, Florence - Ghiberti

Themes: This period is characterized by numerous religious works; themes include the Holy Trinity, Holy Family, Adoration of the Magi, Virgin and child. Mythological subject matter is introduced in the visual arts of this period.

Centers of Art:

  1. 15th-century Florence
  2. 16th-century Rome
  3. 16th-century Northern Italy (including Venice, provinces)
  4. 15th-century Flanders

Important literature:

  1. Vasari's Lives of the Artists
  2. Alberti's On Painting