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Italian Renaissance

Cultural rebirth though intellectual inquiry

“Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses—especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”Leonardo da Vinci

In feudal europe, art and culture was inextricably tied to the Christian church. The massive gothic cathedrals and monasteries were the de-facto schools of the day, and both taught the arts, and funded artistic production. But in the early 15th century, in Florence Italy, a man named Cosimo de' Medici was about to steal art back from the church and give it to business.

Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici was the head of the Medici Bank, the largest bank in Europe. In 1434, after more than a decade of political grappling with the previous Florentine dynasty, he gained the full support of the local government, and rebuilt Florence into the financial capital of the western world. With his family's connections through marriage and trade, Cosimo was able to bring stability to Florence that soon spread throughout Italy. Flourishing trade spawned a wealthy middle-class, and connected previously isolated cities. The new commercial elite was hungry for culture and invention, and they had the money to pay for it. Capitalism wanted art.

And here we have the beginning of the Renaissance, a massive cultural movement that swept through Europe, and evolved distinctly in France, Spain and Northern Europe. For the first time in centuries, art was partially divorced from the church, and while religious commissions continued, artists and writers began to look back to classical antiquity. Wealthy patrons were immortalized in lavish portraits, and works like Botticelli's Birth of Venus sparked a renewed interests in Greek and Roman mythology and values. The foundations of humanism, laid nearly a century before by the scholar Petrarch, were built on by writers like Niccolò Machiavelli and even Pope Pius II, a himself a humanist writer and diplomat.

It’s important to note that at first the Italian Renaissance flourished only among society’s elite. While most of Europe was still steeped in feudalism, in urban centers, painters, sculptors, inventors and writers like Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Raphael, Fede Galizia and Giorgio Vasari were sponsored by wealthy patrons to push art and science to new heights. To paraphrase author William Gibson, the future had arrived, but it was not evenly distributed.

Until 1440, when the German blacksmith Johannes Gutenberg revolutionized printed communication with the invention of movable type. Gutenberg’s movable type and printing press allowed writings to be printed quickly and cheaply, bringing the ideas of the intellectual elite to the common people. Broadsheets, the newspapers of the time, could be typeset in an afternoon, and printed at the rate of 240 impressions an hour. Renaissance painting was still the purview of the rich, but the Renaissance ideas of human agency, rationalism and critical thinking began to take hold throughout Europe.

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The Mourning of Christ

The Mourning of Christ

Giotto di Bondone1304-1306
Altarpiece of Santa Reparata — Back

Altarpiece of Santa Reparata — Back

Giotto di Bondone1310
Madonna Enthroned

Madonna Enthroned

Giotto di Bondone1310
St. Mark

St. Mark

Donatello1411
St. George

St. George

Donatello1415
St. John the Evangelist

St. John the Evangelist

Donatello1408-1415
The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

Fra Angelico1420-1423
Fiesole Altarpiece

Fiesole Altarpiece

Fra Angelico1424-1425
The Annunciation and Life of the Virgin

The Annunciation and Life of the Virgin

Fra Angelico1426
Prophet Habbakuk

Prophet Habbakuk

Donatello1423-1426
Prophet Habbakuk - Detail

Prophet Habbakuk - Detail

Donatello1423-1426
Assumption of the Virgin

Assumption of the Virgin

Donatello1427
The Virgin and Child with St. Dominic and Thomas Aquinas

The Virgin and Child with St. Dominic and Thomas Aquinas

Fra Angelico1430
Delivery of the Keys to St Peter and the Ascension of Christ

Delivery of the Keys to St Peter and the Ascension of Christ

Donatello1425-1430
Last Judgment

Last Judgment

Fra Angelico1431

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Filippo BrunelleschiArnolfo di CambioEmilio De FabrisGiorgio Vasari1296-1436
Saint Anthony Tempted by a Lump of Gold

Saint Anthony Tempted by a Lump of Gold

Fra Angelico1436
Christ Crowned with Thorns

Christ Crowned with Thorns

Fra Angelico1438-1439
The Baptism of Christ

The Baptism of Christ

Piero della Francesca1448-1450
Portrait of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

Portrait of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

Piero della Francesca1451

Fra Angelico

Spiritual rock star kickstarts the Italian Renaissance

1395-1455
Adoration of the Magi

Adoration of the Magi

Fra Angelico1440-1460
Flagellation of Christ

Flagellation of Christ

Piero della Francesca1455-1460
Polyptych of the Misericordia — Detail of the Madonna

Polyptych of the Misericordia — Detail of the Madonna

Piero della Francesca1460-1462

Donatello

A celibate perfectionist revives classical sculpture

1386-1466
Portrait of the Duke of Urbino

Portrait of the Duke of Urbino

Piero della Francesca1465-1466
Portrait of the Duchess of Urbino

Portrait of the Duchess of Urbino

Piero della Francesca1465-1466
Vision of Constantine

Vision of Constantine

Piero della Francesca1452-1466
Polyptych of Perugia

Polyptych of Perugia

Piero della Francesca1470
The Virgin with Child, Angels and Saints

The Virgin with Child, Angels and Saints

Piero della Francesca1472-1474
Bust of a Warrior in a Winged Helmet

Bust of a Warrior in a Winged Helmet

Leonardo da Vinci1475-1480
Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene

Carlo Crivelli1480
The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti, I

The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti, I

Sandro Botticelli1483
The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti, II

The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti, II

Sandro Botticelli1483
Portrait of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro

Portrait of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro

Piero della Francesca1483
The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti, III

The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti, III

Sandro Botticelli1483
The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus

Sandro Botticelli1483-1485
The Annunciation, with St. Emidius

The Annunciation, with St. Emidius

Carlo Crivelli1486
Study of a Woman's Hands

Study of a Woman's Hands

Leonardo da Vinci1490
Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor

Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor

Carlo Crivelli1490

Piero della Francesca

A mathematician gets fierce with perspective

1415-1492
The Last Supper

The Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci1495-1498
Pietà

Pietà

Michelangelo1498-1499
The Creation of Eve from Adam

The Creation of Eve from Adam

Raphael Sanzio1500
Saint Francis Collecting the Blood of Christ

Saint Francis Collecting the Blood of Christ

Carlo Crivelli1490-1500
St Sebastian

St Sebastian

Raphael Sanzio1501
Madonna with Child and Saints

Madonna with Child and Saints

Raphael Sanzio1502
Mond Crucifixion

Mond Crucifixion

Raphael Sanzio1502
A map of the Arno valley and surrounding areas

A map of the Arno valley and surrounding areas

Leonardo da Vinci1503-1504
A bird's-eye map of western Tuscany

A bird's-eye map of western Tuscany

Leonardo da Vinci1503-1504
David

David

Michelangelo1501-1504
The Small Cowper Madonna

The Small Cowper Madonna

Raphael Sanzio1505
Young Man with Arrow

Young Man with Arrow

Giorgione1505
Self-portrait

Self-portrait

Raphael Sanzio1506
Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George and the Dragon

Raphael Sanzio1506
Laura

Laura

Giorgione1506
Doni Tondo

Doni Tondo

Michelangelo1507
Virgin of the Rocks, 2nd Version

Virgin of the Rocks, 2nd Version

Leonardo da Vinci1483-1508
The Tempest

The Tempest

Giorgione1508
The Three Philosophers

The Three Philosophers

Giorgione1505-1509
Pastoral Concert

Pastoral Concert

GiorgioneTitian1509

Villa Farnesina

Baldassarre Peruzzi1506-1510
Portrait of a Young Man

Portrait of a Young Man

Giorgione1510

Giorgione

Rich color and mood like smooth syrup

1477-1510
Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child

Giampietrino1510
Sleeping Venus

Sleeping Venus

Giorgione1508-1510
Salome

Salome

Giampietrino1510
Adoration of the Shepherds

Adoration of the Shepherds

Giorgione1505-1510

Sandro Botticelli

A fulcrum between old and new

1445-1510
Notes on reproduction

Notes on reproduction

Leonardo da Vinci1511
The superficial anatomy of the shoulder and neck

The superficial anatomy of the shoulder and neck

Leonardo da Vinci1510-1511
The muscles of the shoulder

The muscles of the shoulder

Leonardo da Vinci1510-1511
The bones of the foot, and the shoulder

The bones of the foot, and the shoulder

Leonardo da Vinci1510-1511
The veins and muscles of the arm

The veins and muscles of the arm

Leonardo da Vinci1510-1511
The foetus in the womb

The foetus in the womb

Leonardo da Vinci1511
Sacred and Profane Love

Sacred and Profane Love

Titian1514
Triumph of Galatea

Triumph of Galatea

Raphael Sanzio1514
Flora

Flora

Titian1515
A map of the Pontine marshes

A map of the Pontine marshes

Leonardo da Vinci1515
Portrait of Bindo Altoviti

Portrait of Bindo Altoviti

Raphael Sanzio1515
Assumption of the Virgin

Assumption of the Virgin

Titian1516-1518

Leonardo da Vinci

Did you know he was a vegetarian?

1452-1519

Raphael Sanzio

Star boy parties himself to death

1483-1520
Bacchus and Ariadne

Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian1522-1523
Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child

Giampietrino1510-1525
Madonna of the Cherries

Madonna of the Cherries

Giampietrino1525
Diana the Huntress

Diana the Huntress

Giampietrino1526
Cleopatra

Cleopatra

Giampietrino1524-1526
Christ Carrying His Cross

Christ Carrying His Cross

Giampietrino1530
The Penitent Magdalene

The Penitent Magdalene

Giampietrino1530
Mars, Venus and Amor

Mars, Venus and Amor

Titian1530
Man with a Quilted Sleeve

Man with a Quilted Sleeve

Titian1530
Temptations of St Jerome

Temptations of St Jerome

Giorgio Vasari1541
David and Goliath

David and Goliath

Titian1542-1544
The Sacrifice of Isaac

The Sacrifice of Isaac

Titian1542-1544
Six Tuscan Poets

Six Tuscan Poets

Giorgio Vasari1544

Giampietrino

Copying Leonardo da Vinci for fun and profit.

1495-1549
Sisyphus

Sisyphus

Titian1548-1549
The Lives of the Artists

The Lives of the Artists

Giorgio Vasari

The first encyclopedia of artist biographies. It may be nearly 500 years old, but it's still fun to read.

1550
Self-portrait with Bernardino Campi

Self-portrait with Bernardino Campi

Sofonisba Anguissola1550
Descent of Christ Into Limbo

Descent of Christ Into Limbo

Agnolo Bronzino1552
Glory

Glory

Titian1551-1554
The Chess Game

The Chess Game

Sofonisba Anguissola1555
Portrait of Doge Francesco Venier

Portrait of Doge Francesco Venier

Titian1554-1556
Jacob's Dream

Jacob's Dream

Giorgio Vasari1557-1558
Self-portrait

Self-portrait

Sofonisba Anguissola1558
Portrait of the Artist's Family

Portrait of the Artist's Family

Sofonisba Anguissola1557-1558
The Burial of Christ - 1559

The Burial of Christ - 1559

Titian1559

Michelangelo

Time to flex

1475-1564
Unknown Noblewoman

Unknown Noblewoman

Sofonisba Anguissola1560-1565
Allegory of Time Governed by Prudence

Allegory of Time Governed by Prudence

Titian1550-1565
Christ Carrying the Cross

Christ Carrying the Cross

Titian1565
Apotheosis of Cosimo I

Apotheosis of Cosimo I

Giorgio Vasari1563-1565
The Tribute Money

The Tribute Money

Titian1560-1568
The Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane

Giorgio Vasari1570
Self-portrait

Self-portrait

Titian1565-1570
The Burial of Christ

The Burial of Christ

Titian1572

Giorgio Vasari

The first art historian

1511-1574

Titian

"The Sun amidst small stars"

1488-1576
The Last Judgement

The Last Judgement

Giorgio Vasari1572-1579

Andrea Palladio

Inventor of Curb Appeal, Master of the Facade

1508-1580

Villa Capra, 'La Rotonda'

Andrea Palladio1592
Judith with the Head of Holophernes

Judith with the Head of Holophernes

Fede Galizia1596
Peaches in a White Ceramic Basket

Peaches in a White Ceramic Basket

Fede Galizia1602
A Crystal Fruit Stand with Peaches, Quinces, and Jasmine

A Crystal Fruit Stand with Peaches, Quinces, and Jasmine

Fede Galizia1607

Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore

Andrea Palladio1566-1610
Cherries in a Silver Compote

Cherries in a Silver Compote

Fede Galizia1610

Sofonisba Anguissola

Intimate portraitist and confidant to the queen

1532-1625

Fede Galizia

A woman in Italy invents the still life

1578-1630