In Art History, What Does the Term "Renaissance" Describe?

art-history-term-renaissance-describe Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The term "Renaissance" describes a period of art in which Europeans revived and rediscovered classical styles from ancient Greece and ancient Rome. The "proto-Renaissance" period began in 1280 in Italy when artisans sought to make great achievements, such as those from Roman times 700 years earlier. The Renaissance period lasted until the late 1500s when the "Mannerist" style of art became favored more than the naturalism of the High Renaissance.

Florentine artist Giotto, who lived from 1267 to 1337, invented advanced techniques to paint the human body realistically. Giotto's frescoes adorned churches and cathedrals all over Italy before the birth of Michelangelo. The proto-Renaissance gained popularity in the 1400s with artists like sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, architect Filippo Brunelleschi, Masaccio and Donatello in the time of the Medici family's powerful reign in Florence.

The High Renaissance was from the 1490s until 1527. Masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael dominated this period, along with Bramante, Giorgione, Titian and Correggio. Da Vinci's paintings, such as "Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper," are considered masterworks of light and shadow. Michelangelo's two sculptures, David and Pietà, were done before his famous Sistine Chapel frescoes of 1508 to 1512. Many of Raphael's paintings, such as "The School of Athens," are in the Vatican.