Renaissance – a more Global View Out of the Middle Ages [context]

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Renaissance – A More Global View

Out of the Middle Ages [context]

  • Early Middle Ages were seen as “dark ages” because all the learning of the classical age (Greek and Roman) was lost or thought to be pagan.
  • Pagan = vulgar (from whose perspective?)
  • Sacredness of everything, God always involved in people’s daily lives. God is proximate. Religion is interconnected with everything.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
  • Discovery France, History of Notre Dame de Paris, 2016, (Feb. 5, 2016)

Medieval Art

  • Madonna and Child, ca 1300 by Duccio di Buoninsegna.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, Timeline of Art History, 2004 (January 19, 2005); Veronica Sekules, Medieval Art: Oxford History of Art (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2001), 52.
  • Art inspired reverence.
  • Various levels of the Church bureaucracy commissioned art (central = pope, bishops, parishes, monasteries).

Medieval Art con’t

  • The Metropolitan Museum, The Cloisters, Works of Art, Collection Highlights, 2000, (January 19, 2005); . Veronica Sekules, Medieval Art: Oxford History of Art (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2001), 61.
  • Common subject matter: biblical scenes such as crucifixion, Last Supper, nativity, Virgin Mary.
  • Beauty is god-like, colour and light especially.
  • Altar is where holy communion is given, so it needs to be decorated with a special altarpiece.
  • The Crucifixion, 14th century Italy. Part of a folding, portable altar.

Changes in Late Middle Ages

  • Sacred and secular together, not everything had to be related to God.
  • Re-introduction to classical myths and gods.
    • Timeline: 1300-ish

Italian Renaissance

  • Starting in the mid-14th century, the commercial cities of northern Italy (Milan, Venice, Florence) were the scene of a great artistic and cultural revival.
  • Historians see it as a transition between the Middle Ages and the modern period.

Northern “Italy”

  • Rulers of northern Italian city-states had money to spend on patronizing the arts.
  • The Medici family (bankers and traders) ruled Florence and sponsored well-known artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo .
  • Robert J. Walker, World Civilizations: A Comparative Study (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1998), 263-264.

Mehmed the Conqueror

  • Painted miniature of Mehmed II
  • Rhoads Murphey, History Today, Ottoman Expansion Under Mehmed II, 1999, (Jan. 14, 2016); ); Jerry Broton, The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 48, 50, 146-149.
  • Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1543
  • Mehmed interested in classical learning
  • Trade treaty with Venice
  • Style of his Topkapi Saray Palace imitated in Venice

Topkapi Saray Palace

  • Lonely Planet, Istanbul Ottoman Relics Tour, 2016, (Feb. 5, 2016)

Eastern Influences and Relationships

  • Giovani and Gentile Bellini, St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria, 1504-7
  • Web Gallery of Art, Bellini, Giovani - Biography, N.d., (Jan. 14, 2016)

Portuguese Caravel

  • Based on Arab ship design
  • Development of Sailing Ships, April 2014, (Jan. 14, 2016)

Florence (Firenze)

  • Wealth based on banking, trade and commerce (textiles).
  • Importance of civic (secular) institutions.
  • Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.

Eastern-Influenced Architecture

  • Doge’s Palace, Venice (Palazzo Ducale) 1309-1424
  • Great Buildings, Doge’s Palace, 2013, (Jan. 14, 2016)

Islamic Influences

  • The Getty, 2004, The Arts of Fire: Islamic Influences on the Italian Renaissance
  • (July 1, 2009).
  • Islamic knotwork motif on Italian plate, 1500-1520

Back in Time

  • Islamic society in Spain (Al Andalus) was more open to reason and science than Europe well before the Renaissance
    • 800s: Al Khwarizmi
      • Algebra, astronomy, circumference of the earth
    • 1100s: Averroes (Ibn Rushd):
      • Medicine, astronomy, law, philosophy (commentaries on Aristotle)
  • Averroes
  • BBC Radio. In Our Time: Averroes. 2006. (August 14, 2009).

Abbasid Caliphate, 9th Century

  • University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Applications: web-based Precalculus. 2001. (August 14, 2009).
  • Baghdad: access to Indian numbering system (became Arabic numerals)


  • Son of a customs broker, Fibonacci learned Arab methods of accounting in Algeria, Egypt, Syria
  • Combined Hindu, Arabic and Greek methods
  • Results: replaced abacus and Roman numerals, introduced decimal point, used numerals from 0-9, introduced the +, - and x signs
  • Modernized business practices
  • Fibonacci, c. 1170-1250
  • Luke Mastin, The Story of Mathematics, Medieval Mathematics – Fibonacci, 2010, (Jan. 14, 2016); Jerry Broton, The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 42-43.


    • 1000s: Avicenna (Ibn Sina)
      • Medical encyclopedia (Canon on Medicine)
  • William and Kathleen McKee, World History: Connections to Today. Teacher’s Ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001. 261-266.
  • Wellcome Library. Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine. (August 14, 2009).
  • Washington State University, College of Pharmacy, History of Pharmacy. 2009. (August 14, 2009).
  • UNESCO. Avicenna Medal. 2002. (August 14. 2009).
  • Canon, 1632 Arabic copy
  • The “Persian Galen” at work
  • A Unesco medal honouring Avicenna quotes him: “Cooperate for the well-being of the body and the survival of the human species.”


  • The city had been home to the papacy since St. Peter was the first bishop of Rome.
  • It fell into hard times but was revived in the 15th century when it was rebuilt, inspired by Renaissance artistic virtues.
  • There was great interest in Rome’s ancient ruins, inspired by renewed interest in classicism.

The Pantheon, Rome

  • Built and re-built by the ancient Romans
  • National Gallery of Art and Oxford University Press, Italian Renaissance Learning Resources: Recovering the Golden Age, 2016, (Feb. 5, 2016)


  • Study of the liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history, philosophy (also music, astronomy, geometry, theology, arithmetic).
  • Secular: focused on improving life here on earth, not just on the after-life. “Reason over revelation.”
  • Individualistic.
  • Admired the Greeks and Romans (classicism).
  • Perpetuated through education (humanist schools).


  • Revived interest in classical works of Greece and Rome:
    • architecture
    • art
    • more secular
  • Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus - figures from classical mythology; ideal beauty; earliest nudes.
  • WebMuseum, Paris, Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 2002, (January 25, 2005).

Humanist Art

  • Portraiture: humans the centre, not the divine.
  • Nudes recall the classical love for ideal beauty.
  • Nature: humanistic focus on realism, this earth.
  • Incorporated the latest advances.

Artistic Advances of the Renaissance

  • Linear perspective:
    • Method of portraying realism.
    • Foreshortening - gives a 3-D effect.
  • Anatomy - Michelangelo’s sculpting and painting of realistic musculature.
  • Sister Wendy Beckett, The Story of Painting (Toronto: Little Brown (Canada), 1994), 84-85; Painters of the Renaissance, Masaccio, N.d., (Jan. 13, 2016)
  • Masaccio, The Trinity, 1425.

Leonardo da Vinci [art reflects age]

  • Born 1452 near Florence, died 1519 in France.
  • Worked for the duke of Milan as a military and civil engineer, sculptor.
  • Known as “Renaissance Man” for his many interests - reflecting the humanism, science, and learning of the era.
  • Leonardo Self Portrait, 1516.
  • National Gallery, Leonardo da Vinci Biography, (January 2005).

Leonardo’s Science

  • Anatomy: dissected corpses to get accurate drawings.
  • Notebooks: 5000 pages of flying machines, submarines, parachutes, weapons, thread-cutting machine, water wheel.
  • “It seems to me that those sciences are vain and full of error which do not spring from experiment, the source of all certainty.”
  • Anatomical drawing.

Leonardo’s Use of Perspective

  • Exploring Linear Perspective, Boston Museum of Science, 1997. (January 25, 2005).
  • Leonardo da Vinci, study for Adoration of the Magi, showing all the lines needed to create perspective.

Leonardo’s Artistry

  • Mona Lisa - 1505 - a portrait of the wife of a Florentine merchant.
  • Sfumato - skillful use of shading, natural appearance: “how distance fades colours, how shadows modulate, and how surfaces pick up the reflected tints of nearby objects.”
  • Focus on the way the viewer interacts with the painting.
  • Mona Lisa
  • WebMuseum, Paris. Leonardo Da Vinci, La Jaconde, 2002, (January 25, 2005).

Michelangelo Buonarroti

  • Born 1475 Florence, died 1564.
  • Sculptor and painter.
  • Very religious.
  • Felt beauty is divine.
  • Sculpted David (1501-1504) 14 feet high - a biblical figure made to reflect the power and freedom of Florence.
  • WebMuseum, Paris, Michelangelo, 2003 (January 25, 2005).

Sistine Chapel

  • Michelangelo worked here, 1508 to 1512.
  • The holiest chapel because it is where popes prayed.
  • The Sistine Chapel.

Sistine Chapel Ceiling 

  • The Creation of Man 
  • Layout of the Ceiling, Michelangelo’s Cistine Chapel Ceiling, 2001, (January 19, 2005); WebMuseum, Paris. Michelangelo, 2003, (January 25, 2005).

Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio)

  • Born 1483, died 1520.
  • Used the latest techniques such as perspective to paint naturally and realistically.
  • Influenced by Leonardo and Michelangelo (also painted at the Vatican and for a time was the chief architect of the new St. Peter’s basilica).
  • St. Catherine of Alexandria, 1507-08. Known for grace and movement.
  • National Gallery, Past Exhibitions, (January 25, 2005).

School of Athens - Raphael

  • Painted 1510-1511.
  • Classical figures include Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Ptolemy, and Euclid.
  • Renaissance figures include Michelangelo, da Vinci, and himself.
  • Sister Wendy Beckett, The Story of Painting (Toronto: Little Brown (Canada), 1994), 128.
  • School of Athens - classical references

Raphael con’t

  • Christus Rex, Stanze e Loggia di Raffaello, 2000, (January 25, 2005).
  • School of Athens painted in the pope’s private apartment (library and private office).
  • Note: Averroes.


  • Annenberg/Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Middle Ages. 1997. .
  • Beckett, Sister Wendy. The Story of Painting: The Essential Guide to the History of Western Art. Toronto: Little Brown (Canada), 1994.
  • Boston Museum of Science. Leonardo da Vinci. 1997. .
  • Christus Rex et Redemptor Mundi. 1997. .
  • Dersin, Denise (ed.). What Life Was Like at the Rebirth of Genius: Renaissance Italy AD 1400-1550. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1999.
  • King, Ross. Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling. New York: Penguin Group, 2003.
  • Layout of the Ceiling, Michelangelo’s Cistine Chapel Ceiling, Wayne State University Humanities. 2001. .
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Works of Art. The Cloisters. 2004. .
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Timeline of Art History. 2004. .
  • McDonald, Jesse. Michelangelo. London: PRC Publishing Ltd., 2001.
  • National Gallery. 2005. .
  • Sekules, Veronica. Medieval Art: Oxford History of Art. Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Vatican Museums Online. 2003. .
  • Walker, Robert J. World Civilizations: A Comparative Study. Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • WebMuseum, Paris. The Italian Renaissance. 2002. .

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