Known as the Renaissance, the period immediately following the Middle Ages in Europe saw a great revival of interest in the classical learning and values of ancient Greece and Rome. Against a backdrop of political stability and growing prosperity, the development of new technologies–including the printing press, a new system of astronomy and the discovery and exploration of new continents–was accompanied by a flowering of philosophy, literature and especially art. The style of painting, sculpture and decorative arts identified with the Renaissance emerged in Italy in the late 14th century; it reached its zenith in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, in the work of Italian masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. In addition to its expression of classical Greco-Roman traditions, Renaissance art sought to capture the experience of the individual and the beauty and mystery of the natural world.
Origins of Renaissance Art
The origins of Renaissance art can be traced to Italy in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. During this so-called “proto-Renaissance” period (1280-1400), Italian scholars and artists saw themselves as reawakening to the ideals and achievements of classical Roman culture. Writers such as Petrarch (1304-1374) and Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) looked back to ancient Greece and Rome and sought to revive the languages, values and intellectual traditions of those cultures after the long period of stagnation that had followed the fall of the Roman Empire in the sixth century.
Did You Know?
Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate "Renaissance man," practiced all the visual arts and studied a wide range of topics, including anatomy, geology, botany, hydraulics and flight. His formidable reputation is based on relatively few completed paintings, including "Mona Lisa," "The Virgin of the Rocks" and "The Last Supper."
The Florentine painter Giotto (1267?-1337), the most famous artist of the proto-Renaissance, made enormous advances...