Art and Literature
The Renaissance began after the plague in the 14th
and 15th centuries and was fueled by soldiers returning
from the Crusades. There was renewed interest in ancient
Greek and Roman art. Human beings were included in artwork.
Artwork was no longer just depictions of holy topics.
There was new interest in science, the environment and
The Printing Press — The
Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1445. This
invention changed the lives of people in Europe and
all over the world. Prior to its invention, books were
made by hand. Words were copied and illustrations were
all drawn on parchment paper and animal skins that were
dried and scraped until they were smooth. This made
books very expensive. The printing press could produce
books very quickly with little effort. Books were therefore
much less expensive and many more people could afford
them. With the knowledge imparted in the books, many
more people were empowered and as a result many changes
began to occur.
In the Middle Ages, churches were no longer shaped like
crosses. They used the circle to represent the perfection
of God. Symmetry became important. In homes, some of
the features of the period were courtyards, columns
as support structures and domed roofs (a very difficult
Renaissance painters used more realistic depictions
than artists in the Middle Ages. The human figure was
drawn as realistically as possible, often with backgrounds
of nature. There was less emphasis on religious art.
Gone were the pictures that had people arranged freely
and in came symmetrical groupings. Science helped artists
understand the concept of perspective, where objects
that were drawn smaller actually looked as if they were
farther away. Use of light made figures look real. Famous
artists of the time include these men:
Botticelli was a member of the
famous Medici family in Florence, Italy. He became
very rich as both a goldsmith and an artist, but
died penniless. He painted three frescos in the
Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. Fresco is the art
or technique of painting on a moist plaster surface
with colors ground up in water or a limewater mixture.
Leonardo da Vinci is considered
to have one of the greatest minds of all times.
He was an architect, musician, engineer, scientist,
mathematician, botanist and inventor. He invented
the first parachute, helicopter, airplane, tank,
repeating rifle, swing bridge, paddleboat and motorcar.
He painted the famous “Mona Lisa” and
“The Last Supper.”
Michelangelo is considered by
some to be the greatest artist and sculptor who
ever lived. He was a great leader of the Italian
Renaissance. His most famous work and his greatest
glory was painting the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican
in Rome. It took him four years to do this. The
ceiling shows the history of the Old Testament and
includes more than 300 figures. He set the standards
for sculpting, painting, poetry and architecture.
Science also played a part in the creation of music.
Musicians learned how the pitch changes by lengthening
or shortening the size of the string on stringed instruments.
Once again, symmetry became a part of the music they
created. Musicians studied the Greek drama and tried
to create music that would go with the words of their
stories. This was the beginning of opera, where music
and theater are combined.
Renaissance literature started with a renewed interest
in the classical Greek and Roman learning. The invention
of the printing press and the weakening of the Catholic
Church’s influence on the daily lives of the people,
among other things, enabled Renaissance writers to express
their beliefs in new ways.
There was an explosion of writing, some of which is
deemed the greatest of all time, by these authors and
Martin Luther‘s book 95
Theses had a great effect on people. He changed
Christianity forever by telling about the abuses
of the church by the clergy. He is sometimes known
as the “father of Protestantism.”
John Calvin criticized the Catholic
Church. He believed that a person has an individual
relationship to God. Calvinist churches believe
in the simple life and a strong work ethic.
Nicolaus Copernicus wrote a book
that proved that the sun did not move around the
earth every 24 hours. His book revealed that the
earth was not the center of the universe.
Leonardo da Vinci’s masterful
life is shown in his famed Notebooks, which contains
his drawings of “things that make the world
matter.” This is how da Vinci regarded his
St. Ignatius Loyola wrote a series
of five books that defended the church and scolded
Luther for his crusade against it.
Niccolo Machiavelli wrote that
there is no place for religion or morality in politics
in his book The Prince. It is believed that “power
politics” had its roots in this book.
William Shakespeare is considered
one of the greatest writers who ever lived. He wrote
at least 37 plays and 154 sonnets. Little is known
about his life; however, we do know that he was
an actor and performed at the Globe Theater.