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Famous Italian Painting
La Gioconda- da Vinci
The Italian Renaissance was one of the most artistic, colorful, and exciting times in history. "Renaissance" essentially comes from the French word "Renaistre," meaning "to be born again", however in Italian the word is "Rinascimento." The Renaissance was a revival of cultural awareness and learning among art, law, language, literature, philosophy, science, and mathematics. This period took place between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Renaissance in Italy flourished in the 15th century and spread throughout most of Europe in the 16th century.

Italian life in the 14th and 15th centuries was lived among the vast remains of the ancient Roman Empire. Its glorious past had long been forgotten, and to some scholars of the 14th century, with the fall of Rome to the Barbarians, intellectual significance in everyday life gave way to brute strength and civil decline.

The Italian poet Petrarch, who lived from 1304 to 1374, was the first to use the term "dark ages" when describing the period. He convinced his influential friends that the way to bring the dark ages to an end was to revive the ideology described in the poetry, philosophy, and art of the ancient world.

Petrarch and his peers at the time called themselves humanists. They defended and glorified the value of a humanís life on earth. The humanists believed that mankind had unlimited potential which each individual should strive to achieve. The Humanist ideas, once popular, were the basis for the Renaissance.

The ideal man of the Renaissance was supposed to be a philosopher, a poet, a scholar, a scientist and an artist. The reason that the movement succeeded was because so many men during the time actually followed this pattern of life.

Vatican Paintings
School of Athens- della Segnatura
The impact of humanism on the arts was enormous. The subject of paintings prior to the Renaissance was primarily religious. Artists were not interested in making a picture "realistic" they only cared about the subject matter and the idea of the painting. The more important figures in the painting were frequently made larger than all the others, and often the element of landscape was omitted completely. Religious figures for example, would be painted against a background of shining gold, which signified the heavens.

The Italian Renaissance distinguished itself from preceding failed movements by exemplifying a devotion to the restoration of Classical Antiquity. A renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman design with an emphasis on the human form as well as the environment. The idea of perspective was added to the artistís repertoire in order to bring all of theses ideas together.

The first great Italian painter Giotto, who lived in the late 13th century, was one of the first noteable artists of the beginning of the Renaissaince. Although he had a medieval subject matter, (the New Testament) and his paintings were full of human drama in a natural enviroment. One hundred and forty years later, during the height of the Renaissance, painters were free to create scenes of much more earthly inspiration. They painted many of their subjects from known myths and the idea of religious inspiration gave way to business as many artists were paid by wealthy patrons to create works. These ideas lasted long after the Renaissance gave way to the age of enlightenment.

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