As in the Classical period, proportion was the most essential aspect of beauty; Renaissance builders discovered a balance between human proportions and architectural proportions. This focus for proportion resulted in clear, clearly understood space and mass, distinguishing the Renaissance style from the more convoluted Gothic form. The importance of design in the Renaissance is also seen in the use of visual imagery as decoration for buildings and public art.
In addition to its aesthetic qualities, architecture had practical purposes in the Renaissance. It provided shelter from the elements and allowed people to gather in community spaces. It also served as documentation of power and wealth, which were important to scholars who studied history through architecture.
Michelangelo was one of the leading artists of his time and he had many projects going at once. However, he felt that only he could do justice to each one of them. So even though he worked with other artists on some projects, such as the Sistine Chapel, he still managed to put his own personal touch on each piece.
One of these projects was the dome over the cathedral in Florence. The original plan called for an octagonal dome, but because of financial problems they ended up using a circular one instead.
The Renaissance had less of an impact on French ecclesiastical architecture; cathedrals and churches were mostly erected or refurbished in the Flamboyant Gothic style. The facade, layout, and vaulted ceiling are all Gothic, while the interior features classical column orders and other Renaissance characteristics. But the main difference is that there are no stained-glass windows at Notre Dame de Paris. They were not invented yet!
During the Renaissance, new styles of architecture evolved in Europe; the French Renaissance style is one of them. It has many similarities with its counterpart in Italy, but it also has some unique features. For example, the roofs of many French buildings from this period are flat instead of pitched like those at Italian churches. The reason is that in France builders used wood for most construction projects, so they needed houses that could be easily built fast without breaking the bank.
In terms of design, the French Renaissance was a reaction to the Gothic style. It started around 1450 and lasted until about 1550. During this time, architects worked hard to create a more elegant version of architecture, using well-known ancient Greek and Roman designs as guides.
For example, one of the defining features of the French Renaissance style is its use of classical columns. These were originally designed by Greeks and Romans and used to support large roof structures. Later builders added capital letters to the ends of columns to make them look even more beautiful.
The evident distinguishing traits of ancient Roman architecture were absorbed by Renaissance architecture. However, the shapes and purposes of buildings, as well as the arrangement of towns, had altered throughout time, as seen by the ensuing synthesis of classical and 16th-century forms. Ancient monuments served as models for new structures, and their dimensions provided a basis for scale drawings of cities and castles.
The Renaissance architect was attracted to antiquity, not only because of its beauty but also because it was old; thus, he wanted to build as well as his ancestors had done. He borrowed many ideas from the ancients and incorporated them into his works. For example, the orders (rows of columns or other projections) found in temples like those at Agrigento and Paestum, and on some Florentine palaces, are analogous to the lines of roof tiles in a Renaissance house. Also similar is the relationship between size and status found in both ancient and modern societies: The larger the building, the higher its owner. But while the rich ruler of ancient Rome could hire architects and builders to design and erect whatever monument he desired, the typical Renaissance citizen could engage only with what was available in the market. Thus, he had to be content with what his neighbors built, although he might have his own ideas about how things should be arranged on the site.
Artists emphasized classical topics and the human form, as well as innovative ways for depicting things in a more realistic manner. Artists, architects, and authors are examples of realists. Their work embodied the Renaissance principles of humanism, classical respect, and inquiry. They sought new ways to express the world around them.
Renaissance artists used oil paint on wood or canvas. They often painted scenes from daily life during peacetime or battles during wartime. Subjects included nature studies, historical figures, and even their own family members. However, most paintings showed religious subjects at this time. The Italian painter Giotto (1266-1337) is an important early artist who introduced realism into European painting. His style influenced many later painters, including Raphael (1483-1520).
During the Renaissance era, architects designed buildings in the Italian style. They used Roman columns and other elements from ancient Greece to build large cities such as Venice. Michelangelo (1472-1564) is one of Italy's best-known artists. He designed the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and other sculptures for the Vatican City. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is another famous artist from the Renaissance period. Not only was he a painter, but also a musician, engineer, architect, mathematician, and writer. He invented many devices that have been used since then, including helicopters and tanks.