A Brief History and Art of Italian Renaissance: A Concise Overview

If you’re an artist, scientist, or scholar, you will derive much inspiration by taking a closer look at this era.

Italian Reinassance Painting in Rome
Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power. Photo: Francesco Bianco on Unsplash.

The Renaissance has a lasting legacy even today, and it can safely be given credit for many scientific, artistic, and philosophic findings that we now take advantage of. However, for those who need enlightenment on the topic, we’ve created a concise and brief overview of its history and the works that emerged from this era.

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History of the Italian Renaissance

The Italian Renaissance marked a huge artistic and cultural expansion in 15th to 16th century Italy. The Renaissance is called the way it is (meaning to be reborn in English) because it represented a renewal of sorts and a renewed interest/passion in fine arts, literature, and high philosophy deriving from ancient Rome and Greece.

Here’s a brief rundown of the most important elements that conjured up the era of the Renaissance:

  • A family called the Medici family was at the center of the emergence of the Renaissance as they commissioned one of the biggest Renaissance artists like Michelangelo. They were wealthy bankers that promoted and promulgated the arts.
  • The Italian Renaissance reportedly started in Florence, Italy.
  • It was fuelled by the humanist movement, which advocated human values, individualism, and the human mind.
  • A crucial legacy of the Italian Renaissance was the idea of the “Renaissance Man.” The idea sought inspiration in an individual who could be well-versed in multiple disciplines and possessed great knowledge of many fields, and had a broad skill set. Ultimately, the idea reflects the belief that we, as humans, are more than capable of greatness if we combine our abilities and talents harmoniously.

As it progressed, themes and styles became more complex and offered more diversity. This leads us to our next point.

Art Of the Italian Renaissance

Realism, perspective, and creating depth and volume in the artworks can be found as a central theme in many paintings created in the Renaissance period. The goal and interest of many artists at that time was to paint and emulate the human form in the most anatomically-correct and naturalistic way possible.

Artists also used linear perspective to create a three-dimensional feel to their paintings. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael all tried to perform these techniques in their great works. Think of the dynamic realism seen in the Mona Lisa painting as an example.

The artists we mentioned are staple figures from the Renaissance, each having contributed works that highly impacted this period and, in a way, represented the Renaissance perfectly. For example, Leonardo da Vinci was a genius, multi-faceted man. He was an artist and a great mathematician. He was adept not only in painting but in architecture, engineering, science, and sculpture.

Michelangelo was also a prolific artist. He devoted his life to perfecting grandiose paintings, as seen on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, a now iconic landmark. He was also a sculptor. The popular statue of David is one of his other works. Raphael is best known for his painting of the Sistine Madonna.


In this period, a very substantial expansion in architecture also rooted itself in Italy. Iconic, greatly detailed, and huge buildings like the St. Peter’s Basilica (Rome) and the Duomo (Florence) were built and have stood the test of time. Just like in art and literature, architecture derived inspiration from buildings in ancient Rome and Greece.

The Dissemination Of the Italian Renaissance

The Renaissance, birthed in Italy, spread far beyond the country itself. Its dissemination was felt across Europe as artists and scholars traveled throughout the continent, bringing with them elements, ideas, teachings, and knowledge of the new movement. This sparked a continental cultural revolution.

To consider some noteworthy examples of the widespread influence of the Renaissance, let’s take a look at a few countries:

  • Belgium: For Northern Europe, Antwerp was an important city of the Renaissance movement. It was a hotspot of thriving trade and commerce. It also hosted many wealthy merchants who were crucial patrons of the arts. Noteworthy Renaissance artists also came from this city, the likes such as Pieter Bruegel and Hans Holbein.
  • Germany: Religious revolution marked the Renaissance movement in Germany. The rise of Protestantism became a direct opposition to the Catholic Church.
  • England: The English Renaissance saw crucial growth in science, exploration, literature, and drama. Writers like William Shakespeare created work that is still widely known today. In the realm of science, Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Reigh made vital contributions.

Endings Of The Italian Renaissance

The Renaissance came to an end in the late 16th century to the early 17th century. Unfortunately, political instability, war, and foreign invasions devastated the country and forced the enlightened era to come to a rough end.

And as times changed and the landscape of fine arts evolved, another art style started prevailing, ultimately replacing and rejecting the style of the Renaissance. This art style was called Mannerism, which was considered a reaction against the rigidity of the Renaissance style. Mannerism favored an emotional and exaggerated style.

However, despite its ending, the Renaissance continues to be remembered and upheld by institutions and artists to this very day. It is seen as a golden era of enlightenment, and the works that emerged in this period have become timeless staples that are consistently studied and referred to.

Final Thoughts

Characterized by extreme realism, scientific enlightenment, and the advocation of human individuality, the Renaissance was a fascinatingly progressive but grounded era. Artists and scientists elevated the knowledge and technique in both art and science, and those efforts can still be felt today.

If you’re an artist, scientist, or scholar, you will derive much inspiration by taking a closer look at this era.