The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600


What is the “Renaissance”?

The word renaissance is a French word meaning “rebirth.” The Renaissance is generally considered to be a rebirth of Classical (Greco-Roman) culture, which resurfaced after the dark days following the fall of the Roman empire in the fourth century. This, however, is an oversimplification. Changes such as the development of cities, a growing European economy, and strong support for the arts by wealthy patrons all contributed to the birth of the Renaissance. The balanced, harmonious, and naturalistic paintings associated with the Renaissance did not burst onto the art and culture scene of Europe over night. It happened slowly over the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, beginning in Florence, Italy, and was at least partly inspired by a newfound interest in translating Classical Greek manuscripts, and the study of Roman ruins.


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