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Key pointsA Famous Renaissance Artist
Review QuestionsAnswers

The Renaissance

Key Points

The Renaissance is a period of a few hundred years in Europe in which many people were eager to study, to learn and to try new ideas. The one country most associated with the Renaissance is Italy and it was there that a great revival of interest in the learning of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome began. However the new ideas also spread to many other countries, especially in northern Europe.

Learning Objectives:
From this section, you are expected to know:

  • Why the Renaissance began in Italy
  • What made Renaissance painting so special?
  • The life of one famous Renaissance artist/sculptor
  • The life of one Renaissance artist outside Italy
  • The life of a Renaissance writer

A famous Renaissance artist


His early life

  • Born near city of Florence 1475
  • Educated by Lorenzo de Medici
  • Lived in his home - treated him like a son
  • Left Florence when Lorenzo died
  • Moved to the city of Rome when 21 years old

His love of sculpture

  • Produced two very famous pieces of work
  • The 'Pieta' - marble, Mary with body of Jesus
  • The shepherd boy 'David' - huge 14 foot marble statue
  • Both works are absolute masterpieces

Importance of Pope Julius II

  • Invited by Pope Julius II to design his tomb
  • Pope was an important patron for Michelangelo
  • He often quarrelled with the Pope
  • Tomb was never finished

His greatest painting achievement

  • Asked to paint ceiling of Sistine Chapel
  • A fresco painting that took four years
  • Painted standing up on a scaffold
  • Painted scenes from the Old Testament
  • Ceiling is 118 feet long and 43 feet wide
  • Also painted 'The Last Judgement' - wall fresco

His final years

  • The Dome of St. Peter’s
  • Designed by Michelangelo
  • Did not live to see work finished
  • Died at age of 89 years
  • Buried in home city of Florence

Review Questions

1. What does the word 'Renaissance' mean?
2. When was this period in history and what occurred?
3. Why did the Renaissance begin in Italy?
4. Name some famous Renaissance patrons and explain why they were so important.
5. Explain why the Medici family were so wealthy
6. Briefly describe pre-Renaissance paintings?
7. What made the painting of the Renaissance so unique?
8. Explain how Leonardo da Vinci was such a genius
9. Name one famous da Vinci painting and describe it
10. What was sfumato?
11. Why are the notebooks of da Vinci so important?
12. What was a fresco?
13. Name one Renaissance artist from outside Italy and name one of his works.
14. Name a famous Renaissance architect
15. What were some of the main changes that took place in architecture?
16. Who was Galileo and why was he so important?
17. Why was Johann Gutenberg so important?
18. What was the first book to be printed?
19. Why was the printing press of such importance during the Renaissance?
20. Name a famous Renaissance writer and one of his written works.


1. The word renaissance means 'rebirth' because people’s interest in things from ancient Greece and Rome was reborn.

2. Took place between 1300 AD to 1650 AD and a new civilisation began which was based on the culture of Greece and Rome.

3. Italy was at the centre of the main trade routes in Europe which brought many Italians into contact with the cultures of the Chinese and the Arabs. Many of the city states of Italy had rulers who were very wealthy and they were willing to sponsor works of art for their own cities. Also the countryside of Italy was filled with ruins and statues which served as models for artists and architects.

4. The two Medici brothers were really rich bankers who also sponsored works of art. Cosimo de Medici was the ruler of Florence and he personally paid for the building of many new public buildings. Also Popes such as Pope Julius II who paid Michaelangelo to work in St. Peter’s church in Rome e.g. He painted the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.

5. They had made a fortune as merchant bankers in the city of Florence.

6. They were usually flat and lifeless – not really lifelike or realistic and the figures were not to scale – mostly were paintings of religious scenes and were painted onto wood panels.

7. Artists used new ways to make their paintings more life-like. They used perspective to give a sense of depth to their paintings. They used oil-based paints. Some did painting on wet plaster called frescoes. Many of the artists studied the human body in order to draw better and a technique called sfumato was used for the painting of faces and bodies.

8. Leonardo da Vinci is considered a genius of the Renaissance because he was a painter, a sculptor and an inventor. He also studied anatomy, astronomy and geology.

9. The Last Supper was painted on the wall of a monastery and it depicts the reaction of the twelve apostles when Jesus had just told them that one of them would betray him. Amazing facial expressions.

10. This was a 'smoky' technique which made human skin look amazingly realistic.

11. His notebooks contain all the information and drawings he made of things that he was interested in. For example, he often dissected dead humans and made detailed drawings of veins, muscles etc. These are all in the notebooks as well as many of his ideas for making new weapons etc.

12. A fresco was a special wall painting done on wet plaster.

13. Albrecht Dürer was a German artist who was influenced by the ideas of the Renaissance. He is most famous for his engravings which were prints often made from wood. He also completed some wonderful paintings of animals.

14. Filippo Brunelleschi who designed the dome for the cathedral in Florence. It took sixteen years to complete and was the largest dome in the world at the time.

15. The architects based their ideas from the ruins of old Roman buildings. They used impressive decorated columns, domes and rounded arches.

16. He was born in Pisa and was a professor of maths. He became a famous astronomer and invented the telescope. He was a supporter of the theories of Copernicus that the planets, including the earth travelled around the sun. The Catholic Church condemned him and a church court tried to force him to renounce his views which he refused. He was kept under house arrest for the rest of his life.

17. Johann Gutenberg was born in Germany. He was a goldsmith and he invented movable metal type which meant that single letters in metal could be used over and over again.

18. The Holy Bible. There are 47 copies still in existence today.

19. The printing press was very important because it allowed books to be produced quickly and cheaply. Also more people could learn to read and write and important religious and political ideas could be spread over large areas much faster. For example, the ideas of Martin Luther in the Reformation were spread quickly all over Germany and beyond.

20. William Shakespeare. Born in Stratford-on-Avon in England. He wrote both poems and plays, many of which are based on stories and legends from Ancient Greece and Rome. 

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