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A Comparative Study of Northern and Italian Renaissance Art

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World Civilization I

Northern vs. Italian Renaissance Art

The Renaissance is the time period in Europe immediately following the Middle Ages. It was witness to the discovery and exploration of new continents, the founding of new ideas, and innovations to powerful tools, such as paper, the compass, and gunpowder. It is a time when classical learning and wisdom were revived after a period of cultural decline. (Britannica) The Renaissance is often separated into two places: Northern Renaissance and Italian Renaissance. The Northern Renaissance typically refers to the European countries north of Italy. (Esaak) The Italian Renaissance began in Florence, the capital of Italy at the time. ( Both the Northern and Italian Renaissance were the height of art and beauty in the continent of Europe.

The Northern Renaissance began when King Francis I imported Italian art, commissioning Italian artist, including Leonardo da Vinci). This sparked the rise of humanism in northern Europe. Northern Renaissance art kept the Gothic style of art and architecture. The artists in the north were scattered and fewer in number compared to their Italian counterparts. The Dukes of Burgundy (a territory from present-day middle France northward toward the sea, including Belgium and parts of the Netherlands) were great patrons of the arts. The art they sponsored were illuminated manuscripts, furnishings, and tapestries. At this time, northern Europe became more rebellions over the Church’s authority, giving art a much more secular look. (Esaak)

Italian Renaissance art was inspired by humanism, the outlook that focused on the importance of human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Artists, philosophers, and writers studied the classical and explored humanity. (Esaak) Art was found everywhere, and patrons such as the Medici family of Florence sponsored both large and small projects, and successful artists became celebrities. ( The Italian Renaissance is best known for the cultural achievements. Most of these achievements were in literature, including humanist authors such as Petrarch (the sonnets of The Canzoniere) and Boccaccio (the tales of the Decameron), renaissance epic authors such as Castiglione (The Book of the Courtier) and Torquato Tasso (Jerusalem Delivered), and prose authors such as Machiavelli (The Prince). (Esaak)

The main differences in Italian and Northern art is the style. Italian art was more symmetrical and balanced, with a liner perspective, while Northern art had more attention to detail and a more natural look. Italian art focused more of classical mythology and religious scenes, and the Northern art focused more on portraits and domestic interiors, as well as religious scenes. Because the Northern Renaissance came some time later than the Italian Renaissance, much of the art is of common people carrying out normal everyday tasks, while the Italian Renaissance focused more on the aristocracy. The art was more detailed and elaborate, showing how wealthy the people were. Despite all their differences, both the Northern and Italian Renaissance were the height of art and beauty in the continent of Europe.

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