The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600


What is the “Proto-Renaissance”?

The Proto-Renaissance (essentially meaning “pre-Renaissance”) is a term art historians use to describe a change in the style of art towards the end of the Gothic period in which art begins to foreshadow the characteristics of the Renaissance in terms of naturalism, realism, and humanism. Different art history books will cite different date ranges for the Proto-Renaissance, but it is generally considered to begin during the end of the twelfth century and end during the early fourteenth century in Italy. Work by artists such as the Lorenzetti brothers, Simone Martini, Duccio, Cimabue, and Giotto represent key shifts in style from Gothic to Renaissance. Famous writers and poets of the age include the poet Petrarch who wrote love sonnets that went on to influence Shakespeare. Another poet, Dante Alighieri, wrote The Divine Comedy, an epic tale of the author’s descent into Hell.


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