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The Italian Renaissance- Why Italy?
• The word “Renaissance” 1st used in 1th century to
describe the revival of interest in art/poetry etc… of
Greece and Rome. But it came to mean the broader
consciousness of the age
• Why Italy?
– Rome had been there- examples everywhere.
– When Constantinople fell Byzantines came to Italy-
which brought more knowledge
– Long distance trade already bringing in $$
What is a Renaissance?
 Began in Italy in early 1300s (until about 1500)
 Elsewhere from about 1450-1600(ish)
 A focus on the secular, rather than the spiritual world
(typical of Mid. Ages)
 The word coined by Jacob Burkhardt describing the
time period as a “rebirth” from the “darkness” of the
middle ages
Economic Changes
• Began with Crusades-
• Italy NOT unified
Venice and Genoa made $$
with sea trade to/from
• Florence not on coast- but
concentrated on banking
and wool industry, made $$
too. The “florin” became
the standard currency of
• Signori (despots) or
Oligarchies (generally
merchant aristocracies)
controlled most of the city
• Commenda- contract
between merchant and
adventurers to travel long
distance- merchants put
up $$, got 1/3 profit
Who had one?
 The upper classes- they were the people with time and
resources to experiment. No more than 25% of
population participating
 Ordinary people were not out painting and sculpting,
but the were impacted by new viewpoints and
Social Structure
• Social mobility much more evident than it had been
during the Middle Ages. Changed to reflect
manufacturing and banking. Rural nobility then
married into this new $$. Wealth dictated marriage
(dowry). Patriarchy- male dominated society.
• Popolo Grasso- “Fat people”, wealthy merchants and
nobles. Farmland owned by wealthy, most farmers
• Mediocri- middle or small merchants
• Popolo Minuto- “little people” laborers
Political Organization
• City states rather than a
nation. (more like Greece
than Rome, will end up
hurting them in the long
• 2 main categories:
Republics (communes)
where associations of free
men made decisions.
• Principalities had
hereditary signori.
• Balance of power pattern
emerged where weaker
states would ally with
others to prevent
• Origins of modern
diplomacy- cities sent
ambassadors, held
summits etc….
• Condottieri: mercenary
generals with private
• Built from the Crusades- had
the ideal placement for trade
in the eastern
Mediterranean/Black Seasthey even went along Atlantic
• Had a representative gov’t
(Republic) with a
constitution to balance
political power.
• Doge: chief executive elected
for life by senate (only about
2500 citizens could vote)
• Needed to be cohesive b/c of
threat from Ottoman Empire
• Known as “La Serenissima”
the most Serene. Longest
lasting independent city state
(well into 1800s)
• Greatest maritime power
until 1500s
• Had an “empire” of trade
outposts (like ancient
• Also Republic, with frequent
political conflict as factions
struggled for power. (example
1378 “Ciompi” named for
“wooden shoes” protestors)
• 1434-1494 Medici (banking)
family took power- ran city
• Cosmo/Lorenzo used
patronage of the arts to make
Florence magnificent.
• Medici driven from power
1512-1527. 1530 made Florence
a Duchy
• Cosmo most powerful politician
• Lorenzo most famous patron of
arts- the “example” of a
Renaissance prince.
• Ousted by a priest Savonarolawho gave sermons on
wickedness, sin and secularity
• Principality. Grew rich
from arms and textile
• Ruled until 1447 by
Visconti family (died out
became republic)
• 1450 Sforza family took
over until 1494 when
France invaded
• Military state- not big into
arts (exception- Leonardo’s
giant horse for Duke of
• Major enemy of Florence
and Venice- fought
frequently until Peace of
Lodi 1454 created a 40 year
truce (response to
concerns when the
Ottomans conquered
Papal States
• Popes control the center of
Italy. Trying to restore
prestige of pope damaged
in great schism. Great
patrons of arts- rebuilt St.
• Pope Julius II “warrior
pope” took papacy to war
to gain political power.
Popes ruled: levied taxes,
had armies/navies,
diplomatic relations with
other countries
• Borgia Family dominated
papacy from 1455-1507.
• Caesar Borgia (son of Pope
Alexander II) model for
Machiavelli’s “Prince”
• Sack for Rome in 1527 by
Charles V (HRE) ends the
Italian Renaissance
• Principality in Southern
Italy- largest area.
• Disputed by king of
Aragon, dominated by
feudal lords (rather than
merchants) challenging
King’s power- leading to
conflict. Invaded by
Ottomans, then France
(1266-1435) and finally
Spain (after 1435)
• Only part of Italy with
actual “king”- strongest
title- weakest state
New Intellectual Developments:
• Comes from classical interest
in the potential of the
individual. Focus on the
secular, use vernacular.
• Result of increased
education- learning rhetoric,
poetry, history, philosophy
(classical curriculum)
• Against scholasticism,
moving towards science,
learn and decide for yourself.
Question, and make new
• People are naturally good,
have the power to understand
the world.
Believe in potential- Virtuexcellence in all pursuits. The
key to a good life is reason
and nature
Reject the Aristotelian view in
favor of Cicero, Livy, Virgil
and Plato.
Civic Humanism: education
should prepare people for
greater good.
Still VERY Christian
Petrarch: Father of Humanism
• Lawyer and Cleric, he
devoted his life to writing.
(his work and Dante’s
standardize Florentine
vernacular into “Italian”)
• Admired Cicero and
Augustine (who believed you
had to DO something with
you life)
• Wrote Poetry (sonnets) and
an imaginary dialogue with
St. Augustine where he
discussed what made a moral
• Rejected Renaissance church
leaders and argued for a
return to the early ideals of
the church.
• Considered the first
“modern” writer, his ideas are
no longer subordinate to
religion. Also first to use
critical analysis of ancient
Spreading Humanism
 Humanism became very influential in Florence
(enhanced by additional knowledge of Greek writings
after fall of Constantinople 1453)
 Also enhanced by invention of the printing press
(Gutenberg 1454) which made it practical for things to
be widely published. By 1500 there were 10 million
books in Europe- greater access to info of all types
 1313-1375
 Created a compendium of Greek and Roman
 The Decameron: a collection of 100 stories which were
a social commentary (about human behavior and all
possible flaws) on Italy in the 1300s.
Leonardo Bruni
 1370-1444
 First person to call it “humanism”.
 A civic humanist, his goal was to make Florence
better- wrote first modern history of a place, with
primary sources and interviews of citizens
Leonardo Valla
 1407-1457
 Expert on Latin language. Exposed errors in the
language of the Vulgate (the official bible of the RC
 Unintentially gave critics of the church ammo- he
himself was a devote Catholic.
Humanism and Education
 Medieval universities were for clergy to train in law,
theology etc… but professional training for many
careers began in the Renaissance.
 For 1st time schools were separated by age and ability.
Studied Greek/Latin, history, literature, science “the
humanities”. Children encouraged to study moral
lessons as well
Marsilio Ficino
Pico della Miranda
 1433-1499
 1463-1494
 Founded Platonic academy at
 “Oration on the Dignity of
request of Cosmo di Medici.
 Translated Plato into Latingiving most of Europe access
to Plato for the 1st time.
Man”- about the nature of
 We were created by God for
greatness, but have free will,
and we rise or fall based on
our own choices
Baldasare Castiglione
• 1478-1529
• “The Book of the Courtier”- was about the qualities
you need to be a gentleman, to live a gracious and
active life.
• Described what came to be known as a “renaissance
man”(a contrast to the medieval view that you should
concentrate on one thing)- someone well educated in
classics, who can play music, dance, is well mannered
and physically strong.
Machiavelli: “The Prince”
• 1513
• Most influential book of Renaissance.
• Assumption that people are selfish, and leader must use
power to protect us from our base nature. Said leaders
must manipulate people to meet goals- had to be strong
• Admired what worked more than what was “right”.
• Sometimes seen a cynical, but assumes the goal is to build
the best (therefore most powerful) state possible.
• 1st modern treatise of political science- tells you how to do
Achievements in Art and
• Italy is more Urban than
rural- helped the arts- also
had experience with
products that became
works of art.
• Patrons: wealthy
supporters of the arts
(medici) Church common
• Art 1st flowered in Florence
not only because of
patrons, but a tradition of
art in the city (Giotto)
• Focus on art shows the age is
(Castles/Cathedrals of M.A.
showed their focus) Personal
conspicuous consumption
• Art itself is an expression of
human creativity- and
Renaissance Italy was the 2nd
great flowering of European
art (Greece 1st) Birth of idea of
artist as “genius”
• Rome surpassed Florence as
center of art in 1500s (church)
Artisan vs. Artist
 Artisans had always existed: skillfully created useful
 Artists: a new (reborn) idea- made things that were
beautiful for the sake of beauty.
 Their magnificent accomplishments made them the
celebrities of the era
 Came from great families who kept their wealth not in
banks (which is funny b/c the Medici are bankers) but
on the walls, in the courtyard etc… consumerism
 Manifested their corporate power- the wealth of
Florence was visible around the city. (David) Glorify
the city and God (Duomo, gates of paradise)
 1st time since classical
 Designed to be seen in the
that sculpture has been a
big focus.
 The human body is
beautiful- 1st nudes since
 Made busts of their
leaders/heroes, and
figures from mythology
round (medieval were
relief ) Copied Greek idea
of perfection of the body
 Glorified the individual
showed strength and
integrity. Contraposto:
weight on one leg
• Less influenced by
classical (few had
survived) Medieval had
been very serious and
• Better techniques invented
Oil paint, developed
• Asserts human powerpeople are unique with
distinct postures and facesput their world in their
• Chiaroscoro- use of light
and dark colors to create
• Sfumato (created by da
vinci) softening of sharp
lines for a lightly blurred
effect (mona lisa)
• United creativity and science
to build in new ways. Loved
classical inspiration (columns
and arches)
• Built giant domes (duomo) to
be seen for miles.
• Leon Battista Alberti- wrote a
theory of architecture based
on “perfect” forms (square
and circle) Beauty comes
from observing the rules of
proportion to create
• Simplicity, symmetry,
balance. Contrasted with the
highly ornamental gothic
style of the middle ages
Examples of Artists: Giotto
 1266-1366
 The last medieval/first renaissance painter. Pioneered
Filippo Brunelleschi
 Sculptor and architect-
won contest to build the
new cathedral of
Florence (Duomo) built
 When built was the
largest dome ever
created- looks even
bigger from inside b/c of
Lorenzo Ghiberti
 1378-1455
 Won contest to design
doors of cathedral “gates
of paradise”
 Used a combination of
classical and religious
subjects and sensibilities
Leonardo Da Vinci
• 1452-1519
• A true “renaissance man” as well
as artist (engineer, scientist,
• Constantly moved from one idea, one technique to
another. Known for mastery of facial expressions and
realistic backgrounds
• Experiments sometimes went wrong- Last Supper 1498
was an new fresco technique- epic fail
 1386-1466
 Sculptor. His David (1408) was the first full nude since
the classical age. Mary Magdellan expresses extreme
 1401-1428
 Painter- first painter to do nudes. Expulsion of Adam
and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
 1483-1520
 Short but important artistic career. Famous for
“Madonnas” (showing love between mother and child)
 Most famous single painting is “School of Athens” with
contemporaries as great thinkers of the past. Perfect
example of all primary renaissance techniques
 1444-1510
 Painter, known for detail and delicacy. Did much less
religious work, used lots of allegory and mythology.
 “Birth of Venus” most famous painting
 Architect during high renaissance.
 Hired by Pope Julius II to build a cathedral on the spot
where St. Peter had been crucified. Primary architect
of St. Peter’s (Michelangelo changed some plans after
he died)
• 1475-1564
• Like Leonardo he was good at many things (which is what
made these 2 the “superstars”) est. known for sculpture and
• His 18 ft David is a symbol of the Renaissance.
• Worked for church on St. Peter’s- the Sistine Chapel is his
most famous contribution (combo of classical and religious
• Pieta- showing emotion of the moment. Designed the
Dome of St. Peter’s- making sure it was bigger than the one
in Florence 
 1485-1576
 Greatest painter of Venetian school- which was more
influenced by the Byzantines then the classical
 Typified by vivid colors and movement (florence was
paler and calmer)
 Titan himself loved red hair
The Northern Renaissance- why
 Renaissance spread more slowly outside of Italy
 not as many large cities to be centers of ideas.
 Feudalism hampered some new ideas
 Not as much classical remains around to “inspire”
 Renaissance in north centered on kings and their
courts (not typical in Italy) which changed it’s focus
Northern Humanism
• In Low countries, France,
German States, and
• Focused on writings of
early Christians rather
than classical agealthough sought to to
combine best elements of
classical/christianitystressing reason and ethics
• Studied ancient texts – and
applied to editing the
bible. Not as secular, focus
on what religion should be.
• Wanted to improve society
and reform the church.
• Emphasized education and
the power of human
intellect to bring change
and moral improvement.
• Began to criticize
scholaticism and dogma of
church- leading towards
Desidrius Erasmus 1466-1536
• Monk and professor.
• Colloquies - dialogues for his
students on how to speak and
live well
• Adages- ancient and
contemporary proverbs and
sayings (he was famous for
his sayings)
• United classical ideals of
harmony and civic virtue with
christian love and piety.
• Edited and changed vulgate
(made church made)
• In Praise of folly- most widely
read book, said church
should worry more about
praying and less about art.
Wanted to reform church,
not abandon it (that’s why he
wrote in Latin)
• First humanist to earn a living
through his writing
Jasques leFevre d’Etables
 1454-1536
 French. Produced psalms that challenged the Vulgate
(from ancient writings) Condemned for Heresy
Thomas More
• 1478-1536- a Civic Humanist
• Chancellor to Henry VIII in Eng. Wanted to use
classical and Christian ideas to make a better world.
• Utopia (“nowhere”- has come to mean a perfect world)
everything should be held in common. Poverty creates
the problems of society
• Reform of social institutions that create the human
world is the key to a better society
• Executed by Henry VIII b/c he would not sign the Act
of Supremacy
Francis Rabelais
 1494-1553
 Championed secular world, especially in education
 Had confidence in human nature (reflecting ideas of
 Gargantua and Pantagruel: a folk epic, comedic,
satirized French society
Northern Art
 Did more painting than sculpture
 Oil paintings, engravings and woodcuts. Known for
detail, bright/dark of colors, long lean figures,
 Fugger family(banking) important patrons of
Northern art
 Renaissance music developed in the North and spread
south (opposite of visual arts)
Jan Van Eyck
 1339-1441
 Dutch (Flemish) painted with oil on wood or canvas.
 Arnolfini Wedding- combo of earthiness and piety
 Used a lot or religious symbolism and crazy detail
Albrect Durer
 1471-1528
 German who studied in Italy- blended northern and
southern styles (more full figured, but lots of
symbolism, good at Italian arts of perspective,
proportion etc…)
 Best known for copper engravings and woodcuts- did
and illustrated bible as well as numerous self portraits
Peter Brueghal the Elder
 1520-1569 Dutch
 Not very influenced by Italy- painted the lives of
ordinary people (which was unusual)
 Peasant Dance, Winter Hunt
Roger Van Der Wyden
 Focus on the suffering of Jesus for humanity- to have
people recognize his sacrifice and inspire piety
Heronymus Bosch
 1450-1516 Dutch
 Master of symbolism and fantasy- surrealistic
 Often focus on death and torments of hell- reflects
confusion of later renaissance.
 Death and the Miser, Garden of Earthy Delights
Hans Holbein
 1497-1543
 Most famous northern portrait artist. Painted writers
and kings revealing the personalities that lay
underneath (Erasmus, Henry VIII)
Renaissance and Nation Building,
the New Monarchs
• Parts of Europe began to
centralize in late 15th, early
16th century.
• France, England, and Spain
called the “New
Monarchies” which
emphasized royal majesty
& authority, suppressed
opposition (esp nobles)
and built nationalism
• These will become the
“strong countries for next
phase of history.
• Not absolutist (1600s) or
even real “nations” (1700s)but working on it
• Reduced powers of nobles
through direct taxation,
confiscation of land,
gunpowder, and standing
• Reduced power of clergy,
creating professional
• Louis XI (the spider) 1461-
1483. Did much to
centralize king’s power
(king had only directly
controlled land around
Paris- ended 100 yrs war
under shadow of
Burgundians) Louis began
to seize burgundian land,
and inherited Anjou (wife)
doubled size of king’s
territory. 1st standing army
• Took power from nobles by
borrowing $$ from bankers
(thereby also creating
national debt)
• Francis I 1515-1547 A great
renaissance king
Concordat of Bologna gave
him the right to appoint
bishops in France
• Taille: head tax (direct tax)
• Mid 1400s Spain divided into several kingdoms (Castile, Aragon,
Navarre, Portugal, Grenada) All Christian except Grenadareconquista almost done. Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of
Aragon united their kingdoms in 1474 and created Spain
(Navarre joined, Grenada they conquer- only Portugal stays out)
• Reduced power of nobility- created council of Hidalgos, lesser
nobles who would owe them.
• Most important topic to them was Christianization of Spanish
territory. Got church to bring in Inquisition to hunt down
heretics, esp. amongst Jews and Muslims. Expelled all nonchristians 1502
• Conversos- people who converted (by force) but that wasn’t
always enough. About 150,000 leave Spain. 30-60,000 executed
• 100 years war led almost
directly into the War of the
Roses 1455-1485, a civil war
between the houses of York
and Lancaster.
• Ends with a new Dynasty- the
Tudors in charge- Henry
Tudor becomes Henry VIImain goal was to gain power
for the king
• Court of Star Chamber, used
law to confiscate noble
estates and fortunes
• War of Roses- power goes
back and forth between York
and Lancaster (who were
cousins) Ends with cadet
branch of Lancaster marrying
York Heiress
• Henry VII forbid nobles to
have private troops- all
military royal
• Star chamber tried people in
secret w/o jury or ability to
question witnesses against
• Parliament kept power to taxa check on the king
Decentralized States: Italy and the
Holy Roman Empire
• No national identity: 300
 Treaty of Lodi created
autonomous states with
emperor “elected” by 7 most
powerful (who pulled a lot of
strings) Hapsburgs emperors.
• Riechstag- assembly of all the
• Charles V- inherited HRE and
Spain. Sacked Rome during
Hapsburg Valois wars. Had to
deal with reformation
balance of power between
Milan, Florence, Naples vs.
Venice and Papal States
 Caught in crossfire of
ambitions between
Hapsburgs and Valois during
1500s as each tried to expand
Social Change during the
 Real breaks with Medieval past.
 Greater education, which improves everything.
Humanism is positive change.
 Study of government and what it ought to be rather
than just assuming everything is god’s will etc…
Noble Women
• Gained better access to ed- and yet….
• Upper class women had even less power than they did
during the middle ages (when men were often gone
etc…) became more and more ornamental.
Sexual double standard (rape a less serious crime than
petty theft)
Christine di Pisan
Isabella D’Este examples of women who broke
Artemesia Gentilesch mold and participated in Ren
 Did not change much from middle ages.
 Nuclear family tradition (could not afford extended)
marriage still based more on property/dowry than love
 Dramatic population growth during this period
 Printing Press: brought radical change in ability to
communicate on wide level. Made propaganda
possible- convince people that you are right. Join
causes, feel a common identity. Stimulate literacy of
 Clocks: learned to measure time- show change needed
for business hours etc… more we understand world
more power we feel