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            The transition from the Middle Ages
to the Renaissance reflects a time of great change in the way of life at the
time. During the Middle Ages life was in constant turmoil and bleak. After the
Fall of the fall of the Roman Empire Europe suffered a multitude of tragedies,
such as the black plague, Viking attacks and looting, and barbarian invasions. Throughout
these hardships the glimmer of hope that people clung to was the church. As
dark times began to fade the people found a new hope “homo Faber est quisque
fortunae Suae” This phrase is saying that each man is the creator of his own
future. This is a juxtaposition to the common ideal in the Roman Catholic
religion “God the Creator” and also exhibits the change in ideology between the
Middle ages and the Renaissance.

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            During the Middle Ages there was a
surplus in faith of the Roman Catholic, this was in part because the primary
unifying factor between the people happened to be religion. This allowed the
Church to take more of an authoritative rule over society. Church officials
kept records and acted as advisors to the monarchs. They were also the largest
owners of land and even collected taxes, which greater added to their power and
overall influence.   There was also less
of an emphasis on education during this era, and as a result it lead to a
majority of the population being illiterate. Surprisingly the illiteracy of the
population, lead way for art to take a rather important role within
society.  Where there was such a heavy
influence on the Church and religion the average person had no way of reading the
bible, so paintings and other outlets of art helped get the churches ideas
across through another platform. This is largely why the central topic seen
with in the art at the time revolves around the Roman Catholic Church. Another
reason for the ideology seen within the art at the time is the use of art as a
propaganda tool. Through out time and in all societies you can see that art is
one of the most useful forces of getting across ideas between all classes.

Gothic and Byzantine art were the main
inspirations for medieval architecture. The Byzantine influence can be seen in
the Hagia Sophia, a cathedral commissioned by Emperor Justinian during the
sixth century. This Humongous church was built in the city of Constantinople
and became one of the largest cathedrals for years to come. The Cathedral has
Large Granite columns, marble pillars, and beautiful religious mosaics, and
possibly the most captivating its large dome. Although the original dome was
too heavy and inevitably concaved, it was later rebuilt and improved in the
late sixth century.  One of the best examples
of gothic influence on architecture at the time is the Notre Dame. The Notre
Dame was built in Paris, France and initiated by the Bishop of Paris Maurice
Sully. The Notre Dame is characterized by gorgeous stained glass windows, large
flying buttresses (large arched external supports), and two towers one reaching
300 feet tall. The height and grandiose of these buildings were all just a
symbol for the Catholic Church.

Cathedral is an image of the City of God, the Celestial Jerusalem, an image of
Paradise, as the liturgy for the consecration of churches affirms.” “The House
of God must be illuminated by the rays of the sun, resplendent with charity
like Paradise itself, because God is Light, the light who gives beauty to
everything that exists”. “The stained-glass windows that separate us from the
storms and let the light pour over us are the Doctors.”(Plinio Corrêa de
Oliveira) These are all but a few quotes that characterize the symbolism seen
in the architecture at the time.


At the end of the 11th Century there
was a campaign organized by the Western European Christians to reclaim the holy
land, in particular Jerusalem, from the Muslims who had conquered it at the
time. The Crusades had a lot of positive effects on the western world as
communication and supplies were reignited with the Middle East it lead way for
a lot of new technology and ideas in the west. Such as gunpowder, cotton, new
spices, silk, and much more. The Crusades also began to use old Roman roadways
to travel during the crusades and as trade routes as well. During the time of
the Crusades feudalism also fell. The fall of feudalism gave way to more people
becoming merchants because of the recent boom in commerce between the west and
Middle East. As the Merchant business boomed it also allowed for new career
opportunities  for prior serfs and
peasants. It created jobs like bookkeepers, money exchangers, managers, and the
making system. This newfound class mobility allowed the serfs to lead a better
middle class life as oppose to being at the bottom of the social pyramid within
the feudal system.  This change and
exchange of new ideas and technology due to the crusades and also the Middle
Ages as a whole, was the catalyst for the renaissance.

The Renaissance was a period in
European history also known as the “rebirth” of European culture following the
Roman Empire. This “rebirth” began in Italy of course. It began in Italy most
obviously because of their geographic location. Italy being the boot of Europe
was surrounded by water, which made it an excellent hub during the expansion of
trade. As Italy began to venture far and wide through trade, so did many other
Italians. like the artists, philosophers, scientists, and engineers.

During the
Renaissance, art began to reflect a group of new ideas. It started to portray
the, ideas philosophers were beginning to ponder on again since the time of the
Roman Empire. This idea is Humanism. The new ideas behind humanism lead people
to begin to live their own lives and create their own destiny. This began to
show a new individuality in the land of the arts which created an atmosphere
for them to thrive in. As intellect was being exchanged at such a fast rate it
further fueled a conducive relationship between art and mathematics. The use of
mathematics soon became crucial for these renaissance artisans to perfectly
execute their masterpieces. The use of mathematics revived the artful precision
seen one before in the Ancient Roman Empire, a precision both proportion and
naturalism. As the society grew it allowed for the ideas behind art to grow.

The commissioners of the art at the time were affluent families like the
Medici’s who too wanted to illustrate the ne philosophical ideas being
transferred throughout the world at the time. Most of these affluent families
valued the arts and saw them as a tangible example of the society’s growth.

These families wanted art to portray the best of people, and sought to capture
the beauty and mystery of the world they lived in. 

The Renaissance is seen as an
interesting time because it was a time where people began to reflect on the
past and learn from it. A great example of this is The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore or
better known to some as Il Duomo. Il Duomo was started by Arnolfo Di Cambio. He
worked on the Cathedral up until 1302. After his time working on the Cathedral
it was left and waiting to be crowned with a dome. No architect seemed up to
the task except for Fillipo Brunolleschi. Brunelleschi had spent just about 2
decades in Rome studying the architecture of the ancient greats. He took a
particular interest in the Pantheon. He thought that it may have been possible
that the Ancient Romans had been able to construct the dome without using
complex scaffolding. Brunolleschi brings his findings back to Florence to take
on the construction feat of Il Duomo. He proposes an absurd idea at the time to
not utilize buttresses which is seen in previous churches during the middle
ages to support domes. He also decides to design 2 domes one to be viewed from
the inside and the second, the larger of the two to protect the structure from
the rain. The Dome was built to represent just how great the Italian city of
Florence was and their prosperity, “Gonfio e Magnifico” translated to Swollen
and Magnificent. To properly execute this architectural project he invented the
Ox horse, which allows the direction to go from up and down without having to move
the direction of the oxen. He also designs another new hoist called the
Costello which was used to move weights horizontally.  Using precise calculations Brunelleschi
discovered the missing piece to perfectly executing the dome without it
concaving on top of itself. His solution was an innovative brick laying
technique used in Ancient Rome to what maybe decoratively or functionally but
we do not know. The point of this brick laying technique was to disperse the
weight of the dome, instead of all the weight just going down the “herringbone”
pattern allowed for the weight to be displaced out and down. To prevent the
opposite problem that could occur, which is the bricks breaking out the sides,
he included 5 chains inside to act a invisible buttressing. After the
completion of Il Duomo executed by Brunoleschi and his brilliance, Florence
became a capital for innovations in the world of design and construction. This
architectural example is a physical depiction of the middle ages and
renaissance all in one building. The dome would not have been able to be
executed successfully if it were not for brunelleschi’s scrutiny of Ancient
Roman Architecture. This revival of Ancient roman culture and techniques will
not only be seen here but throughout the entirety of the renaissance. What once was lost now is found. 


The de Medici’s were the rulers of Florence during the 15th
century and later became the ruling house running from the 16th and
17th century. The family made some of the greatest contributions to
the Italian renaissance. This is because of their patronage of the arts and
their policies that favored peace and political stability. Originally the
family profited through the wool trade, and then further began to diversify
their assets into new businesses. Although the financial support of the Medici
was quite useful for the arts, the political stability that they created in
Florence at the time was arguably even more supportive. By creating this
atmosphere it gave artists the ability to grow and expand their subject matter
rather than the middle ages where the ideas pictured with in the art was mainly
religious ideology. Florence was an enviorment rather separated from Roman
Catholic Church, which negated there to be any conflict between the arts and
the church. With this being said subject matter focused on the Human body, emotion,
space and dimension. The progress and development of the ancient art forms and
practices, lead to the evolution of the arts and allowed them to see new
heights.  “One of the most famous masterpieces of Northern
Renaissance art, the Portinari Altarpiece, by Hugo van der Goes (c. 1476; Uffizi, Florence), was commissioned by
their agent, Tommaso Portinari. Instead of being painted with the customary
tempera of the period, the work is painted with translucent oil glazes that
produce brilliant jewel-like colour and a glossy surface.” This rebirth in the
North is what some call the “cradle” of the renaissance, which leads way to
High Renaissance art.


The High
Renaissance Is lead by three master minds Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and
Raphael. The period of the high renaissance only lasts for about 35 years
but creates an everlasting impact on the world.  Although the High renaissance is brief some of
the most exceptional works of art and techniques were created during the high
renaissance. The art of the high renaissance is further characterized by the
idea of humanism. During the time the printing press which was invented by John
Gutenberg. The printing press allowed for an easier way for the spread of ideas
also known as cultural diffusion. The printing press also allowed for the
artist of the times to begin to sell prints of their work. This allowed art to
become more global. Some very new ideas such as the Michelangelo’s idea of
“Neo-Platonism” which says God put the sculpture within the rock and the artist
must uncover it. 

The Last Supper was worked on between the times of 1495-1498, the painting was
on the mediums of oil and tempera on plaster. The use of oil and tempera was a
new technique that Leonardo had founded. The painting depicts just as it is
titled The Last Supper. Da Vinci masterfully plants the vanishing above
Christ’s to further solidify his role of significance. The painting captures
the moment that Jesus tells the apostles that Judas has betrayed them. Leonardo
portrays the psychological reaction of the apostles. In this painting he is
allowing society to weigh the difference between a good and bad person.  The depth Leonardo was able to create through
his beautiful symmetry allows the viewer to feel that he/she is now inside of
the painting. AS if the viewer is joining the apostles at the dinner table as
well as reacting psychologically to Jesus’s news of Judas betrayal. This is
just one of the many noted pieces done by Leonardo da Vinci. Many of his pieces
evoke a deeper psychological meaning not always made clear which creates a
hunger for his art because in viewing it the viewer is able to do some
philosophical work amongst themselves.

            The statue of David was a master sculpture done by
Michelangelo. David is seen in contrapposto a pose profound in classical art
where one leg supports the full weight of the body while the other sits foward.

David is visualized in a tense state seeming to be deep in thought before his
battle with Goliath. David also carries a slingshot over his shoulder that is
almost invisible this is to show the battle was not won by David’s strength or
force but rather by David’s intellectual power and astute. The statue
translates David’s self confidence and deep concentration which are all ideal
traits of the “renaissance man”. But David is more than just man David is the
symbol of perfection. David is seen naked to show his status of divinity,
wealth, and knowledge.

            Another High Renaissance masterpiece is Raphael’s “School
of Athens”. The painting portrayed an imaginary scene that depicted a meeting
between great philosophers. Some of which included the faces of Leonardo,
Michelangelo and even himself. Pope Julius II commissioned the piece, well
actually Raphael was commissioned to paint several rooms within the Vatican and
this happened to be one of them. Monumental shapes, rich colors as well as
idealic faces characterize the piece. The subject matter of the piece is
captured through a tromp L’oeil arch, and through the arch you see a picture of
Aristotle reaching his hand out to signify the importance of gathering
knowledge from the material world. The vanishing point is found between the two
great philosophers Aristotle and Plato most likely because they contributed the
most to the philosophical world. In the painting you also see the Raphael feels
that artists are on the same level as these great thinkers having been
portrayed within the same room.

            These are just a few masterpieces during the short period
of the High Renaissance and show the immersive intellectual diversity these
artists had and were able to depict in their masterpieces.

The late Renaissance is defined by the sack of Rome in 1527.

This caused for artists to disperse throughout Italy, France and Spaim began
with the sack of Rome in 1527.  Artists had to scramble to relocate
throughout Italy, France, and Spain.  This introduced Mannerism. During
the Mannerism time period Paintings were inaccurately proportioned and rather
dramatic. The figures often had “elongated limbs emotion and bizarre themes
that combined Classism, Christianity, and mythology.” (Esaak, Shelley).  Art began to change as the economic means of
the Renaissance began to lessen.

            Although the Dark Ages are often
ignored because of the lack of intellectual power at the time, the prosperity
of hardships and suffering the people of Europe lived through only further
aided them in the rebirth of the Renaissance. The strength of the Roman
Catholic Church Campaigning the Crusades opened the door to the great period of
the Renaissance and they also became a great outlet for the Artists to thrive.

The prosperity of the Church and the unintentional effects they had to spread
wealth to Merchants like the Medici’s, gave artists the ability to create and
for ultimately a society to grow. The funds that were put into intellect during
the Renaissance should be one of an example. Their appreciation from their past
and evolving it to even greater lengths should be used today. Society should
take notes from the past and use history as a prime example to better the





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Esaak, Shelley. “How
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Accessed 2018.


“Michelangelo’s David:
Admire World’s Greatest Sculpture at Accademia Gallery.” Guide to
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Oliveira, Plinio Correa de. Medieval
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“The Medici, the family
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