A CORRECTION FOR THIS EPISODE
Smart Travels' viewer Janet Masson chided us appropriately for a
mistake in the Renaissance episode. She notes that when the Spanish
Steps in Rome were shown, a pop-up tip credited Michelangelo with their
design. Dead wrong. We note: Michelangelo died 150 years before the Piazza
Di Spagna was a gleam in the eye of Alessandro Specchi, the 18th century
architect who designed the early phase of the Spanish Steps. Michelangelo's
impressive 'steps' work is
Piazza del Campidoglio which stands on the
summit of Rome's sacred Capitoline Hill guarded by the imposing statue of
Marcus Aurelius. I deeply regret the error.
/ writer, Smart Travels—Renaissance
Hi, I'm Rudy Maxa, marveling still at the layer upon layer of Europe's past
You're never far from a reminder here—a "something" that says," pay
attention, you're not the first." In this program, we look at that awesome
transformation that hurled Medieval Europe into the Modern Age. Stay with us
to explore the Renaissance on Smart Travels.
© Copyright 2003
Small World Productions, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
||Interested in personally exploring
the art and architecture of Renaissance Europe? Start your trip at Expedia.com/
Europe is famous for historic sites— the remarkable clues that let us
speculate on how people lived centuries ago. In Italy, travelers can picnic
in the shadow of a medieval tower and almost hear the clank of chains. In
old churches, they see stunning frescoes and statues —figures
geometrically grouped, rigid and symbolic. Medieval, flat.
And then, at some point, they're struck with a pronounced change in the art.
They find themselves staring at a real likeness, a face filled with
grief or joy, a figure stooped or a muscled torso, or a fresco drawing them
into its depth. Such grace could be classic Greek or Roman, but more likely,
if they are in, say .. .Florence, they've spotted a piece of the
Renaissance. This time, we look at Renaissance masterpieces and explore a
bit of the rich legacy behind them.
For a glimpse of that rich legacy, we start our tour in Rome. We'll travel
north through Italy, first to Florence, then to Venice and Milan, crossing
into France's Loire Valley, and we'll cap our Renaissance trip near London
at Hampton Court.
Sight-seeing in Rome-what an experience. The city's copycat
sculpture illustrates how the Romans 'borrowed' from the Greeks, but
built larger. This is where the 'Renaissance' comes in. The word literally
means 'rebirth' and refers to Italy's 15th century passion for
reviving the ideals of 'the classical world'—ancient Greece and Rome from
500 B.C. to 500 A.D. The art waited for almost a thousand years more to be
lovingly "rediscovered.” No wonder the Renaissance artists trekked here by
hook or crook to study these ancient ruins.
rome.arounder.com you can take a virtual panoramic view of the
Michelangelo & the Vatican
Michelangelo was one of them. He was the 16th century sculptor and pride
of Florence, but the church in Rome could not resist calling on his
talents.. .again and again and again.
Michelangelo's favorite tool was the
claw chisel and only when coerced repeatedly by
Pope Julius II did he reluctantly pick up a paintbrush and head for Rome
to take on the
ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Here, he worked for four
years, creating what came to be the most revered single fresco in the world.
For a written account of the project by one of Michelangelo's students,
Story of the Creation,
God and Adam, the
prophets and the
seers — over 600 figures of incredible proportion are present in the
Recently cleaned and restored, the work's original color is believed to
shine as vibrantly as it did in 1512.
To sign up for English-speaking tours of the Vatican,
Vatican Tourist Information at St. Peter's Square. Scroll down for phone and
Republic of Florence, this city is where the Renaissance began and
flourished for over 150 years.
firenze.arounder.com you can take a virtual birds-eye panoramic
Florence from the top of the Campanile
at almost every turn you can run smack into the legacy of 15th and 16th
century masterminds. Like never before in the western world,
new ideas in
science, literature and visual arts just sky-rocketed.. Against serious
odds, the period was a gigantic experiment, a workshop, a festival of human
propelled this new vision of the world out of the Middle Ages?
A vision no
longer mostly of saints and biblical figures and the trials of making it to
heaven, but one that featured also human beings... people living earthly
Fortunately, the Middle Ages were not all dungeons and gloom. In the 1300s,
after a recovery from the
bubonic plague, Europe's agricultural and technical progress
accelerated, sea trade was booming and eventually, the spread of wealth on
the continent was greater than ever. By the mid-1400s, with the
the printing trade, educated middle-classes had access to reading and
writing. Students flocked to Italy to study the classics, and the big, wide
world seemed smaller. The Church, the strongest and richest institution in
was under fire.
Voices uttered the question barely whispered 100 years earlier.. .should the
Church have the power to govern people's civil lives as well as their
By the 15th
century, Florence was ripe for a cultural rebirth.
Humanism was on the rise
and the city was rich. It sprang for a revival of the ideals of ancient
Greece and Rome. Individual curiosity, the study of the arts, science, math
and philosophy—they all flourished.
For more insight into the Northern Italian
Renaissance, check out the book "Eyewitness:
A Web Update To This Show:
The Human Anotomy
In 1543, the book De Humani Corporis
Fabrica (On The Fabric Of The Human Body) was published. Its author,
28 year-old Andreas Vesalius, detailed his personal observations of the
dissected human body in more than 600 pages of illustrations and text;
an effort that gave rise to the science of anatomy. In the text
accompanying a series of human musculature illustrations, Vesalius
expressed the hope that the figures would prove useful as models for
'the painter, the sculptor, and the moulder,' as well as for physicians.
You'll find 40 pages from De Humani Corporis Fabrica on-line,
The British Museum.
Click on A Landmark In Medical
History near the bottom right-hand side of the page.
Baptistry is the oldest building in Florence, breaking ground in the
11th century, and its treasures show us the shift from medieval to a modem
view of the world. First, the medieval: walk in and look up at the mosaic
ceiling. Behold the depiction of
The Last Judgment, a chilling panorama started in the 1200s. The figures
symbolic and fairly rigid. There is no quibbling about the theme.
Depending on how one stacks up, he or she is waved off to a peaceful heaven
or straight down to the howling monsters of hell.
Now, step outside to the
Baptistry doors and, viola, the Renaissance world awaits. The
north doors of
Lorenzo Ghiberti, were a revelation, a breakthrough in 3D
his experience in the book "I
For more on the competition to build the north doors that ultimately
Lorenzo Ghiberti against
Filippo Brunelleschi, visit
He began the work in 1403 and finished 20 years later. The critic Vasari
called the doors "absolutely perfect... seemingly breathed into shape rather
than cast and polished with iron tools." It was no surprise then that in
1425 Ghiberti landed the job of making the
east doors, which took him another 27 years to finish. Michelangelo
dubbed them "The Gates of Paradise" which they are called today.
firenze.arounder.com you can take a virtual panoramic view of
San Giovanni square by night.
Donatello & the Bargello
Daring confidence was contagious in Florence's art scene. And yet, a visit
Bargello Museum shows why the unpretentious sculptor
central to the Early Renaissance. He was amazingly original. If realism was
a Renaissance battle cry, Donatello (or 'little Donate') was the first great
Renaissance warrior. His most loved work is the small
bronze David built in
his older years. It stood in the courtyard of the
Medici Palace, where a
century later a young Michelangelo could gaze upon it day after day. It was
a rare prize—nude male statues had been taboo for centuries. With his long
ringlets and sun hat, to my eye this gentle David resembles a 1960s flower
child—and yet he is Donatello's early Renaissance vision of the brave youth
who only moments before had slain the giant Goliath.
These Renaissance headliners motivated each other—dead or live. They were
driven, gifted workhorses and master craftsmen. They learned philosophy and
the anatomy of the human form. They went off to Rome to study the ruins of
antiquity. They could be secretive, moody, and competitive, but, mostly they
learned from and inspired each other.
The Uffizi Gallery &
Uffizi Gallery features a room of masterpieces by
Sandro Botticelli, who for many people is the quintessential Renaissance
painter. He was one of the first of the period who dared to use
mythology, playing down its paganism with his ######## looking maidens. His
images stay with you. Who could forget the
Birth of Venus as she appears
fully-grown, naked and newborn, standing on a clam shell, protected by the
winds and her maiden-in-waiting. Or The Allegory of Spring in pastel colors,
a romantic vision of classical Greece. All things in nature and legend are
Leonardo Da Vinci
Next to the Botticilli Room are two paintings by a young
Leonardo Da Vinci
-the wunderkind himself. Here, we see his promise in an early painting
Annunciation, made when he was about 20. The
Adoration of the Magi painted
ten years later is unfinished but packed with human feeling.
For some of Da Vinci's thoughts on painting, visit
www.artchive.com. An anthology of his writings can be found in the book
Leonardo On Painting.
For pure beauty and grace, look no further than the exquisite frescoes of
Raffaello Sanzio or
Raphael. Raphael, born in Urbino, Italy died at 37 years
old. For his relatively short career, Raphael's outpouring of work was
phenomenal. His magnificent altarpieces and paintings usually include the
Madonna and Child. They sum up a clear purpose in religious art—to inspire
devotion and admiration for pure beauty.
The Medici Family
The Renaissance in Florence was made possible in part by a grant from the
Medici family. Actually, more than one grant. There was
Catherine...well, you get the idea. They made their fortune in
banking, they invested in the arts, and they all loved nice things. Okay,
are you ready for a Medici afternoon in the countryside outside of Florence?
Lorenzo Medici's Villa
Lorenzo’s villa says it all. The
Medici influence over 15th century
paintings that featured family and acquaintances,
in their lavish
neo-Greek villas, and in breathtaking
palaces. They commissioned whatever it took to fill
their days with the magnificent, the new, and the classical world. Cosimo de
Medici set the family goals based on the tenets of Plato. His grandson,
Lorenzo the Magnificent, was a brilliant scholar, and talented poet. The
Medici wealth made Florence the cultural hub of Italy—in a way, gilding
their thirst for power by nurturing the platonic ideal -to promote beauty,
artistic genius, knowledge of the classics, and pride in their city.
Find out more about the Medici family at
Michelangelo grew up in Florence a teenage prodigy, already honing his
poet. He lived for 89 years,
and his influence on western art is unparalleled. Michelangelo chiseled out
sublime David—now in the Accademia—the ultimate Renaissance Man. Unlike
the Davids of Donatello and others, this lad does not grasp a sword or stand
over the severed head of Goliath. We gaze at a solitary
14 foot-tall Man
about to hurl a stone. This marble giant appears to have un-restrained
admiration for himself the Individual, and in sheer naked beauty and power
he is absolutely liberated. At the end of his life fifty years later,
Michelangelo told a friend, "I am dying just as I begin to learn the
alphabet of my profession." Awesome, indeed.
The 15th century greats had cultivated a playing field for the 16th century
greats" for multi-layered Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and Leonardo.
Leonardo da Vinci's epic talents must have left him dizzy. This painter of
the famous Mono Lisa was reputed to be 'the one who did not finish his
work.' No matter. Scientist, painter, architect -his brainpower still
boggles the mind. And his
innovations characterize the
creativity of the
To find the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, check out the directions
Leonardo's Home Town
As we leave Florence, we're taking one more daytrip, this time to the nearby
town of Vinci, the home of—you guessed it—Leonardo da Vinci. The word
genius, used frequently in talk about the Renaissance, is defined as "an
exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative
original works in science and art. " Perhaps nowhere does the
Renaissance ideal and breadth live more than in the
legacy of Leonardo da
His life spanned the mid-1400s to the early 1500s, and his spirit of
inquiry soared centuries ahead. His imagined machines were rendered exactly,
almost as blueprints, Are you ready for battle, flight, or ocean sports?
Leonardo's intellect readied him for anything.
The Leonardo Museum in the Conti Guidi Castle on the north end of
Vinci. Three kilometers north, in the Tuscan countryside, you'll find
Da Vinci's birthplace in the
village of Anchiano.
To further explore Da Vinci's inventions for air, land, and sea, go to
www.museoscienza.org, the official website of the
national museum of science and technology leonardo da vinci in
For a hands-on exploration of some of Da Vinci's inventions, get the book
Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself by Maxine
To take an on-line look at Leonardo's personal notebook, visit
the British Museum and click on
Sketches by Leonardo near the top of the page. For Da Vinci's
writings on his many interests, visit
Ready for anything, we need no excuse to wend our way to watery, theatrical
Venice. Stand in
San Marco Square and the
columns, arches, simple repetition, and classic
balance. Buildings overflow with art—Veronese,
You'll find more on Venice and the Northern Italian Renaissance at
For a good read on the interrelationships of the artists of the Venetian
Renaissance, look at
Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting by
David Alan Brown,
Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, et al. The book accompanies the
exhibition of the same name on display at the National Gallery of Art in
Washington, D.C. from June 18 through September 17, 2006.
And in paintings, the
Venetian Renaissance was about color...vivid, big,
rich color. In the
Campo dei Frari Church, Titian's “Ascension
Into Heaven” illustrates the grandeur of his work.
Venetians focused on
blending colors rather than drawing clear outlines. This new freedom in
grand brush strokes and coloring would refresh art workshops across Europe.
Titian loved rich drapes and flowing garments. He drew the sensual human
figure from all angles and made huge portraits. He became Italy’s most
venerated portrait artist. Royalty eagerly sat still for Titian, knowing
that at least on his canvas they would become bigger-than-life.
Chiesa dei Frari, houses two
Titian masterpieces and the tomb of the painter. You can reach the
church by Vaporetto. Check out routes and schedules at
www.actv.it. Select stop: San Tomá.
We're heading west toward France's Loire Valley and on to London, England.
But first a stop at Milan in northern Italy.
France & the Loire Valley
It was a spirit of doubt and a Rebirth-a spreading wave of change that, in
time, created the Renaissance. Over five centuries later, we travelers stand
in awe of that Rebirth. We go looking for the art, architecture and vitality
of Europe's Golden Age in its timeless places-the cities of Italy and the
countryside of France.
“The countryside of France"... just say it, and you begin to relax, to
plan your next chateau visit or daydream about a hunt. Well,
anticipating the hunt was the case with
Renaissance royalty and nobility.
This is where they headed to the verdant, slightly hilly, breezy and sunlit
Loire Valley where at every turn in the road they were confronted by a
medieval fortress. With royal comrades to impress and money to bum, the
high-rollers bought up or took over the 12th century fortifications which
waited silently to be made-over into extravagant 15th century Renaissance
Originally, they looked like
Sully, one of
dozens of fortresses in the Loire
For an examination of the French Renaissance, go to
Francois the First, King of France, was a major renovator of medieval
castles. He grew up in this one, the
Amboise Chateau, accustomed to the
princely life...dancing, festivals and lively hunting parties. Then, he fell
in love with Italy! After
getting a taste of Italy's Renaissance spirit.
King Francis brought
Leonardo da Vinci himself and other Italian artists to
the Loire, luring them to enhance the art and architecture of his many
Also in the town of Amboise, you'll find Da Vinci's last residence,
Le Clos Luce, now a museum.
Chambord is by far the
largest chateau with over 400 rooms in elaborate
Renaissance style. Reminiscent of Greek stability and 15th century luxury,
the acres of structures were built to last.
For some interesting reading on the spiral staircase at Chambord, as well
as other double helix designs used in staircase architecture, open this
technical paper (pdf format) and scroll down one page to 328.
Chenonceau Chateau is also part of Francois's family domain with
Catherine di Medici, the king's daughter-in-law, playing a role in building
it. Visitors can learn all about
generations of romantic romps and revenge,
political betrayals, lavish parties and the power struggles rampant in this
opulent world. Or they can
wander quietly, breathing-in the
Take a 3D animated look at how Chenonceau Chateau has changed from 1515
to 1576 at
England & Hampton Court
The dynamics of progress and the desire to excel were epidemic. Eventually,
the Renaissance spread like honey throughout Western Europe and
thirty-minute train ride from London will land you at a favorite retreat of
King Henry VIII.
Hampton Court Palace has stood on the north bank of the
River Thames for over 500 years and has
housed famous figures including 12
English monarchs. A grand palace built with awesome detail and elaborate
spaces, its six acres of stately buildings are surrounded by 60 acres of
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey of York began building the
in1514 and by the 1520s he had 'gifted it' to an insistent Henry VIII, but Wolsey was indicted for treason anyway.
time here, Henry managed to find time to remodel. He replaced part of the
Great Hall, and it's said his
Tudor kitchen could serve 1000 meals
a day. The
Wolsey Room holds some of Europe's finest Renaissance paintings.
And the elaborate mazes in the garden are famous.
Since this show aired, the Hampton Court Maze underwent an "audio
upgrade." Find out more at
In 1889, author Jerome K. Jerome vividly captured an adventure
through Hampton Court Maze in
Three Men in a Boat. You can find his account on-line at
www.authorama.com. The account begins near the bottom of the page with
the sentence "Harris asked me if I’d ever been in the maze at Hampton
Need a little help navigating Hampton Court Maze yourself? Check out
Jo Edkin's Maze Page.
Eyes Wide Open
The Renaissance legacy we can see–the art and architecture—lives on
magnificently today, evidence of a tornado of creativity that is maybe
unmatched in human history. Five hundred years after the Renaissance we
still marvel at the magnificent work of artists like Leonardo&
Michelangelo. Whatever inspired Europe's Renaissance it was a period of
artistic growth that forever changed the Western World.
For over 200
years one astounding individual after another brought rare ideas and
splendor to the arts. They created a glorious legacy that we still seek out.
Could there be another Renaissance around the corner? I'm Rudy Maxa, keeping
my eyes wide open.
||Ready to personally explore the
art and architecture of Renaissance Europe? Start your trip at Expedia.com/