Renaissance was a term used by scholars in the 19th century to describe the activities of European artists and intellectuals from the 14th century to the 16th century. Renaissance is a French word, meaning “rebirth “or “rinascinento” in Italian. The term can also be explained as the ‘Re-awakening’ or the ‘Renewal of knowledge’. The period of the renaissance was an age of exploration, experimentation, self-realization and the opening up of new worlds not only in the artistic sense but imagination and creativity. People began to think, reason and analyze every aspect of words, deeds, and conventions of rules of society. It was indeed a period of enlightenment of the world.
The period brought about a new attitude to life characterized by curiosity, research and freedom of thought which was falsely opposed by the church. The Roman Catholic Church in Rome and its surrounding cities in Italy had conventions or laid down principles which they thought should not be broken. The church dominated every aspect of the lives of people and conscripted knowledge. They exploited the people in terms of their money and their property due to their ignorance. It was during this period in man’s history where people like Martin Luther started to question the conventions imposed by the church. They researched into science, astronomy, art and philosophy and other proposed theories of the world.
Before the Renaissance period, knowledge was restricted to the rich in the society who could purchase the books which were hand written by the learned Monks and Nuns of the church. However, knowledge became abundant and cheaper after the invention of the first printing press by a German called Johannes Gutenberg. This paved the way for people to uncover the deceit of the church bringing about social unrest, political conflict, religious conflict and several forms of warfare.
Renaissance, emerged as a distinct style in Italy in about 1400, in parallel with developments which occurred in philosophy, art, government, theology, literature, music and science and other aspects of society. Renaissance art is perceived as a “rebirth” of ancient traditions that took as its foundation the art of Classical antiquity in Greek and Roman arts and culture. However, these traditions were transformed by the absorption of recent developments in the art of Northern Europe and by application of contemporary scientific knowledge. Renaissance art spread throughout Europe, affecting both artists and their patrons with the development of new techniques and new artistic sensibilities. Renaissance art marks the transition of Europe from the medieval period to the Early modern age.