Although the exact impulse for the Italian Renaissance is not known, many scholars believe that the shift was due to the economic instability of the 14th century and the lack of investment opportunities in Italy, prompting wealthy individuals to finance the arts. The teachings of classical antiquity (Greek and Roman sculpture, architecture, and literature) did not appear in Italy until the beginning of the Renaissance. The increasing interest in art in recent centuries had a profound influence on Italian painting, sculpture, and architecture.
The Italian Renaissance, the revival that started at the end of the 14th century in Italy, became the era of many cultural and architectural achievements in Europe. The beginning of the Renaissance concentrated mainly on Tuscany and Florence. The Italian Renaissance was a rebirth begun after the decimation from the Black Death by the Tuscans and the centers of the Republic of Siena and Florence.
Ultimately, the Italian Renaissance, or Revival, marked Europe’s transition from the Middle Ages to the continent’s early modern era. The term Renaissance itself is modern, as it was used by historians in the 19th century. The French word renaissance, meaning in Italian “rebirth”, is defined as a period of cultural revival or renewed interest in classical antiquity and for centuries it was what humanists called the dark years.
The end of the Italian Renaissance is often characterized by its starting point. For many, the rise to power of the austere monk Girolamo Savonarola (1494-1498) in Florence marked the end of Florence’s heyday, while for others the triumphant return to power of the Medici family (1512) marked the beginning of the most recent phase of the Renaissance in art, mannerism. There is a debate as to whether the Renaissance had a beginning or an end, but for intangible purposes, we will begin here at the beginning of the 14th century.
Other depictions attribute the end of the Italian Renaissance to the French invasion in the early 16th century and the ensuing conflict between France and the Spanish rulers for control of Italy’s territory. Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man (c. 1485) embodies the spirit of the Renaissance that challenged medieval attitudes to art, science, and religion. The Italian Renaissance began as the start of the Renaissance – a period of great cultural changes and achievements in Europe – that spanned the period between the end of the fourteenth century and 1600 and marked the transition from the Middle Ages to the early modern times.
The word “Renaissance” means “reincarnation” in French and Italian, and is known for the revived interest in the culture of classical antiquity that followed the Renaissance period, which humanists called the Dark Ages. The use of the term Renaissance or Modernism only came into its own in the 19th century in the works of historians such as Jacob Burckhardt. The Renaissance was not only a time of great social and economic change but also of cultural and ideological development.
The Italian Renaissance followed the Middle Ages and gave rise to the philosophy of humanism, which emphasized the importance of individual achievement in a variety of fields. The influence of humanistic literature and art reached a new level of meaning. The authors who spoke for Dante and Giotto in poetry and painting were reborn in the following two centuries, and the same ideas were applied to other fields such as architecture, sculpture, and philosophy.
At the end of the 14th century, a handful of Italian thinkers declared that they were living in a new era. The majority consensus regards the Renaissance as a period of cultural history with sharp chronological boundaries stretching from 1340 to 1550. For some historians such as Lauro Martines, the Renaissance coincides with the life of the communities dating back to the 11th century, while for others such as Hans Baron it originates from the ideological battles that accompanied the Wares between Florence and Milan at the beginning of the 15th century.
In the 14th century, many Italians believed that the barbaric culture of the Dark Ages rejected the high artistic standards of ancient Romans and Greeks. Instead of the “barbaric and unenlightened” Middle Ages, a handful of Italian thinkers thought that the new age (rinascita) was a rebirth of learning, literature, art, and culture. Many of the scientific, artistic, and cultural achievements of the Italian Renaissance and the word “rebirth” share a common theme: the humanistic belief that man is the center of his own universe.
The proto-renaissance took place in the 13th and 14th centuries, as did the rest of Europe in the middle age. Rome itself was a victim of the decline that had destroyed it during the Dark Ages but flourished under the papal leadership of the Renaissance. During this period, artists like Duccio, Cimabue, and Giotto di Bondone began to detach themselves from the medieval style of flat decorative figures and golden backgrounds, lending their paintings volume, depth, and emotion.
Italy was divided into a number of different city-states during the middle and Renaissance era. The Italian Renaissance did not last long, starting in 1494 with the French invasion of Italian territory, and the country was plagued by the presence of foreign powers battling for parts of the Italian peninsula. In the 15th century, Italy was again divided into independent city-states with different forms of government. Each city-state had its own government, culture, economy, and art style. Humanism developed in the 14th century and remained an important intellectual movement that had an influence on art production. It had a significant impact in Venice, where the remains of ancient Greek culture provided new texts for humanist scholars.