Early renaissance 1300–1450

The transition from the Late Gothic to the Renaissance is extremely varied In Italian art c 1300 the works of Giotto and his contemporaries already indicate a first surge of interest in the phenomena of the temporal world, for example Giotto’s frescoes (c 1305–10) in the Arena Chapel in Padua (eg Joachim and the Shepherds, Betrayal of Christ and Lamentation)) or the cycle of scenes from the Life of St Francis (c 1290) by unknown masters in the Upper Church of S Francesco at Assisi Vasari correctly saw this as a first stage in the ‘rinascità’ In the fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, the Effects of Good Government (1338–9; Siena, Pal Pub), buildings and landscape attain a realism unrivalled until the second quarter of the 15th century North of the Alps the art associated with Emperor Charles IV’s court in Prague, with its strong emphasis on the body and on space, and the tendency to portray strongly characterized individuals (eg the portrait busts, from 1372, in the triforium of the choir of Prague Cathedral), can also be seen as part of the prologue to the Renaissance

Renaissance humanists such as Poggio Bracciolini sought out in Europe’s monastic libraries the Latin literary, historical, and oratorical texts of Antiquity, while the Fall of Constantinople (1453) generated a wave of émigré Greek scholars bringing precious manuscripts in ancient Greek, many of which had fallen into obscurity in the West It is in their new focus on literary and historical texts that Renaissance scholars differed so markedly from the medieval scholars of the Renaissance of the 12th century, who had focused on studying Greek and Arabic works of natural sciences, philosophy and mathematics, rather than on such cultural texts

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Many argue that the ideas characterizing the Renaissance had their origin in late 13th-century Florence, in particular with the writings of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) and Petrarch (1304–1374), as well as the paintings of Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) Some writers date the Renaissance quite precisely; one proposed starting point is 1401, when the rival geniuses Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi competed for the contract to build the bronze doors for the Baptistery of the Florence Cathedral (Ghiberti won) Others see more general competition between artists and polymaths such as Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Donatello, and Masaccio for artistic commissions as sparking the creativity of the Renaissance Yet it remains much debated why the Renaissance began in Italy, and why it began when it did Accordingly, several theories have been put forward to explain its origins

Renaissance art marks a cultural rebirth at the close of the Middle Ages and rise of the Modern world One of the distinguishing features of Renaissance art was its development of highly realistic linear perspective Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) is credited with first treating a painting as a window into space, but it was not until the demonstrations of architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446) and the subsequent writings of Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) that perspective was formalized as an artistic technique