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Florence, Italy: Renaissance Art and Architecture

Florence, Italy: Renaissance Art and Architecture


After the fall of ancient Rome, Europe
wallowed in centuries of relative darkness. There was little learning, commerce or
travel. Then, in about 1400, here in Florence, there was a Renaissance. This
exciting rebirth of the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome
swept from here all across Europe. In architecture, the Renaissance brought
a return to the balanced domes, columns and arches of the
ancient world. In painting, it revived realism and
emotion. Artists rediscovered the wonder of
nature and the human body. Portraying beautiful people in harmonious
surroundings, they expressed the optimism and
confidence of this new age. The suddenly perky western
civilization made up for lost centuries with huge gains
in science, economics and art. Florence was the center of it
all and for good reason — this is where capitalism was replacing
feudalism. Being the middleman of trade
between east and west, the city had money and it knew
what to do with it. Wealthy merchant and banking families like the Medici, who ruled
Florence for generations, showed their civic pride by
commissioning splendid art. And Florence, recognizing and paying
creative genius like no one else, unleashed an explosion of
innovation. The Renaissance was an age of humanism. It was a time of confidence
when people worked hard, business was respectable, and excellence
was rewarded. The church no longer put a ceiling on
learning and the great pre-Christian thinkers like Plato and Aristotle were
back in vogue. In about 1400, with the
advent of the Renaissance, man, now alert, begins to stand on his own,
moving out of the shadow of the church. This David by the early Renaissance
Florentine sculptor Donatello is one of the first freestanding male
nudes sculpted in Europe in a thousand years. It’s art for art’s sake adorning not a
church but a rich man’s courtyard. While the formal subject is still Biblical — David slaying the giant — Goliath’s severed
head is at David’s feet — truth be told it’s a classical nude, a
celebration of the human body. A generation before,
this would have been shocking but with the Renaissance
it’s art.

14 comments found

  1. After the fall of Rome Europe wallowed in centuries of relative darkness? You need to revise your thinking on Medieval art and architecture and culture, Steve. It wasn't "wallowing in darkness" at all! It was assimilating both Christianity and the barbarian cultures into the remains of pagan Roman culture. "Wallowing in centuries of darkness" is pure propaganda. Don't you hear the tinny ring of the lie when you say it?

  2. Visit Florence to capture the energy of the Renaissance…

    (Enjoy more free travel videos on demand via https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/rick-steves-europe-video/id158175220?mt=2)

  3. An art exhibit in Italy consisting of cigarette butts and empty champagne bottles was thrown away by a cleaner who mistook it for a mess.

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