THE RENAISSANCE IN THE WESTERN WORLD
Beginning 1400 AD
|Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, Galleria dell’ Accademia, Venice, circa 1490.
Credit: Image is courtesy of Wikipedia.
Have you ever heard someone say, “He’s a real Renaissance Man”?
This seems a good thing… but what does this really mean? What it usually meant is that the person has a very broad knowledge in many areas, has many skills, and can often use expertise in one area to apply in another one. Leonardo da Vinci is often considered the ultimate example of such a person – a great painter and sculptor, engineer, scientist, inventor, anatomist, architect, musician, and writer. Leonardo was born early in the time we call the Renaissance and exemplifies the arenas in which advances were being made during that period, starting especially in the early 1400’s in Europe, especially in Italy (and especially Florence). Italy may have been a center for this due to the power and influence of the emergent city-states there at the time, some of them overseen by lords but others developing republics. The name, meaning “new life,” refers to a sort of rebirth of cultural ideals from Classical Roman and Greek times, at a time when the remnants of the culture of ancient Rome, the Byzantine civilization, were in serious decline.
The Renaissance was a time of real cultural flowering – in arts, philosophy, and science, and served as a bridge from the Middle Ages into modern times. It is marked by interest in naturalistic studies, greater realism in art, and an emphasis on empiricism. It marks a very restless, investigative period in Europe, and roughly coincides with a period sometimes called the “early modern period” in other parts of the world. During this period overall, the world saw an increase in exploration, trade, and expansion of empires.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
If you look at a medieval painting or sculpture, and then look at Renaissance works by Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, it is immediately obvious that some sort of a quantum jump into our more modern world was made in the Renaissance. The Renaissance laid some very important foundations for our modern society in terms of art, philosophy, science, medicine, and engineering, and the way we saw ourselves and the world. It may have been very difficult for our culture to make such rapid strides in so many fields without the coming together or coalescence of the people, ideals, and resources of Renaissance Europe.
This is a detailed webpage about the Renaissance, with many related pages that explore different aspects of that time period.
This is another webpage about the Renaissance, including a few links to well-known period artists.
This is a webpage from History World with a comprehensive history of the Renaissance.
This is a YouTube video that covers the highlights of the Renaissance period.