Italian Renaissance - Part 4 - Renaissance Essay Example

Why are great Italian Renaissance architects more famous than their great gothic predecessors? - Italian Renaissance introduction?? Discuss how the role and image of the architect changed during the Italian Renaissance.

The Italian Renaissance was the earliest manifestation of the general European Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement that began in Italy around the end of the 13th century and lasted until the 16th century, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe. The term Renaissance is in essence a modern one that came into currency in the 19th century, in the work of historians such as Jacob Burckhardt. Although the origins of a movement that was confined largely to the literate culture of intellectual endeavor and patronage can be traced to the earlier part of the 14th century, many aspects of Italian culture and society remained largely Medieval; the Renaissance did not come into full swing until the end of the century. The word renaissance (Rinascimento in Italian) means “rebirth”, and the era is best known for the renewed interest in the culture of classical antiquity after the period that Renaissance humanists labelled the Dark Ages. These changes, while significant, were concentrated in the elite, and for the vast majority of the population life was little changed from the Middle Ages.[1]


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Italian Renaissance architects based their theories and practices on classical Roman examples. The Renaissance revival of classical Rome was as important in architecture as it was in literature. Classical orders and architectural elements such as columns, pilasters, pediments, entablatures, arches, and domes form the vocabulary of Renaissance buildings. During the Renaissance, architects trained as humanists helped raise the status of their profession from skilled laborer to artist. They hoped to create structures that would appeal to both emotion and reason. Three key figures in Renaissance architecture were Filippo Brunelleschi, Leon Battista Alberti, and Andrea Palladio.[2]

The Renaissance style was introduced with a revolutionary but incomplete monument in Rimini by Leone Battista Alberti, in Florence. Some of the earliest buildings showing Renaissance characteristics are Filippo Brunelleschi’s church of San Lorenzo and the Pazzi Chapel. The interior of Santo Spirito expresses a new sense of light, clarity and spaciousness, which is typical of the early Italian Renaissance. Its architecture reflects the philosophy of Humanism, the enlightenment and clarity of mind as opposed to the darkness and spirituality of the Middle Ages. The revival of classical antiquity can best be illustrated by the Palazzo Rucellai. Here the pilasters follow the superposition of classical orders, with Doric capitals on the ground floor, Ionic capitals on the piano nobile and Corinthian capitals on the uppermost floor.[1]

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