December 8, 2020 in Research
Renaissance Florence

The Italian Renaissance

No other historical period gave such great impetus to the development of all forms of art as Renaissance did. It was a time of establishing international trade, time of great geographic discoveries, of laying the basis of modern science. Almost every European country experienced its influence in terms of cultural and ideological growth. However, Renaissance, which literally means revival, emerged in Italy with Florence being the center of the rapidly upcoming events. Florence was one of the most developed cities in Europe from both economic and cultural points of view. Renaissance Florence by Richard Turner declares that the leader in international trade, the center of creating numerous works of art and a city with an exemplary architecture Florence was setting standards and dictating conditions for most of the Europe.

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The role of trade, banking and guilds

One can hardly estimate the importance of economic development for the life of Florence. The outstanding level of education, living conditions and general employment among the people of Renaissance Florence were due to the citys primary focus on developing international trade connections. Besides that, the city provided efficient production of goods and performed financial operations. Florentines were bankers to the popes and lenders to European monarchs. With the establishment of remarkable and progressive economic methods and approaches, Florence surpassed not only other Italian cities but also European countries in the level of economic development. Moreover, Florentines introduced manufactory production of textile, promoting international trade among merchants and leading to the economic prosperity of the city.

However, aside from international trade promotion, the introduction of cloth manufacturing and banking operations there was another factor for the development of the economic, political and social aspects of the city life the existence of guilds. In Middle Ages, craftspeople and merchants were divided between the guilds. Turner outlines that there was the fixed number of twenty-one guilds with the division into seven major and fourteen minor ones. The sphere of their influence extended onto determining the norms and requirements for employees efficacy, the quality of purchased materials and produced goods. Therefore, these unions served as a firm basis of economy and manufactory system. They would also take part in the political and social life of the city. Such a way, the members were authorized to enter the public office. Turner  insists that the responsibilities of guilds included supporting and providing for local churches and hospitals, celebrating religious holidays, thus intensifying the impression of reliable public assistance organizations in the eyes of citizens. Hence, it is obvious that the guilds formed a certain shaft and foundation of once modern society of Florence, demonstrated public welfare concern and provided it with proper assistance.

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Florentine art as a product

Florence used to be a city of painters, goldsmiths, sculptors. The arts were treated like any other kind of handy craft that presented a certain value as the products of skill obtained through training, not an innate talent. In his book, Turner names Florence a marketplace for art due to the existent at that times manner of ordering and producing works of art as if they were common articles of trade. There were people selling works of art, those in demand with the clients. Dealers emerged in the fifteenth century, usually on a trans-national basis. Other customers would formulate their requirements to the artists in the form of a written contract, where the price, the deadline, preferred materials and other details were laid out. The creation of new kinds of art of led to the tendency of boys being apprenticed to experienced masters to learn and gain practical skills. Later they would enter the workshops to find a job there. This process of creating new workplaces for people and the advancement of the general cultural background of the city were the results of the introduction of painting and sculptures.

In order to get work and be a prosperous artist one needed to obtain certain skills. Those concerned both the quality of production and the ability to promote and deal ones creations. There was not a constant line of customers waiting for every master, and their preference had to be won by the artists themselves. Artists had to make their case, sometimes in the form of flattering letters to a potential patron, at others by entering competitions. The people of Florence looked for good quality and mastery in the works of art, and the artists who managed to provide the high level of their creations through competition and learning were noticeably valued among the buyers.

Three pearls of florentine architecture

In the times of Renaissance Florence its citizens were very religious, which had an effect on their lives, traditions, and holidays, as well as the city they lived in. The three buildings of the Duomo, the Baptistery, and the Palazzo della Signoria played an important role in the life of Florence, and their construction was a great priority for the government. The Duomo was built in the times of the rapid development of Florence when it was turning into a big city. Turner outlines that the number of parishioners to the small church of Santa Reparata was rising and finally the Duomo took its place. The city officials were interested in Florence becoming a worthy rival of Siena and Pisa. Therefore, it was intended as the most beautiful and honorable church in Tuscany. The unique in its dimension cathedral is per se an entire square covered with a cupola. Such a way, its construction, which continued despite the economic crisis and strikingly audacious magnitude never built before presented the importance of religion for Florentines.

The Baptistery was no less important in the religious and social context. The citizens believed it to be the Roman temple of Mars. At that time, the Baptistery combined the functions of a cathedral and place where children were brought to for baptism. In order for people to attend both priests sermons and the ceremonies of baptism, there were several doors with relief panels, which together with the cupola illustrated various motifs from the Old Testament. Finally, the Palazzo della Signoria, an impressive building constructed at the end of the thirteenth century, was an administrative building with a civic ceremonial center, armory, and residence of the eight priors who constituted the Signoria, the citys main governing body, during their two-month terms of office. It was a place for foreign delegations and high-ranking visitors to come. The building located on the city square served numerous purposes and with its remarkable appearance represented the administrative center of the city.

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When speaking about Renaissance Florence, the discussion is usually limited by the mentioning of arts and their importance for the world history. However, there are variety of factors that played important roles in the development of the city. The book titled Renaissance Florence by Richard Turner depicts all the crucial points and reasons for the prosperity of Florence during the Renaissance. Firstly, the citizens managed to establish highly developed trade and banking systems. Secondly, Florentine artists converted their paintings, sculptures, and woodcarvings into a widely consumable product. Finally, the administration of the city invested large sums of money into architecture thus creating a unique appearance of the city. All these factors have turned the peoples image of this city and its character upside-down.


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