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, which gets going in the early years of 15th century in Florence. In this period, Florence is not a city in the unified country of Italy, as it is now. Instead, Italy was divided into many city-states (Florence, Milan, Venice etc.), each with their own government (some were ruled by despots, and others were republics).

Throughout Europe women’s relegation to the domestic sphere was rooted in Christian tradition that placed blame for humanity’s fall from grace upon Eve, the first woman.

Introduction to gender in renaissance Italy

Renaissance author Leon Battista Alberti's ideas about what makes for a good painting would have a lasting influence on the history of art.

Alberti’s revolution in painting

This painting blends deep piety with scientific observation. Both its architecture and figures were radically new.

Masaccio, Holy Trinity

"Idolino" from Pesaro, (Roman), c. 30 B.C.E., bronze, 158 cm (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze)
Don’t stand so straight! Relax. Shift your weight. Bend a knee. Just respond to the world, like this spear-bearer.

Contrapposto explained

10 inches—that’s how far Venice has sunk. As sea levels and tourism rise, can this historic city survive?

Saving Venice

Donatello, St. Mark
When the citizens of Florence looked up at St. Mark, they saw a mirror of their own dignity—and of ancient nobility.

Donatello, St. Mark