The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in the early modern period. Beginning in Italy, and spreading to the rest of Europe by the 16th century, its influence was felt in literature, philosophy, art, music, politics, science, religion, and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. Renaissance scholars employed the humanist method in study, and searched for realism and human emotion in art.
The Renaissance marks the period of European history at the close of the Middle Ages and the rise of the Modern world. It represents a cultural rebirth from the 14th through the middle of the 17th centuries. Early Renaissance, mostly in Italy, bridges the art period during the fifteenth century, between the Middle Ages and the High Renaissance in Italy. It is generally known that Renaissance matured in Northern Europe later, in 16th century. One of the distinguishing features of Renaissance art was its development of highly realistic linear perspective. Giotto di Bondone is credited with first treating a painting as a window into space, but it was not until the demonstrations of architect Filippo Brunelleschi and the subsequent writings of Leon Battista Alberti that perspective was formalized as an artistic technique. The development of perspective was part of a wider trend towards realism in the arts. To that end, painters also developed other techniques, studying light, shadow, and, famously in the case of Leonardo da Vinci, human anatomy. Underlying these changes in artistic method, was a renewed desire to depict the beauty of nature, and to unravel the axioms of aesthetics, with the works of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael representing artistic pinnacles that were to be much imitated by other artists. Other notable artists include Sandro Botticelli, working for the Medici in Florence, Donatello another Florentine and Titian in Venice, among others.
Concurrently, in the Netherlands, a particularly vibrant artistic culture developed, the work of Hugo van der Goes and Jan van Eyck having particular influence on the development of painting in Italy, both technically with the introduction of oil paint and canvas, and stylistically in terms of naturalism in representation. ( Renaissance in the Netherlands). Later, the work of Pieter Brueghel the Elder would inspire artists to depict themes of everyday life.
In architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi was foremost in studying the remains of ancient classical buildings, and with rediscovered knowledge from the 1st-century writer Vitruvius and the flourishing discipline of mathematics, formulated the Renaissance style which emulated and improved on classical forms. Brunelleschi's major feat of engineering was the building of the dome of Florence Cathedral. The first building to demonstrate this is claimed to be the church of St. Andrew built by Alberti in Mantua. The outstanding architectural work of the High Renaissance was the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica,mixed the skills of Bramante,Michelangelo, Raphael, Sangallo and Maderno.
The Roman orders types of columns are used: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite. These can either be structural, supporting an arcade or architrave, or purely decorative, set against a wall in the form of pilasters. During the Renaissance, architects aimed to use columns, pilasters, and entablatures as an integrated system. One of the first buildings to use pilasters as an integrated system was in the Old Sacristy by Filippo Brunelleschi.
Arches, semi-circular or (in the Mannerist style) segmental, are often used in arcades, supported on piers or columns with capitals. There may be a section of entablature between the capital and the springing of the arch. Alberti was one of the first to use the arch on a monumental. Renaissance vaults do not have ribs. They are semi-circular or segmental and on a square plan, unlike the Gothic vault which is frequently rectangular.
The Renaissance artists were not pagans although they admired antiquity and they also kept some ideas and symbols of the medieval past. Nicola Pisano imitated classical forms by portraying scenes from the Bible. The Annunciation by Nicola Pisano, from the Baptistry at Pisa, demonstrates that classical models influenced Italian art before the Renaissance took root as a literary movement.