The age of Art Renaissance in Italy and Europe refer to the 200 years from 1400 to 1600 when the region witnessed resurgence in the making of various pieces of art. During this era, Europe saw a rebirth of the arts in the areas of drawing, sculpture, architecture, painting, and drawing. Among the critical players were some of the major cities in Europe, such as Florence, Rome, and Venice, among others. While religion was an essential theme in the works of arts, classical Greek and Rome, especially paintings and sculptures, guided the rebirth process. Some of the critical players in the rebirth were artists, intellectuals, political elites, and influential families. Through these individuals, the renaissance arts made numerous achievements that influenced the future study of the subject in Europe and globally.


It is not possible pinpoint to a particular event or events that led to the re-emergence of arts in Europe; it is a process that took several decades to materialize. However, it was likely in response to earlier events that had both positive and negative impacts during the era. For example, after numerous decades of slow growth, the church began to reconstruct during the 12th and 13th centuries, although it did not regain its former influence in Europe.[1] During the same period, Europe was also witnessing numerous catastrophes such as the Black Death and the war between France and Britain. While these conditions may not be favorable to inspire creativity, the difficulties may have contributed to the desire to shape a new route for Europe, and the arts was an appropriate channel to use. Therefore, numerous fields contributed to the changes.

Notably, the prosperity of some cities such as Genoa and Venice played a significant role in the resurgence of the arts. The two areas, among others, became the centers for international trade with the Orient and were prosperous. On the other hand, Florence was home to the Medici family, which was wealthy, cultured, and investors in the arts. The city was also the center for artists who were experts in jewelry, wool, and silk arts. The establishment of the Hanseatic League of cities in Germany created wealth in other cities in Europe. Increase in the riches of the people increased investment in public and private pieces. At the same time, the presence of trade routes spread the ideas from one region of Europe to the other.[2] As a result, the presence of wealthy individuals in society and investment in the decorations of their homes and palaces made artists important people in the economy of the cities.

The philosophy of humanism was also a vital characteristic in the rebirth of the arts. The concept led to the establishment of pagan institutions and ideas such as democracy that exist to date in ancient Greece. As a result, it downgraded the role of religion in the lives of citizens, emphasizing that is important in protecting the worth and dignity of the person. The philosophy influenced visual arts by first replacing the stereotyped and symbolic features with the figure of specific individuals. Secondly, it paid attention to detail and the realism of human bodies and faces. As a result, the pieces of art made during the era became popular, replacing the influence of the Byzantine arts in Europe. Thirdly, it emphasized virtuous living, which led to the rise of the idea that humanity controlled its destiny. As such, paintings and other pieces of art had uplifting messages that made them famous.[3] Therefore, the skills expressed the humanist philosophy in visual forms that society could buy and sell.

The absence of a healthy church provided the right environment for a rebirth. The weakness of the church made it possible for humanism to be discussed in public without much resistance. As a result, future church leaders such as Pope Julius II made deliberate effort to invest in the arts through unique sculptures, paintings, and architectures in Rome and the Vatican to counter the spread of humanism. Some of the buildings that the Pope constructed include the Sistine Chapel frescoes. During the 16th century, the church continued with this tradition of Christian art during the era of Counter-Reformation.[4]  There were also architectural works in Florence such as the Dome of the city’s Cathedral that was supposed to show that it was superior to others that were designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. Similar pieces of work were made in France (Paris), such as the Norte Dame Cathedral to show the role of the church in the lives of the citizens.[5] Notably, the weak church allowed humanism to thrive, which challenged the church to rise to the occasion later.

The presence of classical ruins and artifacts in Italy and a pool of talented artists led to the Renaissance. Architectures made during the Roman Empire were still present in most cities and towns in the country. Roman and ancient Greek sculptors were available to the artists to view them and note the areas they could improve for current and future generations.[6] The presence of a pool of talented artists also made it easy to study the work and improve them. Most of the artists were also skilled in other areas such as human anatomy and mathematics, which made it easy to grow previous pieces of work. Thus, the presence of artifacts and artists led to the Renaissance.

Prominent families played critical roles in the Renaissance. One of the families was Medici in Florence, which created the intellectual environment appropriate for the arts to thrive. The same case applies to Ludovico Gonzaga, who encouraged the learning of the humanist philosophy. As a result, he had an extensive art collection and employed Andrea Mantegna as a court painter. Another leader who had significant influence was Federigo Montefeltro, who was a Duke at Urbino. The prince was a pupil of the humanist teacher Vittorino da Feltre. Therefore, at the court of Urbino, the Duke entertained many painters, among them the great Piero Della Francesca.[7] These examples show that prominent families and politicians played a significant role in the Renaissance of arts in the 15th and the 16th century.

The Renaissance artists were also experts in various fields of science, which made their work easier. Some of them mastered human anatomy, mathematical concepts about proportionality, and the science of space. Therefore, great architecture scholars such as Filippo Brunelleschi made an outstanding contribution in the study of the subject, especially about linear perspective. As a result, his students moved from Rome with the skills to other regions of Italy such as Florence where they awakened interest in the study of architecture from a new perspective. The scientific approach to arts had the support of other scholars such as Leon Battista (architect).[8] As a result, painters began to paint three-dimensional pictures to capture all the dimensions possible. Therefore, approaching the arts from an intellectual point of view made the works multi-dimensional, impressing people from different fields

During the Renaissance era, Europe was witnessing a period of exploration in all spheres of life. European explorers were discovering new trade routes and establishing new colonies in new continents. The sculptors, architects, and painters were also curious to learn and experiment with new knowledge and methods. The artists were also learning and exploring how to imitate nature in their work. The collapse of Constantinople as the capital city of the Byzantine Empire led to the immigration of Greek scholars to Italy with knowledge and texts about classical Greek civilization.[9] As a result, the ability of the artists to explore and learn new skills made it possible for the rebirth of the arts in Italy.

The Renaissance significantly raised the profile of painters and sculptors. Before the period, they were viewed as skilled and did not enjoy the privileges enjoyed by interior decorators. The Renaissance raised the level of the profession of painting and sculpture because of insisting on the production of thoughtful and classical pieces of arts. The Italian Renaissance had an influence on other regions of Europe, including France, the United Kingdom.[10] The theory that developed in Italy later became the standard practice in Europe, leading to the classification of academic arts into five categories, namely: landscape, still life, genre painting, history painting, and portrait art.

One of the developments that emerged from the Renaissance was the increased use of oil painting. From the 15th century, it became the preferred mode of art for Northern Renaissance artists. They departed from the standard practice in Italy that was still relying on tempera or fresco. Oil painting had the advantage of allowing a rich color mixture.[11] Because it took longer to try, the artists could rework the painting for several weeks, making it easy to capture finer details. After a short period, oil painting also spread to Italian cities such as Venice, Florence, and Rome.

The Renaissance is credited with diversifying the arts to include more areas other than religion. For example, plastic artists were more interested in the human body. Indeed, some of the most magnificent sculptures of the era by Donatello and Michelangelo (David) were of nude men. There was greater use of classical antiquity to illustrate more messages of humanism.[12] The tastes of the liberal patrons in cities such as Flemish and sophisticated church people were critical players in enhancing the rebirth because of insisting on quality products from the artists. As a result, the paintings included other aspects such as landscape, bird and animal life that an artist in earlier years would find mundane and not worthy of adding in a picture.


The most significant contribution of the Renaissance of the arts is a further development of classical Greek values. Therefore, the Greek Antiquity is the primary model in use in western art as interpreted by the Renaissance. The Renaissance was successful because it borrowed from the works of scholars and in some cases had the patronage of wealthy families such as the Medici Family in Florence. The individuals used their finances, diplomacy skills, and scholarly abilities to appreciate and promote the antiques of various kinds. The princes made sure that painters and sculptors were in their payrolls to decorate their palaces and courts. Therefore, many stakeholders contributed to the Renaissance of the arts, setting the stage for the future development of the industry.


Rossi, Daniella. “Humanism and the Renaissance.” The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies 69 (2007): 476-490.

Hale, John. Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance. Simon and Schuster, New York, NY: 1995.

[1] John Hale, Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 226

[2] Ibid, 550

[3] Ibid, 552

[4] Daniella Rossi, Humanism and the Renaissance (the Year’s work in Modern Language Studies, 69, 2007), 484

[5] Hale, 296

[6] Ibid, 556

[7] Daniella Rossi, Humanism and the Renaissance (the Year’s work in Modern Language Studies, 69, 2007), 478

[8] Hale, 297

[9] Hale, 153

[10] Hale, 589

[11] Hale, 408

[12] Hale, 410

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