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The Renaissance
The term Renaissance means “rebirth”

During the Renaissance the Artist was elevated in social standing and his art was looked upon not as simple crafts, but as divinely inspired creations. The spirit of an era awoke, revitalized with knowledge and creativity. Paintings of the time period are intensely passionate with dramatic use of light. Florence was the epicenter of the Renaissance  movement. Historian Jacob Burckhardt describes the city thusly, "Florence, the great market of fame, was in this point, as we have said,  in advance of other cities. 'Sharp eyes and bad tongues' is the description given of the inhabitants. An easygoing contempt of everything and everybody was probably the prevailing tone of society."

 The techniques used by painters of the High Renaissance were quite innovative in themselves. Their use of incandescent colors created with newly developed oil mediums gave a unique vividness to their paintings. Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci would not hesitate to directly sketch a reeking, decomposing human cadaver for the purpose of painting the human body realistically. Distinguished author and historian, John C. Van Dyke points out "What they sought, primarily, was the light and shade on a nude shoulder, the delicate contours of a form, the flow and fall of silk or brocade, the richness of a robe, a scheme of color or of light, the character of a face, the majesty of a figure. They were seeking effects of line, light, color—mere sensuous and pictorial effects, in which religion and classicism played secondary parts. They believed in art for art's sake; that painting was a creation, not an illustration; that it should exist by its pictorial beauties, not by its subject or story. No matter what their subjects, they invariably painted them so as to show the beauties they prized the highest. The Venetian conception was less[111] austere, grand, intellectual, than pictorial, sensuous, concerning the beautiful as it appealed to the eye. And this was not a slight or unworthy conception. True it dealt with the fullness of material life, but regarded as it was by the Venetians—a thing full-rounded, complete, harmonious, splendid—it became a great ideal of existence."

Until the Middle Ages men regarded themselves as following the Good Shepherd, and art consequently did not recognize the individual in particular. In the structure and position of  the figures, as in their expression, a general and uniform type of beauty prevailed. The early Renaissance marks the victory of individualism and the uncompromising prominence of he individual. An abundance of sharply outlined characters suddenly appears, robust, clear-cut personalities; lawless nature belonging just as much in the gallery of criminals as in that of great men. Character, individuality, power and energy are the passwords of the Renaissance age.  This new humanity, all these rugged and manly figures which the age had created, had also to appear in painting. In contrast to the former preference for beauty of an angelic and tender type, the problem now was to depict energetic and powerful beings; and to replace shy and feminine, though bearded, men in the pictures of the older masters by angular, harsh determined and daring types. The figures which has formerly hovered like spirits above the earth had now to stand firmly upon their own feet and become part of their earthly home. -- Richard Muther, The History of  Painting, Henry and Co., London, 1896

The Greatest Artists of the  Italian Renaissance




Key Descriptive Words  and Phrases associated with The  Renaissance Era  -  rebirth, rediscovery of the classical world,  publication of Della Pittura, a book about the laws of mathematical perspective for artists,  spiritually significant,  Age of Discovery, curiosity about the natural world, idealized biblical themes,  realistic use of colours and  light, Old Testament stories, pre-Constantinian period, ethereal and foggy backgrounds , Gospel parables, romanticized landscapes,  Christian symbolism.

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Major Painters of the Italian High Renaissance
Andrea del Sarto
Mariotto Albertinelli
Fra Bartolommeo
Jacopo Bassano
Giovanni Bellini 
Domenico Brusasorci
Giulio Campi
Domenico Di Michelino
Lorenzo Costa
Dosso Dossi
Francesco Francia
Ridolfo Ghirlandaio
Leonardo da Vinci
Lorenzo Lotto
Bernardino Luini
Michelangelo Buonarroti
Baldassare Peruzzi
Piero di Cosimo
Jacob Tintoretto
Marcantonio Raimondi

References -The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt

-- Richard Muther, The History of  Painting, Henry and Co., London, 1896