Modern World History

History of Renaissance

Renaissance | Definition, Meaning, History, Artists, Art, & Music

The term Renaissance denotes a new age in the history of western civilization at the end of the middle ages though its literal meaning is rebirth or revival of classical learning and arts. It stands for an intellectual, literary, artistic and scientific movement. The Renaissance was a great movement of European history that began in Italy in the mid 14th century and spread to northern Europe by the 16th century. It began in Italy as it was the centre of the ancient Roman civilization. East-west trade made Italian cities very prosperous and the rise of a large middle class with a secular attitude towards life. The Italian princes and Popes extended patronage to art and culture. The main causes for the origin of Renaissance were the influence of philosophers and thinkers such as Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas and Dante etc. Scientific developments especially the invention of the mechanical clock and printing press. Rise of towns and the middle classes due to commercial revolution.

Renaissance in Literature

The Renaissance literature was about man and everything connected with man (humanism) and it was written in the languages of the common people. Rise and growth of new languages and their literature like Italian, English, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish. Machiavelli was the great political writer of Italy and his work The Prince written in Italian served as guide for the rulers. Dante’s Divine Comedy is an epic poem and reveals human love, love of the country and a desire for a free and united Italian nation. The works of Petrarch who has been called the Father of Humanism made Italy supreme in Renaissance literature. They dealt with the economic, social and political aspects of man’s life. Thomas Moore wrote Utopia in Latin and it contained the criticism of the society and govt of the day.Shakespeare, Ben Johnson and Marlowe were the renowned dramatists. Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German helped to develop that language.

Renaissance Period Authors and Poets

The greatest Renaissance scholar of Holland was Erasmus the author of The Praise of Folly in which he condemned the evils of the church and the atrocities of the clergymen. In Spain the important literary figures were Cervantes author of Don Quixote and Lope De Vega. The Portuguese writer Camoens described the wonderful voyages of Vasco-De Gama in his epic Lusiads.There was also tendency to break away from Latin and Greek and to seek expression in the vernacular languages. This was a significant step not only in the bringing about the development of national literature but also in aiding the development of national political institutions.

Renaissance in Arts

Throughout Renaissance the art was largely dominated by Christian Church which in early period was tender and humane. The spirit of Humanism prevailed in painting but the subject matter was distinctly Christian. Paintings known as frescoes were painted on plaster walls.Oil painting were also invented. Renaissance painting bloomed in Italy. A number of painters hold a prominent place in the pre-Renaissance period but they were overshadowed by the brilliance of Michael Angelo, Raphaell and Leonardo Da Vinci who are considered as the most dominant figures among the painters. Besides them, Albrecht Durer and Holbein of Germany, Velasquez, Murillo and El Graeco of Spain and Rubbens and Van of Holland were other renowned painters of the Renaissance Era. The Renaissance sculptors studied the human body thoroughly and knew how the muscles and joints worked so that they could make their figures more life-like. A famous sculptor Ghiberti made the doors for the Baptistery at Florence. The huge statues of David, Moses and the Pieta chiseled out by Michael Angelo are superb masterpieces.

In renaissance architecture there was a trend towards classicism. The Gothic style was discarded for the arch, the dome and the columns characterizing the Greek and Roman models. Secondly while the classical element was basic in renaissance architecture, there was in the latter an emphasis on design and ornamentation. In the later period it became more prominent into what is called baroque.Alberti, Manetti, Michael Angelo were some of the famous renaissance architects. Great churches like St.Peter’s at Rome,St. Paul’s at London,St.Mark’s at Venice are examples of the new type. The Pitti Palace in Florence and the Farness Palace in Rome are examples of secular architecture. They emphasis the tendency of shifting from the medieval absorbing interest in future life to a universal emphasis on individual and his earthly existence.

Renaissance Music

Throughout Renaissance the art was largely dominated by Christian Church which in early period was tender and humane. The spirit of Humanism prevailed in painting but the subject matter was distinctly Christian. Paintings known as frescoes were painted on plaster walls.Oil painting were also invented. Renaissance painting bloomed in Italy. A number of painters hold a prominent place in the pre-Renaissance period but they were overshadowed by the brilliance of Michael Angelo, Raphaell and Leonardo Da Vinci who are considered as the most dominant figures among the painters. Besides them, Albrecht Durer and Holbein of Germany, Velasquez, Murillo and El Graeco of Spain and Rubbens and Van of Holland were other renowned painters of the Renaissance Era. The Renaissance sculptors studied the human body thoroughly and knew how the muscles and joints worked so that they could make their figures more life-like. A famous sculptor Ghiberti made the doors for the Baptistery at Florence. The huge statues of David, Moses and the Pieta chiseled out by Michael Angelo are superb masterpieces.

Renaissance Science

Science made some progress in the middle Ages but the spirit of modern science was born with the renaissance. Science in the middle ages struggled against restrictions and there were many fetters to be destroyed before it could continue unhampered. Superstitions were common and to the masses were much more acceptable then were scientific explanations. The Renaissance brought about an interest in all things pertaining to men and the thirst for new achievements led to a critical observation of natural phenomena. The spirit of learning was manifested in science. Scientists of the 16th century made the first effective protest against the medieval scientific method of accepting theories before investigation had verified them. Francis Bacon pointed out that classical scientific conclusions did not represent mature knowledge and implored men to explore the realms of nature. Descartes brought out the necessity of questioning everything. He was the forerunner of science.

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