Florence, Cradle of the Renaissance
With the extended art and renaissance session of the SWS Conference on Social Sciences we want to bring your attention to Florence and especially Florence in the Renaissance.
Known as the Renaissance, the period immediately following the Middle Ages in Europe saw a great revival of interest in the classical learning and values of ancient Greece and Italy. Against a backdrop of political stability and growing prosperity, the development of new technologies such as the printing press and the discovery and exploration of new continents–was accompanied by a flowering of philosophy, literature, poetry and especially art. The style of painting, sculpture and arts identified with the Renaissance emerged in Italy in the late 14th century, in the work of Italian masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
The origins of Renaissance art can be traced to Italy in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. During this so-called “proto-Renaissance” period, which was from 1280 until 1400, Italian scholars and artists saw themselves as reawakening to the ideals and achievements of classical Roman culture.
The Florentine painter Giotto, who was the most famous artist of the proto-Renaissance, made extensive advances in the technique of representing the human body. His frescoes were said to have decorated cathedrals at Assisi, Rome, Florence and Naples.
During the renaissance the Catholic Church remained a major patron of the arts from popes and other prelates to convents, monasteries and other religious organizations–works of art were increasingly commissioned by civil government, courts and wealthy individuals (patrons). Much of the art produced during the early Renaissance was commissioned by the wealthy merchant families of Florence. From 1434 until 1492, when Lorenzo de’ Medici–known as “the Magnificent” for his strong leadership as well as his support of the arts–died, the powerful family presided over a golden age for the city of Florence. Pushed from power by a republican coalition in 1494, the Medici family spent years in exile but returned in 1512 to preside over another flowering of Florentine art, including the assemble of sculptures that now decorates the Florence Piazza della Signoria.
Many works of Renaissance art illustrated religious images, including subjects such as the Virgin Mary, or Madonna, and were encountered by contemporary audiences of the period in the context of religious rituals. Today, they are viewed as masterpieces of art, but at the time they were seen and used as devotional objects.
Over the course of the 15th and 16th centuries, the spirit of the Renaissance spread throughout Italy and into other countries like France and Spain and countries from the Northern Europe. In Venice, the famous artists further developed a method of painting in oil directly on canvas.
By the later 1500s, the Mannerist style, with its emphasis on artificiality, had developed in opposition to the idealized naturalism of High Renaissance art, and Mannerism spread from Florence and Rome to become the dominant style in Europe.
We do hope that your stay in Florence will be scientifically rich and fruitful and you will enjoy the Renaissance art in practice.