The Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance (pronounced Rén•a•sahnce) 1350-1600
The Renaissance is a French word that means “rebirth.” Starting in Florence, Italy in the early 1300s, there was a rebirth of interest in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.
The Europeans of the Renaissance took ideas from these ancient people about their works of art and architecture, and then developed their own. They also made important scientific discoveries, including the invention of the printing press, the development of modern neurology (the study of the brain); and the development of modern astronomy (the study of space and the universe).
The Italian Renaissance is perhaps best known for the artistic works of such artists as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (known as Rafael), and Donatello. Some of the greatest Renaissance artists worked in Florence and other Italian cities.
Leonardo da Vinci worked in Italy during the late 1400s and early 1500s. He painted two of the world’s most famous works: the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Leonardo also made statues and designed weapons. He even drew up plans for a helicopter. Michelangelo and were also important artists of this period. They painted religious figures but gave them a realistic, human quality.
The Renaissance also led people in Europe to explore parts of the world they had never seen. Christopher Columbus and others from Spain and Portugal discovered two continents that had been unknown to Europeans. This inspired other voyages of discovery.
People who were living during the Renaissance saw themselves as different from those who came before them because they were trying to imitate the art and architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
No one event marked the end of the Renaissance. The spirit of discovery that defined the period led people to try new ideas in all areas of their lives. New ways of thinking about art, science, medicine, government, and politics, developed as well.