Teacher Notes Because Italy was a trading center, Italian ideas and art spread across Europe. Many people came to study in Florence, Venice, and other centers and brought the ideas and techniques home to universities and art schools. One invention hastened this process: the invention of the printing press. In about 1450, Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press that used moveable type, made from durable, metal pieces. His invention caused a revolution in publishing and the spreading of ideas. Books could be made in a matter of days, not months, while short pamphlets could be produced en masse, cheaply and quickly. More reading materials led more people to learn to read, and decreased the power of the Church and the State over the spread of information.
Nicholas Copernicus had several findings which he tried to publish to the scientific community but were stopped by the church. Night and day were caused by the Earth rotating on its axis was one of them. Although Copernicus was a religious person and dedicated his book to the Pope, the Catholic Church condemned his book as heresy, because it contradicted the church’s belief that the Earth was the center of the universe.
In Spain, Queen Isabella I was such a devout Catholic that she feared that anyone who was not would threaten the existence of the church.
She also weakened the feudal organization of society by reducing the power of lords and local leaders in order to enhance her own. Her support of Columbus’s expedition would lead to the vast enrichment of Spain with the wealth of the New World. From other perspectives Isabella was a terrible queen. Her “reconquista” or re-conquest of Spain led to the expulsion of Jews who would not convert to Christianity in 1492, and of Muslims in 1500. Her support of Columbus led to the genocide of Native Americans in the New World. Her actions toward Jews and Muslims made her a favorite of the Catholic Church, which labeled her and her husband, Ferdinand, as “The Catholic Kings
Music of the Renaissance. The development of music did not move at the same revolutionary pace as it did for other arts. The problem was that musicians had no ancient models to draw on, and so music developed much more slowly from Medieval roots, and did not completely escape them. The most notable musical genre to emerge was the madrigal. Although the madrigal had first emerged in the 14th century as a short poem for two voices set to music, it came bask in the 16th in a freer form with four to five voices. Renaissance musicians also invented new instruments, including the harpsichord and the violin.
William Shakespeare-. Like other renaissance figures, he often drew on ancient sources—borrowing plots, themes, and characters from ancient Roman and Greek stories and plays. Over the years since his death, his plays have become so popular that they have left a lasting impression on the English language—including many sayings, phrases, and, of course, stories and characters that are used every day.
Niccolo Machiavelli’s name is usually invoked when people speak derisively of the “end justifying the means.” He was an extremely influential thinker for other reasons, too. He urged rulers to be practical and realistic, to look forward, not backward, and he made the observation, often cited by later political writers including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, that power corrupts. His ruler should be motivated by love of his country, and not by strict Christian ethics.
Renaissance” means rebirth. The Renaissance was a “rebirth” of ideas and knowledge from classical times. The word emphasizes the role that classicism played in shaping Renaissance thinking in politics, art, architecture, writing, and science. The idea of “humanism” was central to the Renaissance. In Medieval times, people were encouraged to be passive and meek, and to accept life as an inevitable series of supernatural events. Humanism emphasized the importance of human action, the authority of one’s own observations and reason over religious teaching and tradition. Not surprisingly, the Roman Catholic Church saw humanism as heresy.
Italy was a key center for European trades in the Mediterranean, as well a center for Crusaders traveling to and from the Holy Land. Because it was such an important center for trade, Italy had a dense population, and a wealthy merchant class that could support the arts.
Florence was ideally located in northern Italy, at the intersection of key trade routes. In addition, Florence was an independent city-state with a republican form of government, but virtually ruled by a single, extremely wealthy family called the Medici’s. The Medici’s were patrons of the arts. They encouraged the development of skilled painters, architects, and sculptors, but they also hosted philosophers, writers, and poets. Florence became a hub of humanism as aspiring thinkers and artists flocked there to learn from, and compete with, each other.
Renaissance painting: The contrast between medieval and Renaissance painting is striking. Studying the art of classical Greece and Rome, and developing new methods of their own, Renaissance painters developed images that were more accurate, lifelike, and emotionally evocative. The major innovations of the period included the use of perspective, shading, oil-based paints, and realistic body positions and movement.
Renaissance sculptors emulated the classical models—using nudes, and making their art emotionally evocative and anatomically realistic. One of the first was Florence native Donatello, whose, “David” was widely regarded as being miraculously lifelike. Florence native Michelangelo’s subsequent David was even more renowned, and may still be seen in Florence.
In the Renaissance, literature became more personal. Florence native Dante Alighieri wrote the Divine Comedy in the early 1300s, in a manner more personal and emotionally evocative than anything that had been written in the medieval period. It was also written in the “vernacular” or, the language of the common people—in this case, Italian. The Divine Comedy is an epic poem that consciously imitates classical Roman epics. Virgil, the Roman poet, leads the main character, Dante, on a tour through the afterlife, including purgatory, hell, and heaven. Although the Divine Comedy was technically written in the medieval period, it is considered the last great medieval text and the first great piece of the Renaissance.
For a short period, from 1494 to 1512, the Medici’s were exiled in a political coup, but they returned. It was during that period that a Florentine statesman named Niccolo Machiavelli became an important diplomat and leader for the city. When the Medici returned, he was imprisoned and tortured for allegedly being a part of the coups, but he maintained his innocence and was later released into exile. He drew on his political experience to write a number of books, his most famous being The Prince. In it, he offers a frank, and some say cynical, view of government. Generally, Machiavelli’s name is usually invoked when people speak derisively of the “end justifying the means.”
One key feature of the Renaissance, epitomized in Florence, was a money economy. In Florence, people could engage in more than one occupation or business. Bankers could make loans or change currency to encourage business. The city leaders encouraged trade and even built a special marketplace, called the Mercato Nuovo, where cloth merchants and bankers could engage in trade without the presence of weapons or food, which were banned from the area. The money of Florence, Florins, was the most widely respected currency in Europe. A money economy required a class of literate clerks to record transactions.
Because Italy was a trading center, Italian ideas and art spread across Europe. Many people came to study in Florence, Venice, and other centers and brought the ideas and techniques home to universities and art schools. One invention hastened this process: the invention of the printing press. In about 1450, Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press that used moveable type, made from durable, metal pieces. His invention caused a revolution in publishing and the spreading of ideas. Books could be made in a matter of days, not months, while short pamphlets could be produced en masse, cheaply and quickly.
NOTABLES OF THE RENAISSANCE THROUGHOUT EUROPE:
Michelangelo (1475-1564). Florentine painter and sculptor. Friend of the Medici family. Considered one of the greatest artists in the Renaissance. Is best-known for his statues of David and Moses, and for his painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
Titian (1488-90 to 1576). Prolific Italian painter centered in Venice. His work was known for its precision, color, and ability to add personality to figures. Titian worked for royalty, and won the favor of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who made him the court painter of Italy and even a knight.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Born in Italy, apprenticed in Florence. The true Renaissance man, da Vinci was a painter, scientist, inventor, engineer, sculptor, and architect. His most famous paintings include the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Like other figures of the Renaissance, Leonardo believed in close observation and study.