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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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Donatello

A celibate perfectionist revives classical sculpture

1386-1466

Fra Angelico

Spiritual rock star kickstarts the Italian Renaissance

1395-1455
St. Mark

St. Mark

Donatello1411

Piero della Francesca

A mathematician gets fierce with perspective

1415-1492
St. George

St. George

Donatello1415
St. John the Evangelist

St. John the Evangelist

Donatello1408-1415
Prophet Habbakuk

Prophet Habbakuk

Donatello1423-1426
Prophet Habbakuk - Detail

Prophet Habbakuk - Detail

Donatello1423-1426
Assumption of the Virgin

Assumption of the Virgin

Donatello1427
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

Sandro Botticelli

A fulcrum between old and new

1445-1510

Leonardo da Vinci

Did you know he was a vegetarian?

1452-1519

Michelangelo

Time to flex

1475-1564

Giorgione

Rich color and mood like smooth syrup

1477-1510

Raphael Sanzio

Star boy parties himself to death

1483-1520

Titian

"The Sun amidst small stars"

1488-1576

Giampietrino

Copying Leonardo da Vinci for fun and profit.

1495-1549
The Creation of Eve from Adam

The Creation of Eve from Adam

Raphael Sanzio1500
St Sebastian

St Sebastian

Raphael Sanzio1501
Madonna with Child and Saints

Madonna with Child and Saints

Raphael Sanzio1502
Mond Crucifixion

Mond Crucifixion

Raphael Sanzio1502
The Small Cowper Madonna

The Small Cowper Madonna

Raphael Sanzio1505
Self-portrait

Self-portrait

Raphael Sanzio1506
Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George and the Dragon

Raphael Sanzio1506

Andrea Palladio

Inventor of Curb Appeal, Master of the Facade

1508-1580
Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child

Giampietrino1510

Giorgio Vasari

The first art historian

1511-1574
Portrait of Bindo Altoviti

Portrait of Bindo Altoviti

Raphael Sanzio1515
Flora

Flora

Titian1515
Assumption of the Virgin

Assumption of the Virgin

Titian1516-1518
Bacchus and Ariadne

Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian1522-1523
Diana the Huntress

Diana the Huntress

Giampietrino1526
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

Sofonisba Anguissola

Intimate portraitist and confidant to the queen.

1532-1625
Temptations of St Jerome

Temptations of St Jerome

Giorgio Vasari1541
Six Tuscan Poets

Six Tuscan Poets

Giorgio Vasari1544
David and Goliath

David and Goliath

Titian1542-1544
The Sacrifice of Isaac

The Sacrifice of Isaac

Titian1542-1544
Sisyphus

Sisyphus

Titian1548-1549
Self-portrait with Bernardino Campi

Self-portrait with Bernardino Campi

Sofonisba Anguissola1550

The Lives of the Artists

Giorgio Vasari1550
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
Portrait of the Artist's Family

Portrait of the Artist's Family

Sofonisba Anguissola1557-1558
Self-portrait

Self-portrait

Sofonisba Anguissola1558
Jacob's Dream

Jacob's Dream

Giorgio Vasari1557-1558
The Burial of Christ - 1559

The Burial of Christ - 1559

Titian1559
Unknown Noblewoman

Unknown Noblewoman

Sofonisba Anguissola1560-1565
Apotheosis of Cosimo I

Apotheosis of Cosimo I

Giorgio Vasari1563-1565
Allegory of Time Governed by Prudence

Allegory of Time Governed by Prudence

Titian1550-1565
Christ Carrying the Cross

Christ Carrying the Cross

Titian1565
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

Fede Galizia

A woman in Italy invents the still life

1578-1630
The Last Judgement

The Last Judgement

Giorgio Vasari1572-1579
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
Cherries in a Silver Compote

Cherries in a Silver Compote

Fede Galizia1610