Renaissance Figures Essay Research Paper Cosimo de

Renaissance Figures Essay, Research Paper Cosimo de’ Medici, also known as Cosimo the Elder, lived from 1389–1464. He was the first Medici to rule Florence. He was exiled

Renaissance Figures Essay, Research Paper

Cosimo de’ Medici, also known as Cosimo the Elder, lived from

1389–1464. He was the first Medici to rule Florence. He was exiled

from Florence in 1433, but he returned in 1434 and doubled his wealth

through banking. He ended Florence’s traditional alliance with Venice

and supported the Sforza family in Milan. His historical significance

was being a patron to such artists as Brunelleschi, Donatello, and

Ghiberti, and as the founder of the Medici Library.


Lorenzo de’ Medici, also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, lived from

1449–1492, and he was one of the towering figures of the Italian

Renaissance. He had little success in business, however, and his lavish

entertainments depleted his funds. In 1478 Pope SIXTUS IV helped to

foment the Pazzi conspiracy against him. Lorenzo’s brother Giuliano was

murdered, but Lorenzo escaped with only a wound, and the plot collapsed.

In spite of the attacks of Girolamo Savonarola, Lorenzo allowed him to

continue preaching. Lorenzo’s historical significance was being a patron

of Bottielli and Michaelangelo. His second son later became pope as Leo



Henry VIII lived from 1491–1547, and he reigned from 1509–1547. He

married his brother Arthur’s widow, Katharine of Arogon, who bore him a

daughter, MARY I. His chief minister, Thomas Wolsey, concluded an

alliance with Francis I of France, but joined Emperor Charles V in 1522,

in a war against France. England prospered internally under Wolsey, who

had almost complete control. The court became a center of learning, and

the pope gave Henry the title “Defender of the Faith” for a treatise he

wrote against Martin Luther. By 1527 Henry, desiring a male heir,

wished to marry Anne Boleyn, but Pope Clement VII, under the control of

Katharine’s nephew, Charles V, resisted his demands for a divorce. An

anti-ecclesiastical policy was adopted, and the subservient Thomas

Cranmer became archbishop of Canterbury. He immediately pronounced

Henry’s marriage to Katharine invalid. Papal powers were transferred to

the king, who became the supreme head of the English church. The break

with Rome was now complete, and the Church of England was established.

The king dealt harshly with rebellions against the abolition of papal

supremacy and the dissolution of the monasteries. The end of Henry’s

reign saw a gradual move toward Protestantism. Henry remained immensely

popular, despite his advancement of personal desires under the guise of

public policy or moral right. His political insight, however, grew

steadily better, and the power of Parliament increased. He gave England

a comparatively peaceful reign.


Girolamo Savonarola lived from 1452–1498. He was an Italian religious

reformer, and a Dominican. He became popular in Florence for his

eloquent attacks on moral laxity and for his predictions, some of them

accurate. After the Medici were exiled (1494), he became spiritual

ruler of Florence and imposed a severe regime. He supported the invasion

of Italy by Charles VIII of France, hoping that Charles would help in

forming a democratic government in Florence and reforming the

scandalously corrupt court of Pope Alexander VI. He was excommunicated

(1497) after ignoring the pope’s order to stop preaching, Savonarola was

finally executed as a false prophet.


Baldassare Castiglione, who lived from 1478–1529, was an Italian author

and statesman. His Book of the Courtier (1528), a treatise on etiquette,

social problems, and intellectual accomplishments, contributed to a

Renaissance ideal of aristocracy embodied in the life of Sir Philip

Sidney. The son of a noble family, Castiglione was educated at the

humanist school of Giorgio Merula and Demetrius Chalcondyles, and

at the court of Ludovico Sforza in Milan. The Courtier was a great

publishing success by the standards of the time. It was written for and

read by noblewomen, including the poet Vittoria Colonna, Isabella d’Este,

Marchioness of Mantua, and the author’s mother, as well as by men.

Niccol? Machiavelli, lived from 1469–1527. He was an Italian political

philosopher and statesman. As defense secretary of the Florentine

republic he substituted a citizens’ militia for the mercenary system.

Through diplomatic missions he became acquainted with power politics,

meeting such leaders as Cesare Borgia. When the Medici family returned

to power (1512) he was dismissed, and briefly imprisoned and tortured.

He then retired to his country estate, where he wrote on politics. His

most famous work, The Prince (1532), describes the means by which a

leader may gain and maintain power. His “ideal” prince is an amoral and

calculating tyrant capable of unifying Italy. Despite the ruthless

connotation of the term Machiavellian, such works as the Discourses

(1531) and the History of Florence (1532) express republican principles.

Machiavelli also wrote poems and plays, notably the comedy Mandragola



Equestrian statue of Gattamelata, bronze sculpture by Donatello

Donatello c.1386–1466, was an Italian sculptor, a major innovator in

Renaissance art. He was born in Florence as Donato di Niccol? di Betto

Bardi. He assisted Ghiberti in Florence and worked on its cathedral.

His sculptures developed from Gothic forms, e.g., the marble David

(Bargello, Florence) to strong, humanistic expression, e.g., St. Mark.

He developed a shallow relief technique (schiacciato) with which he

achieved effects of spatial depth. In Rome he studied ancient monuments

that influenced his sculpture. Donatello headed a vast workshop in Padua

(1443–53). His late Florentine masterworks include the Magdalen and the

pulpits of San Lorenzo.


“Moses,” marble sculpture for the tomb of Pope Julius II by Michelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarroti lived from 1475–1564, he was an Italian

sculptor, painter, and poet. He was a towering figure of Renaissance

mannerist, and baroque art. From 1490 to 1492 he lived in Lorenzo de’

MEDICI’s house, where he was influenced by Neoplatonic thought. Between

1496 and 1501, Michelangelo worked in Rome, doing the marble Bacchus

(Bargello, Florence) and the exquisitely balanced Piet? (St. Peter’s,

Rome). He returned to Florence in 1501, where he was commissioned to do

the magnificent David (Academy, Florence). Shortly after awarding the

contract for the tomb, Julius commissioned the decoration of the ceiling

of the SISTINE CHAPEL, which Michelangelo worked on from 1508 to 1512.

The ceiling is divided into three zones, the highest showing scenes from

Genesis. Below are prophets and sibyls. In the lunettes and spandrels

are figures identified as ancestors of Jesus or the Virgin, which seem

to suggest a vision of primordial humanity. He thought of himself

primarily as a sculptor, and a feeling for the expressive potentialities

of sculptural form manifests itself in all his work. Many of his designs

have survived only through his drawings, which used vigorous



“The Grand-Duke’s Madonna,” oil painting by Raphael, 1505

Raphael Santi, lived from 1483–1520, and was a major Italian Renaissance

painter; b. Urbino. Raphael’s work is the clearest expression of the

harmony and balance of High Renaissance composition. His father,

Giovanni Santi, court poet and painter to the duke of Urbino, taught him

the elements of art. After his father’s death, Raphael entered the

workshop of PERUGINO, whose influence is seen in The Crucifixion and The

Knight’s Dream (both: National Gall., London). The Colonna Altarpiece

(Metropolitan Mus.) marks the end of Raphael’s Perugian period. The five

predella scenes, including Agony in the Garden (Metropolitan Mus.) and

Piet? (Gardner Mus., Boston), show the influences of MICHELANGELO,

MASACCIO, LEONARDO, and Fra Bartolomeo. In these scenes he achieved a

freer, more able, deeper interpretation than in his earlier work. In

Florence (1504–8) he produced his self-portrait (Uffizi) and the

numerous Madonnas renowned for their sweetness of expression. At Rome,

his style matured, benefiting from Michelangelo’s influence. He was

wholly responsible for the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican (see

VATICAN CITY), the two largest walls representing the School of Athens

and the Triumph of Religion. In the Stanza d’Eliodoro he painted, among

others, The Miracle of Bolsena and The Deliverance of St. Peter. The

Sistine Madonna (Dresden) is from his Roman period. In 1514 he succeeded

BRAMANTE as chief architect of the Vatican, and he designed ten

tapestries for the SISTINE CHAPEL. Raphael was deeply indebted to the

sculpture of antiquity, and he achieved a harmony and monumentality of

interpretation that were emulated far into the 19th cent.


Leonardo, self-portrait, chalk drawing.


“Mona Lisa,” oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci, 1503-06

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452–1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect,

musician, engineer, and scientist, probably the supreme example of

RENAISSANCE genius. Born in Vinci, Tuscany, he was the illegitimate son

of a Florentine notary and a peasant girl. His precocious artistic

talent brought him to VERROCCHIO’s workshop in 1466, where he met

BOTTICELLI and GHIRLANDAIO. The culmination of his art in this first

period in Florence is seen in the magnificent, unfinished Adoration of

the Magi (Uffizi), with its characteristic dramatic movement and

chiaroscuro. In c.1482 Leonardo went to the court of Ludovico SFORZA in

Milan and there composed most of his Trattato della pittura and the

notebooks that demonstrate his versatile genius. The severe plagues in

1484 and 1485 drew his attention to town planning, and his drawings and

plans for domed churches reflect his concern with architectural

problems. In 1483, Leonardo and his pupil Ambrogio de Predis were

commissioned to execute the famous Madonna of the Rocks (two versions:

1483–c.1486, Louvre; 1483–1508, National Gall., London). The now badly

damaged Last Supper (c.1495–1498; Milan) was executed during the period

when he was experimenting with the FRESCO medium, and this partly

accounts for its damage. Despite this, a sublime spiritual content and

power of invention mark it as one of the world’s masterpieces.

Leonardo’s model for an equestrian monument to Francesco Sforza was

never cast, and in 1500 he returned to Florence, where he did much

theoretical work in mathematics and pursued his anatomical studies in

the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. As a military engineer for Cesare

BORGIA he studied swamp reclamation and met Niccol? MACHIAVELLI. In

c.1503 he executed the celebrated Mona Lisa (Louvre). Then, as architect

and engineer in Milan to the French king LOUIS XII, he continued his

scientific investigations into geology, botany, hydraulics, and

mechanics. In 1510–11 he painted St. Anne, Mary, and the Child (Louvre),

a work that exemplifies his handling of sfumato—misty, subtle

transitions in tone. His enigmatic St. John the Baptist (c.1513; Louvre)

was executed for Pope LEO X and his brother Giuliano de’ Medici in Rome.

Shortly after 1515, Leonardo accepted an invitation from FRANCIS I of

France to settle in the castle of Cloux. Here he pursued his own

researches until his death. His versatility and creative power, as well

as the richness and originality expressed in his notebooks, drawings,

and paintings, mark him as one of the great minds of all time.


“Ghent Altarpiece” (open view) by Jan and Hubert van Eyck, 1432

Jan van Eyck, c.1390–1441, Flemish painters, brothers. Jan worked in

the courts of Count John of Holland (1422–25) and Philip of Burgundy.

His paintings are minutely descriptive, realistic depictions of portrait

subjects and religious scenes with contemporary GENRE details. His oil

technique reveals an unprecedented richness and intensity of color for

the medium. The two brothers collaborated on their masterwork, the

altarpiece of the Church of Saint Bavon in Ghent (completed by Jan in

1432). One or both brothers illuminated parts of the Heures de Turin

manuscript. Jan’s portrait oils include Portrait of an Unknown Man (1432)

and Man with the Red Turban, perhaps a self-portrait (both: London), and

the wedding picture Giovanni Arnolfini and his Bride (1434; National Gall.,

London). His splendid Annunciation is in Washington, D.C. (National Gall.).

Jan van Eyck’s influence on European painting is enormous.


D?rer, “Self-portrait in Furred Coat,” oil on wood panel


“Four Apostles,” oil on two wood panels by Albrecht D?rer

Albrecht D?rer

1471-1528 German painter and engraver who incorporated

the classicism of the Italian Renaissance into northern European art. D?rer was the second son of the goldsmith Albrecht D?rer the Elder, who had left Hungary to settle in N?rnberg in 1455, and of Barbara Holper, who had been born there. He was a painter and printmaker generally regarded as the greatest German Renaissance artist. His vast body of work includes altarpieces and religious works numerous portraits and self-portraits (see and copper engravings. His woodcuts, such as the Apocalypse series (1498), retain a more Gothic flavour than the rest of his work.


“The Tower of Babel,” oil painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Brueghel, known as “the Elder.” 1525?-1569. Was a Flemish

painter noted for his landscapes and his lively genre scenes, including

Peasant Wedding (c. 1567). His son Pieter (1564-1638?), known as “the

Younger,” is primarily remembered for his copies of his father’s works,

while another son, Jan (1568-1625), is frequently called “the Flower

Brueghel” or “the Velvet Brueghel” for the silky detail of his

still-life paintings. He is considered the greatest painter of the 16th century, whose landscapes and vigorous, often witty scenes of peasant life are particularly renowned . Since Bruegel signed and dated many of his works, his artistic evolution can be traced from the early landscapes, in which he shows affinity with the Flemish 16th-century landscape tradition, to his last works, which are Italianate. He exerted a strong influence on painting in the Low Countries, and through his sons Jan and Pieter he became the ancestor of a dynasty of painters that survived into the 18th century.

Desiderius Erasmus 1466?-1536, was a Dutch Renaissance scholar and Roman Catholic theologian who sought to revive classical texts from

antiquity, restore simple Christian faith based on Scripture, and

eradicate the improprieties of the medieval Church. His works include

The Manual of the Christian Knight (1503) and The Praise of Folly

(1509). He was a humanist who was the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance, the first editor of the New Testament and also an important figure in patristics and classical literature. Using the philological methods pioneered by Italian humanists, Erasmus helped lay the groundwork for the historical-critical study of the past, especially in his studies of the Greek New Testament and the Church Fathers. His educational writings contributed to the replacement of the older scholastic curriculum by the new humanist emphasis on the classics. By criticizing ecclesiastical abuses, while pointing to a better age in the distant past, he encouraged the growing urge for reform, which found expression both in the Protestant Reformation and in the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Finally, his independent stance in an age of fierce confessional controversy–rejecting both Luther’s doctrine of predestination and the powers that were claimed for the papacy–made him a target of suspicion for loyal partisans on both sides and a beacon for those who valued liberty more than orthodoxy.

Sir Thomas More lived from 1478-1535. He was an English politician,

humanist scholar, and writer who refused to comply with the Act of

Supremacy, by which English subjects were enjoined to recognize Henry

VIII’s authority over the pope, and was imprisoned in the Tower of

London and beheaded for treason. His political essay Utopia (1516),

speculates about life under an ideal government. More was canonized in

1935. Sir Thomas More, also called SAINT THOMAS MORE, humanist and statesman, chancellor of England (1529-32), who was beheaded for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. He is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic church. In May 1515 More was appointed to a delegation to revise an Anglo-Flemish commercial treaty. The conference was held at Brugge, with long intervals that More used to visit other Belgian cities. He began in the Low Countries and completed after his return to London his Utopia, which was published at Louvain in December 1516. The book was an immediate success with the audience for which More wrote it: the Humanists and an elite group of public officials.


Charles V 1500-1558, Holy Roman emperor (1519-1558) and king of Spain as Charles I (1516-1556). He summoned the Diet of Worms (1521) and the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Holy Roman emperor (1519-56), king of Spain (as Charles I, 1516-56), and archduke of Austria (as Charles I, 1519-21), who inherited a Spanish and Habsburg empire extending across Europe from Spain and the Netherlands to Austria and the Kingdom of Naples and reaching overseas to Spanish America. He struggled to hold his empire together against the growing forces of Protestantism, increasing Turkish and French pressure, and even hostility from the Pope. At last he yielded, abdicating his claims to the Netherlands and Spain in favour of his son Philip II and the title of emperor to his brother Ferdinand I and retiring to a monastery.

Martin Luther 1483-1546, German theologian and leader of the

Reformation. His opposition to the wealth and corruption of the papacy

and his belief that salvation would be granted on the basis of faith

alone. rather than by works caused his excommunication from the Catholic Church (1521). Luther confirmed the Augsburg Confession in 1530, effectively establishing the Lutheran Church. German priest and scholar whose questioning of certain church practices led to the Protestant Reformation He is one of the pivotal figures of Western civilization, as well as of Christianity. By his actions and writings he precipitated a movement that was to yield not only one of the three major theological units of Christianity but was to be a seedbed for social, economic, and political thought. For further treatment of the historical context and consequences of Luther’s work.


Elizabeth I 1533-1603, Queen of England and Ireland (1558-1603) who

succeeded the Catholic Mary I and reestablished Protestantism in

England. Her reign was marked by several plots to overthrow her, the

execution of Mary Queen of Scots (1587), the defeat of the Spanish

Armada (1588), and domestic prosperity and literary achievement. Although her small kingdom was threatened by grave internal divisions, Elizabeth’s blend of shrewdness, courage, and majestic self-display inspired ardent expressions of loyalty and helped unify the nation against foreign enemies. The adulation bestowed upon her both in her lifetime and in the ensuing centuries was not altogether a spontaneous effusion; it was the result of a carefully crafted, brilliantly executed campaign in which the queen fashioned herself as the glittering symbol of the nation’s destiny. This political symbolism, common to monarchies, had more substance than usual, for the queen was by no means a mere figurehead. While she did not wield the absolute power of which Renaissance rulers dreamed, she tenaciously upheld her authority to make critical decisions and to set the central policies of both state and church. The latter half of the 16th century in England is justly called the Elizabethan Age: rarely has the collective life of a whole era been given so distinctively personal a stamp.


William Shakespeare’s house, Stratford-upon-Avon, Eng.


William Shakespeare 1564-1616, English playwright and poet whose body of works is considered the greatest in English literature. His plays,

many of which were performed at the Globe Theatre in London, include

historical works, such as Richard II, comedies, including Much Ado about

Nothing and As You Like It, and tragedies, such as Hamlet, Othello, and

King Lear. He also composed 154 sonnets. The earliest collected edition

of his plays, the First Folio, contained 36 plays and was published

posthumously (1623). English poet, dramatist, and actor, often called the English national poet and considered by many to be the greatest dramatist of all time. He occupies a position unique in world literature. Other poets, such as Homer and Dante, and novelists, such as Leo Tolstoy and Charles Dickens, have transcended national barriers; but no writer’s living reputation can compare with that of Shakespeare, whose plays, written in the late 16th and early 17th centuries for a small repertory theatre, are now performed and read more often and in more countries than ever before. The prophecy of his great contemporary, the poet and dramatist Ben Jonson, that Shakespeare “was not of an age, but for all time,” has been fulfilled.

John Calvin 1509-1564 French-born Swiss Protestant theologian who broke with the Roman Catholic Church (1533) and set forth the tenets of his theology, known today as Presbyterianism, in Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536). He was a French theologian and ecclesiastical statesman. He was the leading French Protestant Reformer and the most important figure in the second generation of the Protestant Reformation. His interpretation of Christianity, advanced above all in his Institutio Christianae religionis, and the institutional and social patterns he worked out for Geneva deeply influenced Protestantism elsewhere in Europe and in North America. The Calvinist form of Protestantism is widely thought to have had a major impact on the formation of the modern world.

Council of Trent was the 19th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic church (1545-63), highly important for its sweeping decrees on self-reform and for its dogmatic definitions that clarified virtually every doctrine contested by the Protestants. Despite internal strife, external dangers, and two lengthy interruptions, the council played a vital role in revitalizing the Roman Catholic church in many parts of Europe.

Though Germany demanded a general council following the excommunication of the German Reformation leader Martin Luther Pope Clement VII held back for fear of renewed attacks on his supremacy. France, too, preferred inaction, afraid of increasing German power. Clement’s successor, Paul III, however, was convinced that Christian unity and effective church reform could come only through a council. After his first attempts were frustrated, he convoked a council at Trent (northern Italy), which opened on Dec. 13, 1545.which established the foundations of the Counter Reformation.


All information was found at and at Also a little was pulled from Microsoft Encarta.(not much though)