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Italian Renaissance GOZGOZTEPE
12 09 2010

Italian Renaissance GOZGOZTEPE

Italian Renaissance



Northern Europe

The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, 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.

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[edit] Era

The European Renaissance began in Tuscany (Central Italy), and centered in the cities of Florence and Siena. It later had a great impact in Venice, where the remains of ancient Greek culture were brought together, providing humanist scholars with new texts. The Renaissance later had a significant effect on Rome, which was ornamented with some structures in the new all'antico mode, then was largely rebuilt by humanist sixteenth-century popes. The Italian Renaissance peaked in the mid-16th century as foreign invasions plunged the region into the turmoil of the Italian Wars. However, the ideas and ideals of the Renaissance endured and even spread into the rest of Europe, setting off the Northern Renaissance, and the English Renaissance.

[edit] Cultural achievements

The Italian Renaissance is best known for its cultural achievements. Accounts of Renaissance literature usually begin with Petrarch (best known for the elegantly polished vernacular sonnet sequence of the Canzoniere and for the craze for book collecting that he initiated) and his friend and contemporary Boccaccio (author of the Decameron). Famous vernacular poets of the 15th century include the renaissance epic authors Luigi Pulci (author of Morgante), Matteo Maria Boiardo (Orlando Innamorato), and Ludovico Ariosto (Orlando Furioso). 15th century writers such as the poet Poliziano and the Platonist philosopher Marsilio Ficino made extensive translations from both Latin and Greek. In the early 16th century, Castiglione (The Book of the Courtier) laid out his vision of the ideal gentleman and lady, while Machiavelli cast a jaundiced eye on "la verita effetuale delle cose"—the actual truth of things—in The Prince, composed, humanist style, chiefly of parallel ancient and modern examples of Virtù. Italian Renaissance painting exercised a dominant influence on subsequent European painting (see Western painting) for centuries afterwards, with artists such as Giotto di Bondone, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Titian. The same is true for architecture, as practiced by Brunelleschi, Leone Alberti, Andrea Palladio, and Bramante. Their works include Florence Cathedral, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini (to name a only a few, not to mention many splended private residences: see Renaissance architecture). Finally, the Aldine Press, founded by the printer Aldo Manuzio, active in Venice, developed Italic type and the small, relatively portable and inexpensive printed book that could be carried in one's pocket, as well as being the first to publish editions of books in Ancient Greek. Yet cultural contributions notwithstanding, some present-day historians also see the era as one of the beginning of economic regression for Italy ( there were some economic downturns due to the opening up of the Atlantic trade routes and repeated foreign invasions and interference by both France and the Spanish Empire).

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[edit] Northern and Central Italy in the Late Middle Ages

By the Late Middle Ages ( circa 1300 onward ), Latium the heartland of the Roman Empire-, and southern Italy, was poorer than the north. Rome was a city of ancient ruins, and the Papal States were a loosely administered State, and vulnerable to external interference such as that of France and later Spain. The Papacy was affronted by France when the Avignon Papacy created in southern France (in Avignon) under pressure from King Philip the Fair of France. In the south, Sicily had for some time been under foreign domination, by the Arabs and then the Normans. Sicily had prospered for 150 years during the Emirate of Sicily and later for two centuries during the Norman Kingdom and the Hohenstaufen Kingdom, but had declined by the late Middle Ages.

Northern and Central Italy eventually became far more prosperous, with the City-States among the wealthiest in Europe. The Crusades had built lasting trade links to the Levant, and the Fourth Crusade had done much to destroy the Byzantine Empire as a commercial rival to the Venetians and Genoese. The main trade routes from the east passed through the Byzantine Empire or the Arab lands and onwards to the ports of Genoa, Pisa, and Venice. Luxury goods bought in the Levant, such as spices, dyes, and silks were imported to Italy and then resold throughout Europe. Moreover, the inland city-states profited from the rich agricultural land of the Po valley. From France, Germany, and the Low Countries, through the medium of the Champagne fairs, land and river trade routes brought goods such as wool, wheat, and precious metals into the region. The extensive trade that stretched from Egypt to the Baltic generated substantial surpluses that allowed significant investment in mining and agriculture. Thus, while northern Italy was not richer in resources than many other parts of Europe, the level of development, stimulated by trade, allowed it to prosper. Florence became one of the wealthiest cities of Northern Italy, due mainly to its woolen textile production, under the supervision of its dominant trade guild, the Arte della Lana. Wool was imported from Northern Europe (and in the 16th century from Spain)[1] and dyes from the east were used to make high quality textiles.

The Italian trade routes that covered the Mediterranean and beyond were also major conduits of culture and knowledge. The recovery of lost Greek classics, to a lesser extent also independent Arab contributions, played an important part in the revitalization of medieval philosophy in the Renaissance of the 12th century, just as the refugee Greek scholars who migrated to Italy during the onslaught of the Ottomans against the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century were important in sparking the new linguistic studies of the Renaissance, in newly created academies in Florence and Venice. These Byzantines fled the Turks, sometimes carrying precious manuscripts and their knowledge (Greek and Ancient Greek) and while fixating themselves in Italy made a discreet but crucial contribution to the Italian Renaissance. Humanist scholars searched monastic libraries for ancient manuscripts and recovered Tacitus and other Latin authors; with the rediscovery of Vitruvius the architectural principles of Antiquity could be observed once more, and Renaissance artists were encouraged, in the atmosphere of humanist optimism, to excel the achievements of the Ancients, like Apelles, of whom they read.

[edit] Thirteenth-century

In the 13th century, much of Europe experienced strong economic growth. The trade routes of the Italian states linked with those of established Mediterranean ports and eventually the Hanseatic League of the Baltic and northern regions of Europe to create a network economy in Europe for the first time since the 4th century. The city-states of Italy expanded greatly during this period and grew in power to become de facto fully independent of the Holy Roman Empire; apart from the Kingdom of Naples, outside powers kept their armies out of Italy. During this period, the modern commercial infrastructure developed, with double-entry book-keeping, joint stock companies, an international banking system, a systematized foreign exchange market, insurance, and government debt.[2] Florence became the centre of this financial industry and the gold florin became the main currency of international trade.

The new mercantile governing class, who gained their position through financial skill, adapted to their purposes the feudal aristocratic model that had dominated Europe in the Middle Ages. A feature of the High Middle Ages in Northern Italy was the rise of the urban communes which had broken from the control by bishops and local counts. In much of the region, the landed nobility was poorer than the urban patriarchs in the High Medieval money economy whose inflationary rise left land-holding aristocrats impoverished. The increase in trade during the early Renaissance enhanced these characteristics. The decline of feudalism and the rise of cities influenced each other; for example, the demand for luxury goods led to an increase in trade, which led to greater numbers of tradesmen becoming wealthy, who, in turn, demanded more luxury goods. This change also gave the merchants almost complete control of the governments of the Italian city-states, again enhancing trade. One of the most important effects of this political control was security. Those that grew extremely wealthy in a feudal state ran constant risk of running afoul of the monarchy and having their lands confiscated, as famously occurred to Jacques Coeur in France. The northern states also kept many medieval laws that severely hampered commerce, such as those against usury, and prohibitions on trading with non-Christians. In the city-states of Italy, these laws were repealed or rewritten.[3]

[edit] Fourteenth-century collapse
Italy in 1328.

The 14th century saw a series of catastrophes that caused the European economy to go into recession. The Medieval Warm Period was ending as the transition to the Little Ice Age began.[4] This change in climate saw agricultural output decline significantly, leading to repeated famines, exacerbated by the rapid population growth of the earlier era. The Hundred Years' War between England and France disrupted trade throughout northwest Europe, most notably when, in 1345, King Edward III of England repudiated his debts, contributing to the collapse of the two largest Florentine banks, those of the Bardi and Peruzzi. In the east, war was also disrupting trade routes, as the Ottoman Empire began to expand throughout the region. Most devastating, though, was the Black Death that decimated the populations of the densely populated cities of Northern Italy and returned at intervals thereafter. Florence, for instance, which had a pre-plague population of 45,000 decreased over the next 47 years by 25–50%.[5] Widespread disorder followed, including a revolt of Florentine textile workers, the ciompi, in 1378.

It was during this period of instability that the first Renaissance figures, such as Dante and Petrarch lived, and the first stirrings of Renaissance art were to be seen in the opening half of the 14th century, notably in the realism of Giotto. Paradoxically, some of these disasters would help establish the Renaissance. The Black Death wiped out a third of Europe's population, producing a labour shortage, so that the reduced population was much wealthier, better fed, and, significantly, had more surplus money to spend on luxury goods like art and architecture. As incidences of the plague began to decline in the early 15th century, Europe's devastated population once again began to grow. This new demand for products and services, and the reduced number of people able to provide them, put the lower classes in a more favourable position. Furthermore, this demand also helped create a growing class of bankers, merchants, and skilled artisans. The horrors of the Black Death and the seeming inability of the Church to provide relief would contribute to a decline of church influence, another significant contributing factor to the Renaissance. Additionally, the collapse of the Bardi and Peruzzi banks would open the way for the Medici to rise to prominence in Florence. Roberto Sabatino Lopez argues that the economic collapse was a crucial cause of the Renaissance.[6] According to this view, in a more prosperous era, businessmen would have quickly reinvested their earnings in order to make more money in a climate favourable to investment. However, in the leaner years of the 14th century, the wealthy found few promising investment opportunities for their earnings and instead chose to spend more on culture and art.

Another popular explanation for the Italian Renaissance is the thesis, first advanced by historian Hans Baron,[7] that states that the primary impetus of the early Renaissance was the long-running series of wars between Florence and Milan. By the late 14th century, Milan had become a centralized monarchy under the control of the Visconti family. Giangaleazzo Visconti, who ruled the city from 1378 to 1402, was renowned both for his cruelty and for his abilities, and set about building an empire in Northern Italy. He launched a long series of wars, with Milan steadily conquering neighbouring states and defeating the various coalitions led by Florence that sought in vain to halt the advance. This culminated in the 1402 siege of Florence, when it looked as though the city was doomed to fall, before Giangaleazzo suddenly died and his empire collapsed.

Baron's thesis suggests that during these long wars, the leading figures of Florence rallied the people by presenting the war as one between the free republic and the despotic monarchy, between the ideals of the Greek and Roman Republics and those of the Roman Empire and Medieval kingdoms. For Baron, the most important figure in crafting this ideology was Leonardo Bruni. This time of crisis in Florence was the period when most of the major early Renaissance figures were coming of age, such as Ghiberti, Donatello, Masolino, and Brunelleschi, and that they were inculcated with this republican ideology. These and other figures later went on to advocate republican ideas that were to have an enormous impact on the Renaissance.

[edit] Development [edit] International relations
Pandolfo Malatesta (1417–1468), lord of Rimini, by Piero della Francesca. Malatesta was a capable condottiere, following the tradition of his family. He was hired by the Venetians to fight against the Turks (unsuccessfully) in 1465, and was patron of Leone Battista Alberti, whose Tempio Malatestiano at Rimini is one of the first entirely classical buildings of the Renaissance.

Northern Italy and upper Central Italy were divided into a number of warring city-states, the most powerful being Milan, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Genoa, Ferrara, Mantua, Verona and Venice. High Medieval Northern Italy was further divided by the long running battle for supremacy between the forces of the Papacy and of the Holy Roman Empire: each city aligned itself with one faction or the other, yet was divided internally between the two warring parties, Guelfs and Ghibellines. Warfare between the states was common, invasion from outside Italy confined to intermittent sorties of Holy Roman Emperors. Renaissance politics developed from this background. Since the 13th century, as armies became primarily composed of mercenaries, prosperous city-states could field considerable forces, despite their low populations. In the course of the 15th century, the most powerful city-states annexed their smaller neighbors. Florence took Pisa in 1406, Venice captured Padua and Verona, while the Duchy of Milan annexed a number of nearby areas including Pavia and Parma.

The first part of the Renaissance saw almost constant warfare on land and sea as the city-states vied for preeminence. On land, these wars were primarily fought by armies of mercenaries known as condottieri, bands of soldiers drawn from around Europe, but especially Germany and Switzerland, led largely by Italian captains. The mercenaries were not willing to risk their lives unduly, and war became one largely of sieges and maneuvering, occasioning few pitched battles. It was also in the interest of mercenaries on both sides to prolong any conflict, to continue their employment. Mercenaries were also a constant threat to their employers; if not paid, they often turned on their patron. If it became obvious that a state was entirely dependent on mercenaries, the temptation was great for the mercenaries to take over the running of it themselves—this occurred on a number of occasions.[8]

At sea, Italian city-states sent many fleets out to do battle. The main contenders were Pisa, Genoa, and Venice, but after a long conflict the Genoese succeeded in reducing Pisa. Venice proved to be a more powerful adversary, and with the decline of Genoese power during the 15th century Venice became pre-eminent on the seas. In response to threats from the landward side, from the early 15th century Venice developed an increased interest in controlling the terrafirma as the Venetian Renaissance opened.

On land, decades of fighting saw Florence, Milan and Venice emerge as the dominant players, and these two powers finally set aside their differences and agreed to the Peace of Lodi in 1454, which saw relative calm brought to the region for the first time in centuries. This peace would hold for the next forty years, and Venice's unquestioned hegemony over the sea also led to unprecedented peace for much of the rest of the 15th century. In the beginning of the 15th century, adventurer and traders such as Niccolò Da Conti (1395–1469) traveled as far as Southeast Asia and back, bringing fresh knowledge on the state of the world, presaging further European voyages of exploration in the years to come.

[edit] Florence under the Medici

Until the late 14th century, Florence's leading family were the House of Albizzi. Their main challengers were the Medicis, first under Giovanni de' Medici, later under his son Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici. The Medici controlled the Medici bank—then Europe's largest bank—and an array of other enterprises in Florence and elsewhere. In 1433, the Albizzi managed to have Cosimo exiled.[9] The next year, however, saw a pro-Medici Signoria elected and Cosimo returned. The Medici became the town's leading family, a position they would hold for the next three centuries. Florence remained a republic until 1537, traditionally marking the end of the High Renaissance in Florence, but the instruments of republican government were firmly under the control of the Medici and their allies, save during the intervals after 1494 and 1527. Cosimo and Lorenzo only rarely held official posts, but were the unquestioned leaders.

Cosimo de' Medici was highly popular among the citizenry, mainly for bringing an era of stability and prosperity to the town. One of his most important accomplishments was negotiating the Peace of Lodi with Francesco Sforza ending the decades of war with Milan and bringing stability to much of Northern Italy. Cosimo was also an important patron of the arts, directly and indirectly, by the influential example he set.

Cosimo was succeeded by his sickly son Piero de' Medici, who died after five years in charge of the city. In 1469 the reins of power passed to Cosimo's twenty-one-year-old grandson Lorenzo, who would become known as "Lorenzo the Magnificent." Lorenzo was the first of the family to be educated from an early age in the humanist tradition and is best known as one of the Renaissance's most important patrons of the arts. Under Lorenzo, the Medici rule was formalized with the creation of a new Council of Seventy, which Lorenzo headed. The republican institutions continued, but they lost all power. Lorenzo was less successful than his illustrious forebears in business, and the Medici commercial empire was slowly eroded. Lorenzo continued the alliance with Milan, but relations with the papacy soured, and in 1478, Papal agents allied with the Pazzi family in an attempt to assassinate Lorenzo. Although the plot failed, Lorenzo's young brother, Giuliano, was killed, and the failed assassination led to a war with the Papacy and was used as justification to further centralize power in Lorenzo's hands.[10]

[edit] Spread

Renaissance ideals first spread from Florence to the neighbouring states of Tuscany such as Siena and Lucca. The Tuscan culture soon became the model for all the states of Northern Italy, and the Tuscan variety of Italian came to predominate throughout the region, especially in literature. In 1447 Francesco Sforza came to power in Milan and rapidly transformed that still medieval city into a major centre of art and learning that drew Leone Battista Alberti. Venice, one of the wealthiest cities due to its control of the Adriatic Sea, also became a centre for Renaissance culture, especially architecture. Smaller courts brought Renaissance patronage to lesser cities, which developed their characteristic arts: Ferrara, Mantu

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