How did Italian Renaissance artists revolutionize art?

Epoch-making inventions - Renaissance inventions shape life to this day

1. The "automatic knight" or the mechanics of movement

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519), the ingenious engineer and universal artist, presented one of his new inventions at the Milan court around 1495: a kind of "automatic knight", a tin doll that is said to have even moved elbows and wrists.

Da Vinci hid a system of pulleys and pulleys in the iron armor. It is true that the robot in today's sense was not yet invented because it was not self-propelled.

But da Vinci recognized the principle of the mechanics of human movement and tried to recreate it with pulleys.

2. Copernicus revolutionized the worldview

For a long time there was only one view: the earth is the center around which the stars, including the sun and moon, rotate. A view of the world as represented, not least, by the Church of the time - until Renaissance scholars began to question this view.

It was precisely a man who was in the service of the church who gave the decisive impetus: Nikolaus Kopernikus (1473 - 1543), canon of the bishop in Prussia.

He was a polymath: lawyer, mathematician, doctor and astronomer. His discovery: the earth rotates on its own axis and orbits the sun.

For fear of the immense importance of this knowledge, Copernicus hesitated for a long time to publish it. And indeed: the Catholic Church and the reformer Martin Luther were exceptionally unanimous in rejecting the Copernican view of the world. Luther called Copernicus a "fool".

3. Double bookkeeping or the invention of banking

The Renaissance is famous for the explosive development of art and sculpture, for example in Florence. The fuel for this was provided by the Medicis - extremely wealthy Italian families, well connected across Europe. The Medicis were the great patrons of Italian Renaissance artists.

A small invention fueled the success and wealth of the Medicis significantly: double-entry bookkeeping. It was only through precise account management that it became possible to handle loans and letters of credit on a large scale and to maintain an overview of the assets.

Not least thanks to this instrument, the Medicis, as a kind of early “global players”, succeeded in generating immense wealth through financial transactions - and using some of them to promote buildings and visual arts, and even entire careers as an artist.

This did not happen without self-interest: By building the church, the patrons invested in their souls, and they reckoned that the splendor and fame of the artists and their works would shine back on the Medicis.

4. From the central perspective to CAD programs

The Renaissance is considered to be the epoch that gave architecture a decisive impetus. The architect and sculptor Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) studied Roman ruins and began to precisely measure them.

He is considered to be the rediscoverer of the central perspective, which was already partially known in antiquity, but which has since been forgotten. This discovery made it possible to draw up plans for buildings.

What was previously only stored in the master builder's head could now be displayed visually - some even say that the architect was born.

The central perspective also revolutionized painting: it enabled artists to depict the spatial world much more realistically, as if the viewer were part of the scenery. Ultimately, today's CAD programs, the drawing programs for construction plans, are also based on this discovery.

5. From printing to global communication

In the Middle Ages reading and writing were reserved for very few churchmen. The illiteracy rate in Europe was 90 percent.

Books - first of all the Bible, of course - had to be laboriously copied by copyists. But those who wrote could also write incorrectly or even rewrite and had a monopoly - until the Renaissance.

Johannes Gutenberg (1400 - 1468) combined reproduction processes, some of which were already known, into an overall system with individual letters cast in lead. Suddenly Bibles and pamphlets could be quickly printed and circulated.

The invention of the printing press in Mainz in 1450 is of epoch-making importance: it enabled access to knowledge and education and it was the accelerator of the Reformation. It is the hour of birth of mass communication.

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