Eras and Their Highlights

The Renaissance

Which artists and thinkers are considered the greatest minds of the Renaissance?

The great writers of the Renaissance include the Italian poet Petrarch (1304–1374), who became the first great writer of the Renaissance and was one of the first proponents of the concept that a “rebirth” was in progress; Florentine historian Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527), who wrote the highly influential work The Prince (1513); English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare (1564–1616), whose works many view as the culmination of Renaissance writing; Spain’s Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), who penned Don Quixote (1605), the epic masterpiece that gave birth to the modern novel; and Frenchman François Rabelais (c. 1483–1553), who is best known for writing the five-volume novel Gargantua and Pantagruel.

The great artists of the Renaissance include the Italian painters/sculptors Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510), whose works include The Birth of Venus; Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), whose Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are among the most widely studied works of art; Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), whose sculpture David became the symbol of the new Florence; and Raphael Sanzio (1483–1520), whose School of Athens is considered by art historians to be the complete statement of the High Renaissance.


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