He went to live in the capital city or court of another state where he conveyed messages between his government and the host government. Or to use the words that Sir Henry Wotton — , the English ambassador to Venice, supposedly wrote in , "a resident ambassador is a good man sent to tell lies abroad for his country's good. Ambassadorial reports full of every kind of information are invaluable sources for modern scholars studying the Renaissance.
The reports of papal nuncios and Venetian ambassadors are particularly useful. The instability of forms of government, the many wars, and the fluidity of international politics stimulated an enormous amount of discussion about politics, including several masterpieces of political philosophy. Numerous humanists wrote treatises advising a prince or king how he might be a good prince, work for the good of his people, and, as a result, see his state and himself prosper.
Erasmus wrote the most famous one, Institutio Principis Christiani ; Education of a Christian prince.
follow url Vernacular literatures flourished in the Renaissance even though humanists preferred Latin. People spoke and sometimes wrote a variety of regional dialects with haphazard spelling and multiple vocabularies. Nevertheless, thanks to the adoption of the vernacular by some governments, the printing press, and the creation of literary masterpieces, significant progress toward elegant and standard forms of modern vernaculars occurred.
German was typical. German-speaking lands inherited many varieties of German from the Middle Ages. In the fifteenth century some state chanceries began to use German instead of Latin. Hence, versions of German associated with the chanceries of more important states, including the East Middle Saxon dialect used in the chancery of the electorate of Saxony, became more influential.
Next, printing encouraged writers and editors to standardize orthography and usage in order to reach a wider range of readers. Most important, Martin Luther — published a German translation of the Bible New Testament in ; complete Bible in , which may have had three hundred editions and over half a million printed copies by , an enormous number at a time of limited literacy. And many began to imitate his style. Literary academies concerned about correct usage, vocabulary, and orthography rose in the seventeenth century to create dictionaries.
A reasonably standardized German literary language had developed, though the uneducated continued to speak regional dialects. Similar changes took place in other parts of Europe, with the aid of Renaissance authors and their creations. In Italy three Tuscan authors, Dante Alighieri — — medieval in thought but using Tuscan brilliantly — Petrarch, and Giovanni Boccaccio — began the process.
Literary arbiters, such as Pietro Bembo — insisted on a standard Italian based on the fourteenth-century Tuscan of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Major sixteenth-century writers, including Ludovico Ariosto — , Baldassare Castiglione — , and Torquato Tasso — , agreed. None of the three was Tuscan, but each tried to write, and sometimes rewrote, their masterpieces in a more Tuscan Italian.
Then the Accademia della Crusca founded in Florence in the s published a dictionary. Tuscan became modern Italian. William Shakespeare — and three English translations of the Bible, that of William Tyndale printed and , the Geneva Bible of , and the King James Bible of , had an enormous influence on English. The writers and dramatists of the Spanish Golden Age , particularly Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra — , did the same for the Castilian version of Spanish.
Art is undoubtedly the best-loved and -known part of the Renaissance. The Renaissance produced an extraordinary amount of art, and the role of the artist differed from that in the Middle Ages. The Renaissance had a passion for art. Commissions came from kings, popes, princes, nobles, and lowborn mercenary captains. Leaders commissioned portraits of themselves, of scenes of their accomplishments, such as successful battles, and of illustrious ancestors.
Cities wanted their council halls decorated with huge murals, frescoes, and tapestries depicting great civic moments. Monasteries commissioned artists to paint frescoes in cells and refectories that would inspire monks to greater devotion.
And civic, dynastic, and religious leaders hired architects to erect buildings at enormous expense to beautify the city or to serve as semipublic residences for leaders. Such art was designed to celebrate and impress.
A remarkable feature of Renaissance art was the heightened interaction between patron and artist. Patrons such as Lorenzo de' Medici — of Florence and popes Julius II reigned — and Leo X reigned — were active and enlightened patrons. They proposed programs, or instructed humanists to do it for them, for the artists to follow. At the same time, the results show that they did not stifle the artists' originality.
Men and women of many social levels had an appetite for art. The wealthy merchant wanted a painting of Jesus, Mary, or saints, with small portraits of members of his family praying to them, for his home. A noble might provide funding to decorate a chapel in his parish church honoring the saint for whom he was named.
Members of the middle classes and probably the working classes wanted small devotional paintings. To meet the demand, enterprising merchants organized the mass production of devotional images, specifying the image typically Mary, Jesus crucified, or patron saint , design, color, and size.
It is impossible to know how many small devotional paintings and illustrated prints were produced, because most have disappeared. Major art forms, such as paintings, sculptures, and buildings, have attracted the most attention, but works in the minor arts, including furniture, silver and gold objects, small metal works, table decorations, household objects, colorful ceramics, candlesticks, chalices, and priestly vestments were also produced in great abundance. The new styles came from Italy, and Italy produced more art than any other part of Europe. Art objects of every sort were among the luxury goods that Italy produced and exported.
It also exported artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci , who died at the French court. The ancient world of Rome and Greece, as interpreted by the humanists, greatly influenced Renaissance art. Artists and humanists studied the surviving buildings and monuments, read ancient treatises available for the first time, and imbibed the humanist emphasis on man and his actions and perceptions, plus the habit of sharp criticism of medieval styles.
Stimulated by the ancients, Renaissance artists were the first in European history to write extensively about art and themselves.
Leon Battista Alberti — wrote treatises on painting and on architecture ; Raphael wrote a letter to Pope Leo X c. Giorgio Vasari 's — Lives of the Artists first edition , revised edition was a series of biographies of Renaissance artists accompanied by his many comments about artistic styles. It was the first history of art.
The silversmith Benvenuto Cellini — wrote about artistic practices and much more about himself, much of it probably fictitious, in his Autobiography, written between and The social and intellectual position of the artist changed in the Renaissance. The artist began as a craftsman, occupying a relatively low social position and tied to his guild, someone who followed local traditions and produced paintings for local patrons.
He became a self-conscious creator of original works of art with complex schemes, a person who conversed with humanists and negotiated with kings and popes.
Successful artists enjoyed wealth and honors, such as the knighthood that Emperor Charles V conferred on Titian Tiziano Vercelli, c. The Renaissance was a hierarchical age in which the social position of a child's parents largely determined his or her place in society. Yet it was a variegated society, with nobles, commoners, wealthy merchants, craftsmen, shopkeepers, workers, peasants, prelates, parish priests, monks in monasteries, nuns in convents, civil servants, men of the professional classes, and others.
It was an age of conspicuous consumption and great imbalances of wealth. But Renaissance society also provided social services for the less fortunate. Ecclesiastical, lay, and civic charitable institutions provided for orphans, the sick, the hungry, and outcast groups, such as prostitutes and the syphilitic ill.
Although social mobility was limited, a few humble individuals rose to the apex of society.
Francesco Sforza — , a mercenary soldier of uncertain origins, became duke of Milan in and founded his own dynasty. Renaissance Europe had considerable cultural and intellectual unity, greater than it had in the centuries of the Middle Ages or would again until the European Economic Union of the late twentieth century. A common belief in humanism and humanistic education based on the classics created much of it.
The preeminence of Italy also helped because Italians led the way in humanism, art, the techniques of diplomacy, and even the humble business skill of double-entry bookkeeping.
The prolonged Habsburg-Valois conflict, often called the Italian Wars — because much of the fighting occurred in Italy, and, above all, the Protestant Reformation began to crack that unity. Moreover, many typical Renaissance impulses had spent their force by the early seventeenth century. The great revival of the learning of ancient Greece and Rome had been assimilated, and humanism was no longer the driving force behind philosophical and scientific innovation. Italy no longer provided artistic, cultural, and scientific leadership, except in music, as a group of Florentine musicians created lyric opera around Europe began a new age on the eve of the Thirty Years' War — More powerful monarchies with different policies ushered in a different era of politics and war.
Exuberant baroque art and architecture of the seventeenth century were not the same as the restrained, classicizing art of the previous two centuries. The universities of Europe were no longer essential for training Europe's elite and hosting innovative research. France would be the military, literary, and stylistic leader of the different Europe of the seventeenth century. Brand, Peter, and Lino Pertile, eds. The Cambridge History of Italian Literature.
Cambridge, U. See articles on Renaissance authors and genres.