Florence in 15th century contributed immensely to the world in every aspect. It is unimaginable to think of world history, particularly facets such as art, literature, architecture, politics, economics and science without acknowledging and praising renaissance Florence for leaving an indelible mark on not only Italy but also the rest of the world. The chosen period is one of the most prominent in the history of Florence in terms of politics, art and economics of the region.
1450 onwards Florence saw the rule of the Medici family, who were de facto rulers due to their patronage to the pope as well as renaissance artists, despite the establishment of a republic. During the rule of Medici, the region was relatively integrated, because the Medici maintained peace, stability and safety in the region, despite them being tyrants. The first instance of instability occurred when the Medici were defeated by Charles VIII of France who threatened Florence and Medici fled.
This was also a time of great religious sentiments preached by Savonarola who was later burned alive on the order of the Pope. Peace was re-established in 1498 when a democracy was formed and Machiavelli joined the government. In 1512 Medici arrived once again and caused immense disintegration of power and unity in the region thereby re-establishing tyranny until 1527 when the Florentines revolted to remove the Medici power.
This was a period characterized by trade and occupation for most other large regions of the world. Large parts of Europe, UK, China and India were engaged heavily in trade activities with each other and Africa as well as in territorial colonization to expand their resource base, which differed significantly from changes taking place in Italy, particularly Florence. Renaissance Florence was not only a period of cultural progress, but also economic and scientific developments.
Florence saw the establishments of the Medici bank allowing people to save and loan money, and also the formulation of Heliocentric theories by Galileo, leading people to believe in the existence of worlds other than ours, which saw immense opposition from the church. Such ideas allowed to people to think for themselves, which has been aptly described by Burckhardt as “ The Universal Man”, which not only meant universal knowledge but also art as an expression of the individual personality, private education and manifold accomplishments.
This combined with the impact of Machiavelli’s prince enabled the “Universal Man” to not only express through forms of art but also be a leader, diplomat and politician who could govern the people and protect them, while meeting their needs. Such enlightenment in art, literature, politics, economics and science was only prevalent in 15th Century Florence, which created the basis for a “Modern Man”. Renaissance Florence was the pioneer in developing the most remarkable art creations by the most talented artists who continually innovated and used advanced techniques to depict religious, local and cultural phenomena.
Renaissance art developed in the late 14th century and continued till early 16th century saw the emergence of masters, namely Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and many more who developed artistic techniques which influenced artists in different parts of the world throughout different eras. Some of the main techniques of art developed in renaissance Florence such as “use of proportion”, foreshortening, sfumato, chiaroscuro, fresco and many more influenced much of the contemporary art that we have to come witness.
Before the Renaissance, artists and authors generally focused on religious topics only and wrote for the nobility and the clergy. Starting during the Renaissance, authors began to write about topics that the common person would both enjoy and understand. Authors such as Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote “The Decameron,” set the stage for literary realism with characters and settings that were easier for readers to understand and connect with . This style of writing is still popular in common society.
One of the most important contributors to the Renaissance was Leonardo da Vinci. He pioneered the style of realism within his paintings, most notably with the “Mona Lisa. ” He was also the first artist to combine art and science, drawing off the anatomically correct human form for his works . Renaissance Florence was known to be a hub for development of art and literature, but it also faced political turmoil during the late 14th century and throughout 15th century.
One of the main outcomes of the political turmoil led to the birth of Machiavelli’s, “The Prince which was crucial in shaping ideologies of leadership in the period and continue to be a topic of heated debate much after. One of the major ruling families of 15th century Florence were the Medici’s who came into power because of their vast wealth and ability to maintain peace, stability and integration despite being tyrannical rulers . The Medici were widely known for their patronage to religion and culture which was perhaps the first instance when a government was engaged in both of these important aspects of human life.
The Medici knew ways to keep the locals satisfied while filling up their pockets and increasing their goodwill with the church. Cosimo De Medici was able to become a primary supporter of arts and learning and went onto sponsor artists and humanists, thereby extended his influence over Florentine society to cover a greater area . The projects that Cosimo sponsored included a wide variety of styles by many different artists. Through his patronage Cosimo influenced painting, sculpture, and architecture.
He also influenced learning though his support of both humanistic education and the creation of the first public library at the monastery of San Marco in Florence. Despite their active engagement in the cultural life of Florence, the Medici were essentially a merchant and banking family that brought banking and economics to the city of Florence. They contributed to Florence becoming one of the first cities in history to establish banks and economic policies. Very few global cities in world history have had made a contribution in not only arts and literature but also economics and finance.
Florence adopted economic and financial ideas from a very early time, because of its large merchant class population as well as governance under the Medici. One of the primary reasons for a flourishing economy was the enterprise and ingenuity of Florence’s merchants, who set about “transforming a healthy local wool industry into an international business by importing large quantities of better-quality wool, from England and later Spain, to manufacture the fine, light worsted woolen cloth that was in demand all over Europe. ”