Light in the Dark Places: or, Memorial of Christian Life in the Middle Ages - Enhanced Version

Italian Renaissance

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Get fast, free shipping with Amazon Prime. Get to Know Us. English Choose a language for shopping. In the Ordinances of Justice were enacted which effectively became the constitution of the republic of Florence throughout the Italian Renaissance. The main challengers of the Albizzi family were the Medicis , first under Giovanni de' Medici , later under his son Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici. The Medici controlled the Medici bank —then Europe's largest bank—and an array of other enterprises in Florence and elsewhere. In , the Albizzi managed to have Cosimo exiled.

The Medici became the town's leading family, a position they would hold for the next three centuries. Florence remained a republic until , traditionally marking the end of the High Renaissance in Florence, but the instruments of republican government were firmly under the control of the Medici and their allies, save during the intervals after and Cosimo and Lorenzo rarely held official posts, but were the unquestioned leaders. Cosimo de' Medici was highly popular among the citizenry, mainly for bringing an era of stability and prosperity to the town.

One of his most important accomplishments was negotiating the Peace of Lodi with Francesco Sforza ending the decades of war with Milan and bringing stability to much of Northern Italy. Cosimo was also an important patron of the arts, directly and indirectly, by the influential example he set. Cosimo was succeeded by his sickly son Piero de' Medici , who died after five years in charge of the city.

In the reins of power passed to Cosimo's twenty-one-year-old grandson Lorenzo , who would become known as "Lorenzo the Magnificent. Under Lorenzo, the Medici rule was formalized with the creation of a new Council of Seventy , which Lorenzo headed.

The republican institutions continued, but they lost all power. Lorenzo was less successful than his illustrious forebears in business, and the Medici commercial empire was slowly eroded. Lorenzo continued the alliance with Milan, but relations with the papacy soured, and in , Papal agents allied with the Pazzi family in an attempt to assassinate Lorenzo. Although the plot failed, Lorenzo's young brother, Giuliano , was killed, and the failed assassination led to a war with the Papacy and was used as justification to further centralize power in Lorenzo's hands.

Renaissance ideals first spread from Florence to the neighbouring states of Tuscany such as Siena and Lucca. The Tuscan culture soon became the model for all the states of Northern Italy, and the Tuscan variety of Italian came to predominate throughout the region, especially in literature. In Francesco Sforza came to power in Milan and rapidly transformed that still medieval city into a major centre of art and learning that drew Leone Battista Alberti.

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Venice , one of the wealthiest cities due to its control of the Adriatic Sea, also became a centre for Renaissance culture, especially architecture. Smaller courts brought Renaissance patronage to lesser cities, which developed their characteristic arts: In Naples , the Renaissance was ushered in under the patronage of Alfonso I who conquered Naples in and encouraged artists like Francesco Laurana and Antonello da Messina and writers like the poet Jacopo Sannazaro and the humanist scholar Angelo Poliziano.

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While the Italian Renaissance was fading, the Northern Renaissance adopted many of its ideals and transformed its styles. By the early 16th century keyboard improvisation came to be greatly valued, and numerous composers of virtuoso keyboard music appeared. One of the most important effects of this political control was security. Prehistoric Italy Etruscan civilization 12th—6th c. No longer was the Mediterranean Europe's most important trade route. On land, these wars were primarily fought by armies of mercenaries known as condottieri , bands of soldiers drawn from around Europe, but especially Germany and Switzerland, led largely by Italian captains.

In the Papacy returned to Rome, but that once imperial city remained poor and largely in ruins through the first years of the Renaissance. He launched a dramatic rebuilding effort that would eventually see much of the city renewed.

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As the papacy fell under the control of the wealthy families, such as the Medici and the Borgias the spirit of Renaissance art and philosophy came to dominate the Vatican. The popes also became increasingly secular rulers as the Papal States were forged into a centralized power by a series of "warrior popes". The nature of the Renaissance also changed in the late 15th century.

Italian Renaissance - Wikipedia

The Renaissance ideal was fully adopted by the ruling classes and the aristocracy. In the early Renaissance artists were seen as craftsmen with little prestige or recognition. By the later Renaissance the top figures wielded great influence and could charge great fees. A flourishing trade in Renaissance art developed. While in the early Renaissance many of the leading artists were of lower- or middle-class origins, increasingly they became aristocrats.

As a cultural movement, the Italian Renaissance affected only a small part of the population. Italy was the most urbanized region of Europe, but three quarters of the people were still rural peasants. Some scholars see a trend towards refeudalization in the later Renaissance as the urban elites turned themselves into landed aristocrats.

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The situation differed in the cities. These were dominated by a commercial elite; as exclusive as the aristocracy of any Medieval kingdom. This group became the main patrons of and audience for Renaissance culture. Below them there was a large class of artisans and guild members who lived comfortable lives and had significant power in the republican governments.


This was in sharp contrast to the rest of Europe where artisans were firmly in the lower class. Literate and educated, this group did participate in the Renaissance culture. Like the peasants, the Renaissance had little effect on them. Historians debate how easy it was to move between these groups during the Italian Renaissance. Examples of individuals who rose from humble beginnings can be instanced, but Burke notes two major studies in this area that have found that the data do not clearly demonstrate an increase in social mobility.

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Most historians feel that early in the Renaissance social mobility was quite high, but that it faded over the course of the 15th century. An upper-class figure would control hundreds of times more income than a servant or labourer. Some historians see this unequal distribution of wealth as important to the Renaissance, as art patronage relies on the very wealthy. The Renaissance was not a period of great social or economic change, only of cultural and ideological development. It only touched a small fraction of the population, and in modern times this has led many historians, such as any that follow historical materialism , to reduce the importance of the Renaissance in human history.

These historians tend to think in terms of " Early Modern Europe " instead. Roger Osborne [25] argues that "The Renaissance is a difficult concept for historians because the history of Europe quite suddenly turns into a history of Italian painting, sculpture and architecture. The end of the Renaissance is as imprecisely marked as its starting point. For many, the rise to power in Florence of the austere monk Girolamo Savonarola in marks the end of the city's flourishing; for others, the triumphant return of the Medici marks the beginning of the late phase in the arts called Mannerism.

Other accounts trace the end of the Italian Renaissance to the French invasions of the early 16th century and the subsequent conflict between France and Spanish rulers for control of Italian territory. With the Medici returned to power, now as Grand Dukes of Tuscany , the counter movement in the church continued. In the Sacred Congregation of the Inquisition was formed and a few years later the Index Librorum Prohibitorum banned a wide array of Renaissance works of literature, which marks the end of the illuminated manuscript together with Giulio Clovio , who is considered the greatest illuminator of the Italian High Renaissance, and arguably the last very notable artist in the long tradition of the illuminated manuscript, before some modern revivals.

Equally important was the end of stability with a series of foreign invasions of Italy known as the Italian Wars that would continue for several decades. These began with the invasion by France that wreaked widespread devastation on Northern Italy and ended the independence of many of the city-states. Most damaging was the May 6, , Spanish and German troops' sacking Rome that for two decades all but ended the role of the Papacy as the largest patron of Renaissance art and architecture.

While the Italian Renaissance was fading, the Northern Renaissance adopted many of its ideals and transformed its styles. A number of Italy's greatest artists chose to emigrate. From Fontainebleau, the new styles, transformed by Mannerism , brought the Renaissance to Antwerp and thence throughout Northern Europe.

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This spread north was also representative of a larger trend. No longer was the Mediterranean Europe's most important trade route. The thirteenth-century Italian literary revolution helped set the stage for the Renaissance. Prior to the Renaissance, the Italian language was not the literary language in Italy. The s saw a major change in Italian poetry as the Dolce Stil Novo Sweet New Style , which emphasized Platonic rather than courtly love came into its own, pioneered by poets like Guittone d'Arezzo and Guido Guinizelli.

Especially in poetry , major changes in Italian literature had been taking place decades before the Renaissance truly began. With the printing of books initiated in Venice by Aldus Manutius , an increasing number of works began to be published in the Italian language in addition to the flood of Latin and Greek texts that constituted the mainstream of the Italian Renaissance. The source for these works expanded beyond works of theology and towards the pre-Christian eras of Imperial Rome and Ancient Greece. This is not to say that no religious works were published in this period: Dante Alighieri 's The Divine Comedy reflects a distinctly medieval world view.

Christianity remained a major influence for artists and authors, with the classics coming into their own as a second primary influence. In the early Italian Renaissance, much of the focus was on translating and studying classic works from Latin and Greek. Renaissance authors were not content to rest on the laurels of ancient authors, however.

Many authors attempted to integrate the methods and styles of the ancient Greeks into their own works. Among the Greeks, Aristotle , Homer , and Plato were now being read in the original for the first time since the 4th century, though Greek compositions were few. The literature and poetry of the Renaissance was largely influenced by the developing science and philosophy.

The humanist Francesco Petrarch , a key figure in the renewed sense of scholarship, was also an accomplished poet, publishing several important works of poetry. He wrote poetry in Latin , notably the Punic War epic Africa , but is today remembered for his works in the Italian vernacular , especially the Canzoniere , a collection of love sonnets dedicated to his unrequited love Laura.

He was the foremost writer of sonnets in Italian, and translations of his work into English by Thomas Wyatt established the sonnet form in that country, where it was employed by William Shakespeare and countless other poets. Petrarch's disciple, Giovanni Boccaccio , became a major author in his own right. His major work was the Decameron , a collection of stories told by ten storytellers who have fled to the outskirts of Florence to escape the black plague over ten nights.

The Decameron in particular and Boccaccio's work in general were a major source of inspiration and plots for many English authors in the Renaissance, including Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. Aside from Christianity, classical antiquity , and scholarship, a fourth influence on Renaissance literature was politics. However, what is ordinarily called "Machiavellianism" is a simplified textbook view of this single work rather than an accurate term for his philosophy. Further, it is not at all clear that Machiavelli himself was the apologist for immorality as whom he is often portrayed: Regardless, along with many other Renaissance works, The Prince remains a relevant and influential work of literature today.

One role of Petrarch is as the founder of a new method of scholarship, Renaissance Humanism. Petrarch encouraged the study of the Latin classics and carried his copy of Homer about, at a loss to find someone to teach him to read Greek. An essential step in the humanist education being propounded by scholars like Pico della Mirandola was the hunting down of lost or forgotten manuscripts that were known only by reputation.

These endeavors were greatly aided by the wealth of Italian patricians, merchant-princes and despots, who would spend substantial sums building libraries. Discovering the past had become fashionable and it was a passionate affair pervading the upper reaches of society. I go , said Cyriac of Ancona , I go to awake the dead.

As the Greek works were acquired, manuscripts found, libraries and museums formed, the age of the printing press was dawning. The works of Antiquity were translated from Greek and Latin into the contemporary modern languages throughout Europe, finding a receptive middle-class audience, which might be, like Shakespeare, "with little Latin and less Greek".

While concern for philosophy , art and literature all increased greatly in the Renaissance the period is usually seen as one of scientific backwardness. The reverence for classical sources further enshrined the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic views of the universe. Humanism stressed that nature came to be viewed as an animate spiritual creation that was not governed by laws or mathematics. At the same time philosophy lost much of its rigour as the rules of logic and deduction were seen as secondary to intuition and emotion.

According to some recent scholarship, the 'father of modern science' is Leonardo da Vinci whose experiments and clear scientific method earn him this title, Italian universities such as Padua, Bologna and Pisa were scientific centres of renown and with many northern European students, the science of the Renaissance moved to Northern Europe and flourished there, with such figures as Copernicus , Francis Bacon , and Descartes.

Galileo , a contemporary of Bacon and Descartes, made an immense contribution to scientific thought and experimentation, paving the way for the scientific revolution that later flourished in Northern Europe. Bodies were also stolen from gallows and examined by many like Vesalius, a professor of anatomy. This allowed them to create accurate skeleton models and correct previously believed theories.

For example, many thought that the human jawbone was made up of two bones, as they had seen this on animals. However through examining human corpses they were able to understand that humans actually have only one. In painting, the false dawn of Giotto 's Trecento realism, his fully three-dimensional figures occupying a rational space, and his humanist interest in expressing the individual personality rather than the iconic images, [28] was followed by a retreat into conservative late Gothic conventions.

The Italian Renaissance in painting began anew, in Florence and Tuscany, with the frescoes of Masaccio , then the panel paintings and frescos of Piero della Francesca and Paolo Uccello which began to enhance the realism of their work by using new techniques in perspective , thus representing three dimensions in two-dimensional art more authentically. Piero della Francesca wrote treatises on scientific perspective. The creation of credible space allowed artists to also focus on the accurate representation of the human body and on naturalistic landscapes.

Masaccio 's figures have a plasticity unknown up to that point in time. Compared to the flatness of Gothic painting, his pictures were revolutionary. Around San Zeno Altarpiece Mantegna , it was probably the first good example of Renaissance painting in Northern Italy a model for all Verona's painters, for example Girolamo dai Libri.

At the turn of the 16th century, especially in Northern Italy, artists also began to use new techniques in the manipulation of light and darkness, such as the tone contrast evident in many of Titian 's portraits and the development of sfumato and chiaroscuro by Leonardo da Vinci and Giorgione. The period also saw the first secular non- religious themes.

There has been much debate as to the degree of secularism in the Renaissance, which had been emphasized by early 20th-century writers like Jacob Burckhardt, based on, among other things, the presence of a relatively small number of mythological paintings. Those of Botticelli , notably The Birth of Venus and Primavera , are now among the best known, although he was deeply religious becoming a follower of Savonarola and the great majority of his output was of traditional religious paintings or portraits. In sculpture, Donatello 's — study of classical sculpture led to his development of classicizing positions such as the contrapposto pose and subject matter like the unsupported nude — his second sculpture of David was the first free-standing bronze nude created in Europe since the Roman Empire.

The progress made by Donatello was influential on all who followed; perhaps the greatest of whom is Michelangelo , whose David of is also a male nude study; more naturalistic than Donatello's and with greater emotional intensity.

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Both sculptures are standing in contrapposto , their weight shifted to one leg. The period known as the High Renaissance represents the culmination of the goals of the earlier period, namely the accurate representation of figures in space rendered with credible motion and in an appropriately decorous style. The most famous painters from this phase are Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael , and Michelangelo.

Their images are among the most widely known works of art in the world. High Renaissance painting evolved into Mannerism , especially in Florence. Mannerist artists, who consciously rebelled against the principles of High Renaissance, tend to represent elongated figures in illogical spaces. Modern scholarship has recognized the capacity of Mannerist art to convey strong often religious emotion where the High Renaissance failed to do so. In Florence , the Renaissance style was introduced with a revolutionary but incomplete monument in Rimini by Leone Battista Alberti.

Some of the earliest buildings showing Renaissance characteristics are Filippo Brunelleschi 's church of San Lorenzo and the Pazzi Chapel. The interior of Santo Spirito expresses a new sense of light, clarity and spaciousness, which is typical of the early Italian Renaissance.

Its architecture reflects the philosophy of Humanism , the enlightenment and clarity of mind as opposed to the darkness and spirituality of the Middle Ages. The revival of classical antiquity can best be illustrated by the Palazzo Rucellai. Here the pilasters follow the superposition of classical orders , with Doric capitals on the ground floor, Ionic capitals on the piano nobile and Corinthian capitals on the uppermost floor.

Soon, Renaissance architects favored grand, large domes over tall and imposing spires, doing away with the Gothic style of the predating ages. In Mantua, Leone Battista Alberti ushered in the new antique style, though his culminating work, Sant'Andrea , was not begun until , after the architect's death.

Peter's Basilica , which was the most notable architectural commission of the era, influenced by almost all notable Renaissance artists, including Michelangelo and Giacomo della Porta. The beginning of the late Renaissance in was marked by the development of a new column order by Andrea Palladio. Colossal columns that were two or more stories tall decorated the facades. In Italy during the 14th century there was an explosion of musical activity that corresponded in scope and level of innovation to the activity in the other arts.

Although musicologists typically group the music of the Trecento music of the 14th century with the late medieval period, it included features which align with the early Renaissance in important ways: The principal forms were the Trecento madrigal , the caccia , and the ballata. Overall, the musical style of the period is sometimes labelled as the "Italian ars nova. Many of them sang in either the papal choir in Rome or the choirs at the numerous chapels of the aristocracy, in Rome , Venice , Florence , Milan , Ferrara and elsewhere; and they brought their polyphonic style with them, influencing many native Italian composers during their stay.

The predominant forms of church music during the period were the mass and the motet. By far the most famous composer of church music in 16th century Italy was Palestrina , the most prominent member of the Roman School , whose style of smooth, emotionally cool polyphony was to become the defining sound of the late 16th century, at least for generations of 19th- and 20th century musicologists.

Other Italian composers of the late 16th century focused on composing the main secular form of the era, the madrigal: Composers of madrigals included Jacques Arcadelt , at the beginning of the age, Cipriano de Rore , in the middle of the century, and Luca Marenzio , Philippe de Monte , Carlo Gesualdo , and Claudio Monteverdi at the end of the era. Italy was also a centre of innovation in instrumental music. By the early 16th century keyboard improvisation came to be greatly valued, and numerous composers of virtuoso keyboard music appeared.

Many familiar instruments were invented and perfected in late Renaissance Italy, such as the violin , the earliest forms of which came into use in the s. By the late 16th century Italy was the musical centre of Europe.