Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Briefly explain what the Italian Renaissance was: When did it happen? (I'm looking for dates or centuries) Briefly define this event (make sure you note wha | WriteDen

Briefly explain what the Italian Renaissance was: When did it happen? (I’m looking for dates or centuries) Briefly define this event (make sure you note wha


After learning about the Italian Renaissance in this week’s lecture (Chapter 11 lecture), answer the following question. Follow the directions carefully in order to receive full credit. 

Chapter 11 Lecture Question:

In this week’s lecture, you learned about the Italian Renaissance- how it began, how it spread, and what it produced. Considering this, which group of people do you think played the most important role in the establishment and spread of the Renaissance- patrons or artists/scholars?

Directions for Answering the Question:

  • Using information from the lecture, 
    1. Briefly explain what the Italian Renaissance was:
      • When did it happen? (I'm looking for dates or centuries)
      • Briefly define this event (make sure you note what artists and scholars were trying to imitate!)
    2. Explain who patrons were and how they helped to spread the Renaissance
      • make sure to discuss the role of competition!
      • In your explanation, provide at least 1 specific example of a patron from the time period (offer a specific name, not a group of people)
    3. Discuss the new techniques and ideas that artists and scholars developed
      • Describe (don't just identify) one example of a new artistic technique from the time period and an artist who used it
      • Describe (don't just identify) one example of a new scholarly idea from the time period and a scholar who used it
    4. State whether you believe patrons or artists/scholars played the most important role in the establishment and spread of the Renaissance
    5. Fully explain your choice by using specific information and examples from the lecture (you may refer back to some of the examples and information you already presented in order to justify your answer). 

In my last lecture we discussed the catastrophes of the 1300s and 1400s and their impact. In this

lecture, we're going to talk about something a little more positive, less depressing, the

Renaissance. Now Renaissance means rebirth or revival, and we've already talked about a couple

of small Renaissances, the Carolingian Renaissance in the 800s and the 12th century

Renaissance. But these two Renaissances were nothing in comparison to the Renaissance that

took place between 1350 and 1550. This Renaissance began in Italy, hence its official name, the

Italian Renaissance. But this Renaissance was so important and so influential that most people

know it simply as the Renaissance with a capital R. The Renaissance was not only important

because of the widespread impact on the culture of Europe at the time, but also because many

historians point to this period of time as the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the

modern era.

[SLIDE] So our questions for this lecture are what developments in literature and art took place

during the Italian Renaissance, and how did government develop in the Italian city-states, and

how did this development influence the Renaissance? So what exactly was the Renaissance?

[SLIDE] In short, the Italian Renaissance was a rebirth of education, science, art, literature, and

music following the catastrophes of the late Middle Ages. Much of this rebirth was connected to

a desire to imitate and understand the ancient Greeks and Romans. But it was much more than

that. It represented a desire to think in new ways and to express beauty and the richness of life.

[SLIDE] Humanists were writers who studied ancient Latin and Greek texts during the

Renaissance. They primarily did so because they wanted to find models for how people should

behave in war, and families as rulers, and in many other roles. And they looked to the ancient

Romans and Greeks because they thought that they were the perfect role models. And it makes

sense. The people of Italy at this time still saw the ruins of ancient Roman buildings in their daily

lives. The Colosseum of Rome, the ancient churches that Constantine built, the old statues of the

Roman generals and emperors. Many of these were still standing during the Renaissance. Adding

to this, as Europe began to recover from the Black Death, trade picked up again and people

began to bring back ancient works of literature. It was during this time that Europeans were

reintroduced to works by ancient Greeks like Sophocles, Euripides, and Thucydides. So during

the 1400s and the 1500s, Humanists expressed a renewed interest in the old manuscripts and

texts written by the Romans and Greeks. But the Humanists didn't just read these old

manuscripts and texts. They analyzed them from every angle, looking for the key to success in

life and ideal models to follow in order to obtain that success. [SLIDE] One of the most famous

Humanists was Francesco Petrarca, better known as Petrarch. Petrarch spent a lot of time

searching through old books and archives to recover lost texts written by the ancient Romans and

Greeks. And he was particularly interested in the rhetoric used in these ancient texts. Rhetoric is

the art of persuasive speaking during which the speaker tries to persuade the audience of

something. Petrarch thought that the ability to persuade people was an important political tool,

and he wanted to know how the ancient Greeks and Romans did it so that he could use their

strategies. [SLIDE] Lorenzo Valla was another important humanist who followed in Petrarch’s

footsteps. Lorenzo Valla developed a method of studying ancient texts called philology.

Philology is the study of how culture and events influence developments in language. Valla

understood that ancient languages, like Latin, had evolved over time and had been influenced by

various events and developments so that words and phrases came to have different meanings

based on the time period they were used. This development in language still exists today. We can

take the word “cool” as a good example of this. Today, someone might use this word to say

something is awesome or neat. But, in the early 1900s or even the 1950s, that word was only

connected to a temperature. So, Lorenzo Valla was looking back at ancient texts to try to

understand the original meaning of words and how they had changed over time. And this type of

study actually helped him identify some documents that were claimed to be “authentically

ancient” as fraudulent. He could tell by the language in them that they were actually written

much later than people claimed.

[SLIDE] Now I told you in my previous lectures that the kings of Europe gained power in the

late Middle Ages. And in response to this, intellectuals also began to consider what made a good

king and the most effective way for a king to rule his government. This produced a new type of

political literature. Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince represents the best example of this.

Machiavelli lived in Florence, Italy, and he worked as the secretary for the government in

Florence, as the secretary, he went on numerous diplomatic missions to France and Germany,

and he saw firsthand how the rulers and officials and these kingdoms ran their governments and

how they were organized differently and similarly to the government in Florence. This

experience encouraged Machiavelli to write down his theories about the best way to acquire and

expand political power, and how to restore and maintain order in a kingdom. Prior to

Machiavelli, in the Middle Ages, people thought that rulers should rule entirely based on

Christian moral principles. Machiavelli did away with this sort of thinking. He argued that our

rulers' actions should be geared towards gaining more power, not constrained by morality. He

maintained that since other rulers were willing to do unethical, unfair, and even evil things in

order to gain an advantage, then so should you. In short, he thought that a ruler must be willing

to forget his conscience if he wanted to be the most powerful ruler and have the most powerful

kingdom. What connects Machiavelli to the Renaissance was not his approach for rulers to gain

power, but rather the end by which he hoped the means would prove worthwhile. Machiavelli

hoped that a strong ruler would help to create a more stable political environment from which a

more ideal government could emerge. And in Machiavelli’s opinion the most ideal type of

government was a republic like the ancient Romans established 2 thousands years ago.

[SLIDE] Renaissance artists also looked to the ancient Romans and Greeks. Like the Greeks and

Romans, Renaissance artists sought to depict ideal beauty for both men and women. We're going

to look at a few examples of this, and as we do, you'll notice that the subjects tend to be Christian

in nature, but the way Renaissance artists depict the human body echoes the ancient Greek and

Roman depiction of ideal beauty. [SLIDE] The first artist I want to discuss is Donatello, who

was from Florence. And Donatello is most famous for his statue of The David. [SLIDE] You'll

notice that at the bottom of the statue, David is standing on Goliath's head. But it appears that the

artist, Donatello, was more focused on depicting ideal male beauty than he was on portraying the

subject matter itself. [SLIDE] Raphael was already known as one of Italy's best painters at the

age of 25. Like Donatello, Raphael appears in his artwork to be more focused on depicting ideal

beauty than he was on the actual subject matter. In addition to ideal beauty, Raffaello is also

famous for using a new artistic technique called linear perspective. This technique used geometry

to give the illusion of depth to make the image look three-dimensional. [SLIDE] Two examples

of Raffaello's focus on ideal beauty and linear perspective are his Madonna of the Baldacchino

and The Marriage of the Virgin. You can really see his use of linear perspective in the image on

the right in the tiling on the ground in the background there. [SLIDE] Michelangelo was another

artistic giant of the Renaissance. In 1508 Pope Julius II called Michelangelo to Rome to paint the

ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which is a chapel in the Palace of the Pope. [SLIDE] This took

about four years for Michelangelo to complete, and the images represent stories from the Book

of Genesis. But like other Renaissance artists, Michelangelo used the biblical stories to show

what he believed was the ideal human body. You can see this in the way that Michelangelo

depicted Adam at the center. [SLIDE] Another example of this is his statue of The David. This

statue is humongous. It is 14 feet tall, and it took Michelangelo about three years to complete.

Now you may have noticed a trend at this point. We've talked about Michelangelo, Donatello,

and Raffaello. If you've ever seen the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you may know that there is

only one left, and that is Leonardo. Of course, keep in mind that The Ninja Turtles are named

after the artists, not the other way around. [SLIDE] So Leonardo da Vinci is best known for his

Mona Lisa and [SLIDE] The Last Supper. [SLIDE] Like the other artists of his time, Leonardo

da Vinci was interested in being able to depict the ideal human body. And Leonardo

demonstrated that geometry wasn't just for painting buildings and architecture. It was also useful

for depicting people. [SLIDE] And this is particularly evident in his Vitruvian Man, which uses

geometry to proportionately depict the male body. In this work, he determined that the ideal male

body was eight heads high. [SLIDE] But in addition to portraying ideal beauty, Leonardo also

liked to depict nature as it appeared in real life. He made careful studies of blades of grass, cloud

formations, and animals.

[SLIDE] So artists were creating all of these beautiful paintings and sculptures, and humanists

and political theorists were writing texts based on ancient Greek and Roman thought. But it's

common sense that you can only be a successful artist or author if someone buys your work.

Even Renaissance artists and writers had to pay their bills. And this is where the Renaissance

patron fits in. A patron is a person or a group of people who commission a piece of art work or a

text. To commission something means to pay someone to create something for you. The people

who have the disposable income necessary to commission art and literature at this time were

those kings, lords, and of course, the people in charge of the churches. When a patron wanted a

painting or a sculpture created, they often had a particular artist in mind who they wanted to do

it. For example, I told you a few minutes ago that when Pope Julius II wanted to paint the Sistine

Chapel, he called on Michelangelo specifically. And while the elite commissioned art because

they wanted something pretty to look at, they also did so because they got something out of it,

too. By commissioning art and literature, kings, lords, and even popes demonstrated their power

to others. They demonstrated that they had the wealth necessary to commission art or a piece of

literature. Hoping to appear the most powerful of all, the elite of Italy often competed with each

other to bring in the best artists and the best intellectuals to their court.

[SLIDE] So let's turn now to look at the actual elite of Italy and why they wanted to show off

their power. So a couple lectures ago, we talked about the rise of cities. And I explained to you

that in the 1100s and 1200s, people began giving nearby lords money in exchange for their rights

as citizens of the city. Most lords accepted this exchange, but sometimes lords were not as

willing to give up their claim to a nearby city, and the townspeople had to go and take it by force.

And they did so by forming communes. And these communes were particularly common in north

and central Italy. In the 1200s there were over 100 of these independent communes in Italy, but

over time, they began to come together to form city-states in which the largest city represented

the capital of the surrounding area. [SLIDE] So, unlike England or France, Italy wasn’t one

unified kingdom. Instead, it was a diverse group of city-states that had their own culture and

ways of doing things. The map on your screen shows the city-states of Italy in 1494. So the most

powerful and wealthiest merchant families living in these Renaissance city-states often took

charge and created different forms of government. The leaders of these city-states helped to

bring about and expand the Renaissance because they competed to bring in the best artists and

intellectuals. From their perspective, if they could turn their city-state into the cultural center of

Italy, then this would demonstrate that they were the best leaders in all of Italy and all of Europe.

[SLIDE] Your textbook mentions in passing that city-states like Florence, Venice, and Milan

create different forms of government. But, the chapter doesn’t go into enough detail about these

different types of government, so I want to give you a little more detail about. So let's talk about

a few of these city-states and the people that were in charge of them. Florence was a city-state

with a theoretical Republican government. But in 1434, the wealthiest merchant in Florence,

Cosimo de Medici, took control of the government. He allowed elections to continue and

consequently maintained an image of Florence as a Republican government. But in reality, the

only choices people had in these elections were various members of the Medici family. To

counteract this image of tyranny, Cosimo and the other Medicis became big patrons of art and

literature. By commissioning lots of artwork and literature, the Medicis shaped an image of

themselves as generous and good leaders. Cosimo also commissioned art to justify his family's

power in the city. [SLIDE] For example, in the private chapel of his palace, Cosimo had artists

paint him alongside the three wise men as they traveled to see the newborn Jesus Christ. In doing

so, Cosimo portrayed himself as similar to the ancient kings who first recognized the holiness of

Christ. The Medicis' reliance on artwork and literature to maintain sole power in a Republican

government in turn encouraged the spread of the Renaissance in Italy.

[SLIDE] Whereas Florence had a Republican government, this wasn't the case for all Italian

city-states. Some, like the city-state of Urbino, were governed by princes. They were a

monarchy. The term prince meant that the ruler of the state possessed a formal title such as

Marquise, Duke, or King. So the prince of a city-state could be of royal lineage, but not

necessarily. None of these princes, however, were elected officials. In the mid-1400s, the Duke

of the city-state of Urbino was Federico da Montifeltro. The state of Urbino wasn't a big money

maker for the Duke, so he made his money by training the peasants of his state to be good

soldiers, and then he hired them out to the highest bidder. In other words, the soldiers of Urbino

were mercenaries. The Duke's mercenary army became very famous and he made a lot of money

off of them. He used this money to fund scholars, artists, and to build beautiful buildings for

himself and his city-state. He collected Latin manuscripts, which encouraged intellectuals to

come to Urbino to study them. The Duke's financing of scholarship and art meant that the state

of Urbino was not only known for its military, but also its cultural significance. The Duke of

Urbino wanted to have this many pretty things as the Medicis, and this competition contributed

to the Renaissance in Italy.

[SLIDE] The territory ruled by the Pope was situated in central Italy. And the Pope had

maintained control of territory in Italy beginning centuries before when these popes began to

think of themselves as the kings of the Roman Catholic Church. But when the popes moved to

Avignon in France in the 1300s, they lost authority in the Papal States because they nearly

bankrupted them trying to finance their new palace in France. But in the 1400s, the popes fought

to retake control of the Papal States. And to demonstrate their power in the territory and

throughout Italy, they, too, focused on art and literature. The popes did not want to be outdone

by the merchants and lords of Italy. They wanted to show that they had the most beautiful

palaces and were able to bring in the best scholars and artists. For the popes, this was about

regaining their power in Europe. If they could bring in the best artists and intellectuals and

possess the best works, then they were better than the regular leaders and kings. In this sense,

competition was a huge contributing element to the cultural explosion of the Renaissance.

[SLIDE] Now in discussing these different states, whether they had a Republican government or

not, I have mentioned the names of quite a few men. But we need to note that even though the

men were recognized as the official leaders of their state, the wives of these leaders often played

a large role in politics and in the advancement of the Renaissance. Humanists like Leonardo

Bruni and Leon Battista Alberti emphasized traditional gender roles in which men were

dedicated to bettering their kingdoms and states, while women where focused on their

households and remained subservient to men. But, as we know, reality doesn’t always follow

what people believe should happen. During the Renaissance, young elite women were often

married off to older men who, because of their age, had managed to accumulate a lot of wealth

and political clout. As a result, elite women were often widowed at a young age. Furthermore,

the leaders of the Italian city-states were often gone for long periods of the year due to their work

as merchants or military leaders. All of this gave elite women in Renaissance Italy more

independence and opportunities to exercise power as political and cultural leaders. [SLIDE] For

example, Isabella d'Este was the wife of Francesco Gonzaga. He was the Prince of Mantua,

another Italian state. And like the Duke of Urbino, the Prince of Mantua made money by hiring

out his trained army, for which he was the commander. While he was away fighting battles, his

wife Isabella governed Mantua, and she earned a reputation as an excellent negotiator and

diplomat. And like other political leaders, she was a great collector of art and scholarship.

[SLIDE] We've been talking primarily about Italy, which is where the Renaissance began. But

over time the Renaissance spread to other European nations. European rulers who fought or

studied in Italy brought back a love of Renaissance art and literature. Like Italian leaders, they

began to compete to bring in the best artists and intellectuals. King Philip II of Spain, for

example, was notorious for offering Italian artists lots of money to come live in his Spanish

court. In addition, Italian merchants helped to spread interest in Renaissance culture as they

traveled throughout Europe. And as the Renaissance spread to other kingdoms, more and more

people gained an interest in the ancient Romans and Greeks, in the concept of ideal beauty, and

in the ideas of Italian scholars, those Humanists and political thinkers we talked about. In turn,

this interest motivated a growing demand for books. But up to this point, books were still

incredibly expensive because someone writing a book had to write down each and every single

word to produce that book. But when the Renaissance hit Germany, this changed.

In the mid-1400s, a man by the name of Johannes Gutenberg began experimenting with movable

type. Gutenberg was the son of goldsmith and was thus familiar with metal work. He started

creating small metal type that could be moved around. And he realized that by arranging this

metal type into different words, you could then put ink and then transfer all of those words onto a

piece of paper. You could do this over and over again, producing multiple pages with the same

words. Then you could move the type around and create another page of words. In doing so, you

could mass produce books without having to write any words by hand. Gutenberg completed his

first Bible doing this in 1455. It was the first book produced by movable type in the West. But

Gutenberg's printing press may have come to nothing if not for another development, cheap

paper. A new technique of creating paper arrived from Asia in the 1400s. Rather than parchment,

which was made from animal skins and was very expensive, mills began to turn cloth rags into

pulp, which could then be turned into paper. This way of making paper meant that it was a lot

less expensive and you could make a lot more of it. So the combination of Gutenberg's printing

press and the development of cheaper, more plentiful paper meant that more books could be

produced. They could be produced faster, and they were cheaper. The invention of the printing

press and the introduction of this type of paper has an interesting relationship with the

Renaissance. It was a product of the Renaissance spreading throughout Europe, but it also further

encouraged the Renaissance. And this was because the mass production of books helped to

spread the ideas of the Humanists and the political theorists even further. Furthermore, it

encouraged an increase in literacy during the Renaissance, and it also helped to standardize

national languages. As more books were printed and more people read the, governments began to

promote one official printed dialect over others. For example, in England, the government began

to promote the “king’s English”, which was a standard of spelling and grammar that authors

began to use in their books. Following this, perhaps unsurprisingly, the first dictionary was

printed in the early 1600s in order to demonstrate how words should be spelled and what they


[SLIDE] So let's go back to our original questions. We asked what developments in literature

and art took place during the Italian Renaissance. And what we said was that Humanists used

ancient Greek and Roman models to think about all different things, history, politics, and culture.

Intellectuals encouraged rulers to abandon morality and do what was necessary in order to gain

more power and an advantage over other rulers. And artists use ancient Greek and Roman

models to depict ideal beauty.

[SLIDE] Our second question was how did the Italian city-states develop, and how did this

development influence the Renaissance? What I told you is that communes merged to form those

city-states, and powerful merchants emerged as leaders of different types of governments. We

have republics, we have monarchies, we have different types. And in order to demonstrate their

legitimacy as rulers and their power, these leaders acted as patrons for artists and intellectuals.

And they competed with each other to bring the best artists and scholars to their courts to

demonstrate their superiority. This patronage and competition encouraged the flourishing of art

and ideas in Italy.


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