Secular and Individualisticitalian Renaissance

The renaissance was a mark of change. Revolutionary ideas were beginning to form, wars were ending, peasants were becoming wealthy aristocrats, it was a time of rebirth. Thanks to the leading families, artists and scholars alike were getting more recognition and notoriety from the general public and their paintings and writings were being admired and criticized throughout Italy. However, during this time of prosperity and excitement, there was also the feeling of despair amongst the people.

Because of the church’s questionable morals and ethics, a feeling of animosity was spreading. Secular ideals were becoming more and more common throughout Italy. The growing patrician society led to a more self centered population with individualistic ideals. The expanding interest in art, literature, and virtuous principles helped immensely in the spread of secular and individualistic ideals during the Italian Renaissance.

One of the most obvious ways that secularism and individualism were spread was through what the renaissance was perhaps the most famous for; through art. The city-states of Northern Italy, such as Florence, Milan, Genoa, and Sienna, were it competition with each other. One of the ways to flaunt their wealth was to sponsor or give patronage to an aspiring artist. Some of these painters were more blatantly secular than others, for example, Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks depicts baby Jesus and Mary without halos, showing a more realistic and secular point of view.

With the generous funding given to sponsored artists, they were allowed more time to focus on painting and sculpture rather than work. This gave them the opportunity to develop new techniques and recognize the different structures and nuances of each unique face and body. Because of this, portraits became more popular with the rich and elite. Another method of spreading the secular and individualistic attitude throughout the Italian renaissance was through song.

Composing music was a new form of art in during the Renaissance (also known as ars nova or “new art”) and while many composers focused on creating music for the Church, others, such as Francesco Landini composed music that paid homage to the tradition of fourteenth-century secular music. Sonnets like these became extremely popular and it was impossible to miss the secular undertones while listening to them. The final way of spreading secular views was through the printing press. Though it was invented in Germany (in 1436 by Johannes Gutenberg), it was used across Europe.

The printing press was key in helping many illiterate members of Renaissance society become proficient and gave them the opportunity to read and make judgments for themselves. The publishing of pamphlets and new bibles that changed the commandments of those used by the Church changed the views of many Italians. Those who were unaware of the church selling indulgences and using church money for personal use were now reading about it firsthand. It also allowed for more accurate retelling, instead of passing along information by word of mouth, you got the whole original story.