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Renaissance
Renaissance

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The great artistic revival of the 15th and 16th century that used the idealized glory of Ancient Greece and Rome as it's centerpiece; a movement of humanism and the importance of Man. The Renaissance was the artistic style of all the medias, including all of the fine arts, but also music, architecture and all forms of design. This term literally means rebirth, but today it is also used to describe the period of maturity and the full realization of the aesthetic values of Western society. Although this period stands out in history as the first in which Man is commemorated, many of the art works are still religiously-themed, and funded by church patronage. However, this is also a time of great prosperity among the secular classes; the wealthy merchant-guilds and bankers of Europe that wished the world could know of their achievements could now afford to advertise their success. The glorification of self became as legitimate as the glorification of God, and art was the arena for this show of power.

It was the Humanists that first explored the ruined remains of Greco-Roman architecture in Italy, unearthing the classical obsession with Man's importance in nature; it was they who cried out to broaden the narrow confines of artistic creation that encapsulated the Mediaeval Era. Their goal was to expand the artistic themes beyond the standard religious propaganda that were so common to Italian painting; they would deal with the New Science, with anatomy, with mathematically beautiful “perfect” ratios.

In architecture the Renaissance style revolved around the return to classical Roman and Grecian motifs. Examples from that era abound in the Middle-East and Europe, giving the architects of the Renaissance enduring testament to the skill and rationale order of that style.Renaissance mentality exemplified these features, but also employed the scientific advances that were the hall-mark characteristics of the period, allowing for neat, elegantly simple designs. The old Roman texts on architecture were reread for the first time in decades, reviving the fascination with the simplest of geometric shapes- the circle, the square and the triangle. The classical ratios that used the human body as it's standard of measurement were employed. Among these was Leon Batista Alberti, who was both an architect and a poet. His buildings emulated the stupendous grace and girth of Imperial Rome. He wrote books on the laws of perspective and on the connection between the mathematical ratios in music and design. Filippo Brunelleschi invented the 'single vanishing point' perspective and was considered the first trail-breaker in Renaissance architecture. The spectacular cathedral in Florence stands as proof of his brilliance; his bold and rash style, but also the absolute perfectionism in technique. In sculpture Donatello invented an expressive, monumental style; the themes are either religious or Classical in nature, but with an ability to express mobility and real emotion.

Reviving the artistic style of Rome was much harder for the painters than it was for the architectures, and this fact alone contributed to the various factions within Renaissance painting. Very few painting from the period survived the centuries, and painters were left to decide for themselves how best to distill the essence of Rome into 15th century life. The growing interest in naturalistic representation had nullified the last Gothic tendencies; landscapes became huge and full of intricacies of depth and horizon, the gold backgrounds finally disappeared and the ubiquitous halos were also finally done with. Even so, the difficulties facing the painters' didn't prevent them from making Renaissance painting into one of the most important periods in art history. Michelangelo was practically worshipped in his day, his influence on the entirety of Western art is incalculable; his obsession with the human form as a vehicle for expression is still unmatched. Raphael's paintings exemplified the noblest ideals of the Renaissance, bringing new life into the classical themes of the Greco-Roman culture, imbuing them with a grace and ease that the two other great painters of the period lacked. The Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli was known for his linear style and the pale female figures that were depicted with curving swirls and waving movement. Leonardo da Vinci, who single-handedly encompassed almost all the artisan trades-architect, painter, sculptor, scientist, inventor, anatomist, engineer and mathematician- had such a definitively individual signature hand that generations after him have tried to emulate it.


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