To some hard-nosed critics and observers, the Renaissance was all about the ruling elites and their self-serving interests in art and architecture. It is further argued by some that today’s continued study of the Renaissance is overblown, unnecessary, and irrelevant to vast majorities of people. However, although the Renaissance may have been spurred by a select class of people, those of all backgrounds may benefit from what resulted from these desires.
Following the Dark Ages, during the very beginnings of the Early Modern Age, the Renaissance first flourished in Italy in the 14th century, spreading throughout Europe and lasting through the 17th century. This “rebirth” is what launched mankind into the future, leading to all sorts of innovation, experimentation, and advancement. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
The Renaissance…witnessed the discovery and exploration of new continents, the substitution of the Copernican for the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, the decline of the feudal system and the growth of commerce, and the invention or application of such potentially powerful innovations as paper, printing, the mariner’s compass, and gunpowder… it was primarily a time of Classical learning and wisdom after a long period of cultural decline and stagnation.
For the first time in centuries, man wrote on human behavior and emotions in place of the standard religious practices. As compared to Medieval artwork, where man was portrayed generically, most often as a citizen or soldier, individualism, nudity, and realism were encouraged. Even more, perspective, balance and proportion, and nature and landscape were included. Additionally, education stressed theology, medicine, law, and philosophy (such as the work of Plato and Socrates) due to the longing to be a “Renaissance man:” well-rounded and employing common sense.
Regarding the opinion that everyone profited from the Renaissance, secularism and humanism were key to the era. Secularism was worldly and emphasized the “here and now,” rather than the spiritual or heavenly, such as the after-life. Moreover, humanism stressed education, intellect and individualism, and accentuated the unique and creative personality. Thus, even if the ruling elite, such as the Tudors in England, the Hapsburgs in Germany, the Valois in France, or the Aragon and Castille in Spain, were behind this progressive movement, any and every one could, and still does, gain from the outcome and resulting ideas and thoughts that may be employed to this day.