Early Renaissance in Italy: 1400s

The engineering of Brunelleschi's dome, the naturalism of Donatello’s David, and the humanism of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus each help define the Early Renaissance in Italy.

Sculpture and architecture in Florence

Sculpture and architecture are central to the cultural development of Renaissance Florence. Like chapels, palaces, and cathedrals, sculpture was used to express the wealth, power and piety of the city's leading patrons and guilds. Learn about the brilliant innovations of Brunelleschi, his friend Donatello and other leading artists that helped define the Renaissance.

Painting in Florence and Rome

In the 15th century, Florence was a proud republic where political power resided in the hands of wealthy merchant families (such as the Medici who would later seize control of Florence) and powerful guilds (organizations of merchants and craftsmen). Importantly for art history, all of these groups commissioned poetry, painting, sculpture and architecture—often as an expression of civic pride—making Florence the leading city-state in Italy during the cultural epoch we call the Renaissance. In the last half of the fifteenth century, Florentine artists were invited to Rome, to work for patrons like Pope Sixtus IV who had artists like Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Botticelli fresco the walls of the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican.
Fra Angelico, The Annunciation (Prado)
Fra Angelico, The Annunciation and Life of the Virgin (in the predella), c. 1426, tempera on wood, 194 x 194 cm (Museo del Prado, Madrid) Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker The Annunciation is described in the Gospel According to Luke 1:26 - 38.  Below is the King James translation: 26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name [was] Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, [thou that art] highly favoured, the Lord [is] with thee: blessed [art] thou among women. 29 And when she saw [him], she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.