Renaissance art

The Renaissance, also known as "Rinascimento" (in Italian), was an influential cultural movement which brought about a period of scientific revolution and artistic transformation, at the dawn of modern European history. It marks the transitional period between the end of the Middle Ages and the start of the Modern Age. The Renaissance is usually considered to have begun in the 14th century in Italy and the 16th century in northern Europe.

The term Rebirth (Rinascenza), to indicate the flourishing of artistic and scientific activities starting in Italy in the 13th century, was first used by Italian historian Giorgio Vasari in the Vite, published in 1550. The term Renaissance is the French translation, used by French historian Jules Michelet, and expanded upon by Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt (both in the 1860s). Rebirth is used in two ways. First, it means rediscovery of ancient classical texts and learning and their applications in the arts and sciences. Second, it means that the results of these intellectual activities created a revitalization of European culture in general. Thus it is possible to speak of the Renaissance in two different but meaningful ways: A rebirth of classical learning and knowledge through the rediscovery of ancient texts, and also a rebirth of European culture in general.

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, an example of the blend of art and science during the Renaissance.[edit]
Multiple Renaissances
During the last quarter of the 20th century many scholars took the view that the Renaissance was perhaps only one of many such movements. This is in large part due to the work of historians like Charles H. Haskins (1870–1937), who made a convincing case for a "Renaissance of the 12th century," as well as by historians arguing for a "Carolingian Renaissance." Both of these concepts are now widely accepted by the scholarly community at large; as a result, the present trend among historians is to discuss each so-called renaissance in more particular terms, e.g., the Italian Renaissance, the English Renaissance, etc. This terminology is particularly useful because it eliminates the need for fitting "The Renaissance" into a chronology that previously held that it was preceded by the Middle Ages and followed by the Reformation, which many believe to be not accurate. The entire period is now often replaced by the term "Early Modern". (See periodisation, Lumpers and splitters)

Other periods of cultural rebirth have also been termed a "renaissance"; such as the Harlem Renaissance or the San Francisco Renaissance. The other renaissances are not considered further in this article, which will concentrate on the Renaissance as the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age.

Critical views
Since the term was first created in the 19th century, historians have various interpretations on the Renaissance.

The predominant view is that the Renaissance of the 15th century in Italy, spreading through the rest of Europe, represented a reconnection of the west with classical antiquity, the absorption of knowledge—particularly mathematics—from Arabic, the return of experimentalism, the focus on the importance of living well in the present (e.g. humanism), an explosion of the dissemination of knowledge brought on by printing and the creation of new techniques in art, poetry and architecture which led to a radical change in the style and substance of the arts and letters. This period, in this view, represents Europe emerging from a long period as a backwater, and the rise of commerce and exploration. The Italian Renaissance is often labelled as the beginning of the "modern" epoch.

Marxist historians view the Renaissance as a pseudo-revolution with the changes in art, literature, and philosophy affecting only a tiny minority of the very wealthy and powerful while life for the great mass of the European population was unchanged from the Middle Ages. They thus deny that it is an event of much importance.

Today most historians view the Renaissance as largely an intellectual and ideological change, rather than a substantive one. Moreover, many historians now point out that most of the negative social factors popularly associated with the "medieval" period - poverty, ignorance, warfare, religious and political persecution, and so forth - seem to have actually worsened during this age of Machiavelli, the Wars of Religion, the corrupt Borgia Popes, and the intensified witch-hunts of the 16th century. Many of the common people who lived during the "Renaissance" are known to have been concerned by the developments of the era rather than viewing it as the "golden age" imagined by certain 19th century authors. Perhaps the most important factor of the Renaissance is that those involved in the cultural movements in question - the artists, writers, and their patrons - believed they were living in a new era that was a clean break from the Middle Ages, even if much of the rest of the population seems to have viewed the period as an intensification of social maladies.

Johan Huizinga (1872–1945) acknowledged the existence of the Renaissance but questioned whether it was a positive change. He argued that the Renaissance was a period of decline from the high Middle Ages, which destroyed much that was important. The Latin language, for instance, had evolved greatly from the classical period and was still used in the church and by others as a living language. However, the Renaissance obsession with classical purity saw Latin revert to its classical form and its natural evolution halted. Robert S. Lopez has contended that it was a period of deep economic recession. Meanwhile George Sarton and Lynn Thorndike have both criticised how the Renaissance affected science, arguing that progress was slowed.

Start of the Renaissance
The Santa Maria del Fiore church of Florence, Italy. Florence was the capital of the RenaissanceThe Renaissance has no set starting point or place. It happened gradually at different places at different times and there are no defined dates or places for when the Middle Ages ended. The starting place of the Renaissance is almost universally ascribed to Central Italy, especially the city of Florence. One early Renaissance figure is the poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), the first writer to embody the spirit of the Renaissance.

Petrarch (1304–1374) is another early Renaissance figure. As part of the humanist movement he concluded that the height of human accomplishment had been reached in the Roman Empire and the ages since have been a period of social rot which he labeled the Dark Ages. Petrarch saw history as social, art and literary advancement, and not as a series of set religious events. Re-birth meant the rediscovery of ancient Roman and Greek Latin heritage through ancient manuscripts and the humanist method of learning. These new ideas from the past (called the "new learning" at the time) triggered the coming advancements in art, science and other areas.

Another possible starting point is the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. It was a turning point in warfare as cannon and gunpowder became a central element. In addition, Byzantine-Greek scholars fled west to Rome bringing renewed energy and interest in the Greek and Roman heritage, and it perhaps represented the end of the old religious order in Europe.