Court official, scholar
"Let me make this matter perfectly clear to all present: I will not allow the voice of Israel to be stilled on this day."
Isaac Abrabanel quoted in Gates of Jewish Heritage. [Online] Available http://www.jewishgates.org/personalities/2abrav.stm, April 5, 2002.
Isaac Abrabanel (also spelled Abravanel) was a Portuguese-Jewish court official and scholar who contributed to the study of biblical texts during the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a cultural movement initiated by scholars called humanist, who promoted the revival of the human-centered literature and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome as well as new translations of biblical texts (Hebrew holy books and the Christian Bible). His significance to both Jewish history and the Renaissance period can best be understood in the context of events in Spain and Portugal during the fifteenth century.
Abrabanel was born in Lisbon, Portugal, into a distinguished Jewish family. As a youth he received an extensive education in the Talmud (Jewish laws), rabbinic (Jewish theological) literatures, and ancient Greek works. Known for...
(The entire section is 2889 words.)
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January 1, 1431
August 18, 1503
"Once he became Pope Alexander VI, Vatican parties, already wild, grew wilder."
Voltaire in Philosophical Dictionary.
Alexander VI was pope (supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church) from 1492 to 1503 and stands as one of the most controversial of all Renaissance popes. He has been widely condemned for disregarding the priestly vows of celibacy (not engaging in sexual relations) and placing his political goals above spiritual leadership. He shocked his contemporaries by openly acknowledging his illegitimate (born out of wedlock) children. Alexander practiced simony, or selling church offices, and was notorious for his nepotism (favoritism based on kinship). He used his power as pope to enrich his children, he supported a mob of Spanish relatives in Rome, and he created positions for nineteen Spanish cardinals. Although many of the tales about Alexander's corrupt activities have been discounted by historians, he remains a...
(The entire section is 2365 words.)
Cremona, Italy 1625
"[Sofonisba Anguissola] has shown greater application and better grace than any other woman of our age in her endeavors at drawing … [and] by herself has created rare and very beautiful paintings."
Sixteenth-century art historian Giorgio Vasari quoted in A Guide to the Collection of European Art to 1900. [Online] Available , April 4, 2002.
Italian painter Sofonisba Anguissola (pronounced ahn-GWEE-so-lah) was the first woman artist to establish an international reputation and to produce a substantial body of work. Her portraits depicted stories, a technique that was ahead of her time. At the end of the sixteenth century the main interests of Italian art were nature scenes and genre scenes such as the Crucifixion (execution of Jesus Christ on a cross), the Resurrection (Jesus's rising from the dead), and still life. Anguissola inspired other Italian women to take up painting. Among them were Irene di Spilimbergo (1541–1559) and Lavinia...
(The entire section is 1308 words.)
January 22, 1561
April 9, 1626
Philosopher, statesman, and author
"The sovereignty of man lieth hid in knowledge…"
Francis Bacon made many contributions to the English Renaissance as a philosopher, statesman, and author. His advocacy of "active science" influenced the culture of the English-speaking world. He continued the family tradition of serving the royal court, and was made a nobleman during his career. His written works continue to be important in philosophy and history.
Pursues political career
Francis Bacon was born in London on January 22, 1561, at York House. He was the second son of Sir Nicholas Bacon (1509–1579) and his second wife, Lady Anne Bacon. Through the families of both parents Francis had important connections with the political and cultural life of Tudor England (the period in history when members of the house, or royal family, of Tudor ruled England; 1485–1603). His father was lord keeper of the great seal...
(The entire section is 1857 words.)
Bruegel, Pieter the Elder
The Dutch painter and engraving designer Pieter Bruegel (also spelled Brueghel; pronounced BROO-gehl) the Elder is considered one of the foremost artists of the late northern Renaissance. The northern Renaissance was an extension of the Italian Renaissance, a movement based on the revival of ancient Greek and Roman culture (the classical period) that began in Florence, Italy, in the mid-1300s. The Italian Renaissance was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of the classical period. Humanist ideals were soon influencing the arts, literature, philosophy, science, religion, and politics in Italy. During the early fifteenth century, innovations of the Italian Renaissance began spreading from Italy into the rest of Europe, where the movement became known as the northern Renaissance. His works provide insight into humans and their relationship with nature. He lived and worked in Antwerp and Brussels (cities in present-day Belgium) at a time when northern European art was strongly influenced by the late Italian Renaissance style called mannerism. Adopted in sculpture as...
(The entire section is 1967 words.)
July 10, 1509
Noyon, Picardy, France
May 27, 1564
Theologian, religious leader
"No one who wishes to be thought religious dares simply deny predestination, by which God adopts some to hope of life, and sentences others to eternal death."
John Calvin quoted in The Protestant Reformation, edited by Hans J. Hillerbrand.
John Calvin was perhaps the most influential of all leaders of the Protestant Reformation, a movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. He was involved in reform efforts at the same time as Martin Luther (1483–1546; see entry), the German priest who initiated the Reformation, but Calvin was twenty-six years younger than Luther. The two men developed some important theological differences. Significantly, Calvin's stern, "puritanical" interpretations of Christianity brought a renewed vigor to the Protestant Reformation, a religious reform movement within the Roman Catholic Church initiated by Luther in the early sixteenth century....
(The entire section is 2057 words.)
December 6, 1478
Casatico, Mantua, Italy
February 7, 1529
Diplomat, author, courtier
"It is better to pass in silence that which cannot be recalled without pain."
Baldassare Castiglione in Book of the Courtier.
The Italian author, courtier, and diplomat Baldassare Castiglione was one of the most influential writers of the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a cultural movement initiated by scholars called humanists, who promoted the revival of the human-centered literature and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome as well as new translations of biblical texts (Hebrew holy books and the Christian Bible). He ranks with the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564–1616; see entry) and the French essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592; see entry) in importance to the literature of Europe. Castiglione is known primarily for Book of the Courtier, in which he portrayed the ideal courtier (gentlemen of the court). This work was a chief...
(The entire section is 1848 words.)
Médicis, Catherine de
Catherine de Médicis was never able to rule France as its monarch because of the Salic Law, which restricted royal succession solely to men. Despite this law, she reigned as regent (one who rules in place of a young monarch) for nearly thirty years and did everything she could to strengthen the positions of her three weak sons. She presided over, and was partly responsible for, many of the horrors of the French Wars of Religion in the 1560s and 1570s. The worst of these was the massacre of Protestants gathered in Paris to witness the marriage of her daughter Margaret Valois to Duke Henry of Navarre in 1572. Catherine's calculating policies yielded short-term victories, but when she died in 1589 her hopes for her family's long-term future lay in ruins.
Marries at fourteen
Catherine was born in 1519, daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici (1449–1492; see entry), the...
(The entire section is 3539 words.)
Writer and intellectual
"And although I have neither the power, time nor occasion to conquer the world as Alexander and Caesar did; yet rather than not to be mistress of one, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made a world of my own."
Margaret Cavendish as quoted in Blazing World edited by Kate Lilley.
The English author and intellectual Margaret Cavendish, first duchess of Newcastle, wrote in the greatest variety of genres of any women, or even men, of the late Renaissance period. Initiated by humanist scholars, the Renaissance was a movement that promoted the revival of the human-centered literature and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome as well as new translations of biblical texts (Hebrew holy books and the Christian Bible). She sought fame through her works, but during her own lifetime she was a social outsider. Nicknamed "Mad Madge,"...
(The entire section is 1882 words.)
Cervantes, Miguel de
Alcalá de Henares, Spain
"For years, this Cervantes has been a great friend of mine, and he certainly knows a lot more about misfortune than he does about poetry."
The priest, Chapter Six of Don Quixote translated by Burton Raffel.
The Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra is famous for Don Quixote, (pronounced kee-HO-teh) considered one of the great masterpieces of world literature. This work was largely responsible for creating what is known as the modern novel. (A novel is a long written work that tells a story featuring fictional, or imaginary, characters involved in complex plots.) Don Quixote has been translated into more than sixty languages and its central character, Don Quixote of la Mancha, has become a major figure in Western culture. Don Quixote's image has been popularized in films, musicals, and paintings. His creator, known simply as Cervantes, lived at the end of the glorious years of the Spanish empire and fought heroically at the decisive sea battle of Lepanto. However, throughout his life Cervantes...
(The entire section is 3270 words.)
Charles V (also known as Charles I)
February 24, 1500,
Ghent, the Netherlands
September 21, 1558
San Jeronimo de Yuste, Spain
Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain
"Therefore I am determined to pledge for this cause all my realms, my friends, my body, my life and my soul … to defend the Catholic Faith."
During his reign as Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, Charles V became the ruler of one of the largest empires in world history. A member of the powerful Habsburg family based in Austria and Spain, he inherited far-reaching territories: the ancestral Habsburg family estates; the Spanish Empire; the kingdoms of Germany, Hungary, Bohemia, Naples, and Sicily; the duchy of Milan; the Netherlands; and possessions in North Africa and the Americas. His empire was so vast that he owned roughly twice the amount of land as the king of France. Charles V dominated the stage of European and world politics from 1516 until his death in 1558. A man of enormous...
(The entire section is 3570 words.)
February 19, 1473
May 24, 1543
Theologian and astronomer
"In the center rests the sun. For who would place this lamp of a very beautiful temple in another or better place than this wherefrom it can illuminate everything at the same time."
Nicolaus Copernicus as quoted in Nicholas Copernicus on the Revolutions edited and translated by Edward Rosen.
The Polish theologian and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) is credited with starting the scientific revolution in 1543 by publishing De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the heavenly orbs). In this work he proposed that the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of the universe. Although the book received little attention at the time, Copernicus's theory later caused considerable controversy. Not only did it contradict the accepted ideas of ancient astronomers, but it also challenged the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. In the early 1600s the Italian...
(The entire section is 2214 words.)
May 21, 1471
April 6, 1528
"My affairs will go as ordained in Heaven."
The German painter and graphic artist Albrecht Dürer introduced the achievements of the Italian Renaissance into northern European art. The Renaissance was a cultural revolution that began in Italy during the mid-1300s. It was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanist ideals were soon influencing the arts, literature, philosophy, science, religion, and politics in Italy. During the early fifteenth century, innovations of the Italian Renaissance began spreading into the rest of Europe and reached a peak in the sixteenth century. Dürer's influence was most widely felt through his woodcuts and engravings.
During the fifteenth century, the Rhineland (a region along the Rhine River in Germany) and southern Germany were the foremost centers for the...
(The entire section is 2936 words.)
September 7, 1533
March 24, 1603
Queen of England
"Though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with your loves…"
Elizabeth I was queen of England and Ireland for forty-five years. During her reign she preserved stability in a nation divided by political and religious dissension, and she maintained the authority of the monarchy (government headed by one ruler) against the growing pressures of Parliament (British law-making body). Educated as a humanist, she supported the Protestant religion in England. (Humanism was a movement devoted to reviving the culture of ancient Greece and Rome, which gave rise to the Renaissance. Protestantism is a Christian religion that resulted from efforts to reform the Roman Catholic Church.) Elizabeth was not an active patron of Renaissance artists, choosing to focus more on politics than on culture. She was careful with her money and did not spend it on promoting art, architecture, and literature. Nevertheless, Elizabeth's court and her personal tastes inspired many of the creative efforts that mark her culturally successful reign.
(The entire section is 3276 words.)
October 27, 1466
July 12, 1536
"In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king."
The Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus was the foremost humanist in northern Europe (see accompanying box for a description of humanism). He promoted a method called philology (study of language used in literary texts) in the study of the Bible (the Christian holy book). Erasmus also popularized works by ancient and early Christian writers. Known as a "Christian humanist," he combined Christian teachings with classical ideals. In his own time, even critics did not dispute that he was the reigning "prince of humanists." His admirers credited him with the single-handed revival of literary study in Germany. For some years Erasmus enjoyed celebrity status. He was sought after by other scholars who conducted extensive letter exchanges...
(The entire section is 2272 words.)
September 12, 1494
March 31, 1547
"I feed upon the good and put out the evil one."
King Francis I of France was a true Renaissance monarch. The Renaissance was a cultural revolution that began in Italy in the mid-1300s. It was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanist ideals were soon influencing the arts, literature, philosophy, science, religion, and politics in Italy. During the early fifteenth century, innovations of the Italian Renaissance began spreading into the rest of Europe and reached a peak in the sixteenth century. Francis was devoted to making France a center of the Renaissance. He actively patronized (gave financial support to) painters, sculptors, architects, scholars, poets, and writers. Francis also practiced shrewd diplomacy (relations with other countries) and strengthened centralized rule in France. He was a man of immense charm and humanity who had...
(The entire section is 2947 words.)
February 15, 1564
January 8, 1642
Mathematician, physicist, astronomer
"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."
The Italian mathematician, physicist, and astronomer Galileo Galilei (called Galileo) was the foremost scientist of the Renaissance. (The Renaissance was a cultural movement that began in Italy in the mid-1300s and was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of ancient Greece and Rome.) Now considered the "father of modern science," Galileo made revolutionary contributions to astronomy, physics, and scientific philosophy. In 1612 he shook the foundations of the scientific world by supporting the Sun-centered theory of the universe, which the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543; see entry) had formulated nearly seventy years earlier. This daring assertion brought Galileo into direct confrontation with the Roman Catholic Church....
(The entire section is 2983 words.)
July 8, 1593
"The works will speak for themselves."
Artemisia Gentileschi as quoted in Artemisia Gentileschi and The Age of Baroque. [Online] Available , April 5, 2002.
The Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi (pronounced jahntee-LES-kee) is regarded as one of the important women painters of the Renaissance. (The Renaissance was a cultural movement that began in Italy in the mid-1300s and was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of ancient Greece and Rome.) She achieved international stature for her progressive style, ambitious range of themes, and strong feminist expression. Influenced by the innovative Italian painter Caravaggio (see box below), she adopted a dramatic, realistic style and a chiaroscuro technique (use of stark contrasts between light and dark). According to some accounts, Gentileschi was Caravaggio's student. Nevertheless, she departed from Caravaggio's, as well as other...
(The entire section is 2150 words.)
February 3, 1468
In the 1450s the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg perfected the printing press, which is recognized as one of the most important advances in Western (non-Asian) history. A mechanism by which small metal pieces engraved with single characters (letters) could be arranged to form words and sentences, the first press was used in Germany to print the Bible (the Christian holy book). Soon presses began to spring up all over Europe, and the impact was enormous. Literacy grew rapidly and knowledge spread as literature became readily—and affordably—available to many people for the first time. With the aid of printing, the ideas born in the Italian Renaissance (a revival of ancient Greek and Roman culture) during the late 1300s spread northward to France, England, Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, and Norway), and eastern Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Printers use new technology
(The entire section is 1936 words.)
Born: June 28, 1491
Died: January 28, 1547
" … if he were still free he would choose her in preference to all others."
Henry VIII, upon marrying Catherine of Aragon.
Henry VIII is best known today as the king who discarded—or beheaded—his wives because they did not give him a male heir. He is also famous for defying the pope (the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church). As a consequence of the pope's refusal to grant Henry a divorce from his first wife, Henry withdrew from the Roman Catholic Church and created the Church of England. Henry was also a great supporter of the English Renaissance. Although his daughter, Elizabeth I (1533–1603; see entry), is usually associated with the height of English culture, Henry set the stage by encouraging new humanist ideas that were being brought from Italy in the sixteenth century. (Humanism was a literary and scholarly movement based on the revival of ancient Greek and Roman culture that was the basis of the Renaissance.)
(The entire section is 2753 words.)
Loyola, Ignatius of
July 31, 1556
Religious leader, founder of Jesuits
"The safest and most suitable form of penance seems to be that which causes pain in the flesh but does not penetrate to the bones, that is, which causes suffering but not sickness."
Ignatius of Loyola in Spiritual Exercises, quoted in The Columbia World of Quotations. [Online] Available http://www.bartleby.com/66/17/47917.html, April 5, 2002.
Ignatius Loyola was the principal founder of the Society of Jesus (known as the Jesuits), a Roman Catholic order for men. Prior to having a spiritual awakening, Ignatius was a vain and worldly young soldier who loved a life of adventure. In 1521, at the Battle of Pamplona in Spain, he suffered serious injuries and, while recuperating, turned his mind to religion. During the next two decades he...
(The entire section is 2905 words.)
James I (also James VI)
June 19, 1566
March 27, 1625
King of Scotland and King of England
"A good king will not only delight to rule his subjects by the law, but even will conform himself in his own actions thereunto, always keeping that ground, that the health of the commonwealth be his chief law."
James VI quoted in King James VI and I, Political Writings, edited by J. P. Somerville.
King James I of England began his life as King James VI of Scotland, when he was merely an infant. As regents (interim rulers) ruled his kingdom, James was educated in the humanist tradition until he came of age. (Humanism was a movement to revive the culture of ancient Greece and Rome, which initiated the Renaissance.) His rather rough Scottish mannerisms and behavior were put to the test when he took over the throne of England after the death of Elizabeth I (1533–1603; see entry) in 1603. His political life was plagued by disagreements with his advisers and family, especially in regard to his relationship with Spain. James wrote a number of books, supported the arts, and...
(The entire section is 2795 words.)
June 11, 1572
in or near London, England
August 6, 1637
"For a good poet's made as well as born."
Ben Jonson, To the Memory of Shakespeare quoted in Bartlet's Familiar Quotations, [Online] Available http://www.bartleby.com/100/, April 3, 2002.
The English playwright and poet Ben Jonson is best known for his satiric comedies (plays based on criticism through the use of humor). An immensely learned man with an irritable and domineering personality, he was, next to William Shakespeare (1564–1616; see entry), the greatest dramatic genius of the English Renaissance. The Renaissance was a cultural revolution that began in Italy in the mid-1300s. It was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanist ideals were soon influencing the arts, literature, philosophy, science, religion, and politics in Italy. During the early fifteenth...
(The entire section is 1536 words.)
December 27, 1571
Weil, Swabia, Germany
November 15, 1630
Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany
"For just as the eye is fitted for the perception of colors, the ear for sounds, so is man's mind created not for anything but for the grasping of quantities."
The German astronomer Johannes Kepler was one of the chief founders of modern astronomy (study of celestial bodies, such as planets, stars, the Sun, and the Moon). A pivotal figure in seventeenth-century science, he made discoveries in astronomy and mathematics that spurred further developments. Many of his findings are still valid today. He is best known for his discovery of three basic laws underlying the motion of planets.
Johannes Kepler was born to a Lutheran family in the Catholic city of Weil in Swabia, Germany. In 1576 his family moved to Leonberg in the Protestant duchy (province) of Würtemberg. Kepler's grandmother raised him,...
(The entire section is 2139 words.)
da Vinci, Leonardo
April 15, 1452
May 2, 1519
"As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death."
Leonardo da Vinci in The Notebooks quoted on The Quotations Page. [Online] Available http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes.php3?author=Leonardo+d... , April 5, 2002.
One of the greatest figures of the Renaissance was the painter Leonardo da Vinci. Known as Leonardo, he was considered the ideal "Renaissance man," an individual whose talents spanned a variety of subjects. He was an innovator in the fields of both art and science, uniquely combining these two activities as he investigated the world around him. Although he completed relatively few paintings, he played a crucial role in creating and shaping the art of the High Renaissance (1495–1520), the period when Renaissance culture reached its height in Italy. He was also interested in...
(The entire section is 2627 words.)
November 10, 1483
February 18, 1546
Scholar, professor, writer, religious reformer
"I began to understand." he wrote later, "that the righteousness of God is that gift of God by which a righteous [morally upright] man lives, namely, faith, and that … the merciful God justifies us by faith…"
The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were a time of transition from the Middle Ages (c. 400 –1400; also called the medieval period) to the modern era. Throughout the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church (a Christian religion headed by a pope and based in Rome, Italy) controlled all aspects of social, political, and religious life. It was the largest institution (complex organization) in western Europe and consisted of an elaborate hierarchy (ranks of officials)—the pope, cardinals (officials ranking below the pope), bishops (heads of church districts), canons (legal administrators), priests (heads of local churches), and...
(The entire section is 2948 words.)
May 3, 1469
May 22, 1527
" … how one lives is so far removed from how one ought to live that he who abandons what one does for what one ought to do, learns rather his own ruin than his preservation."
Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince.
The Italian author and statesman Niccolò Machiavelli is best known as the author of The Prince (Il principe), in which he described how a ruler must do whatever is necessary to stay in power. Over the centuries Machiavelli became famous as a sinister and ruthless politician because of this philosophy. Many historians suggest that this reputation is largely undeserved. They point out that Machiavelli lived by his own ideals as a loyal and self-sacrificing servant of government. Furthermore, he never suggested that the political dealings of princes should be a model for day-to-day interactions among ordinary citizens.
Niccolò Machiavelli was...
(The entire section is 2768 words.)
April 11, 1492
December 21, 1549
"… and I will tell you nothing but the whole truth."
Simontault in Heptaméron.
Margaret of Navarre, duchess of Angoulême, is best known today as the author of Heptaméron. A collection of novellas (a form of short fictitious stories originating in Italy), Heptaméron is ranked alongside the books of François Rabelais (c. 1494–1553; see entry) and Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592; see entry) as one of the greatest prose works of the French Renaissance. The Renaissance was a cultural revolution that began in Italy in the mid-1300s. It was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanist ideals were soon influencing the arts, literature, philosophy, science, religion, and politics in Italy. During the early fifteenth century, innovations of the Italian Renaissance began...
(The entire section is 1455 words.)
Medici, Lorenzo de'
January 1, 1449
April 9, 1492
The Italian merchant prince Lorenzo de' Medici, called "il Magnifico" ("the Magnificent"), ruled both the Florentine state and a vast commercial empire. As a poet and a patron, or financial supporter, of poets, he stimulated the revival and splendor of Italian literature.
Lorenzo de' Medici was born in Florence, Italy, on January 1, 1449. He was the son of Piero the Gouty (1414–1469) and the grandson of Cosimo the Elder (1389–1464). His mother, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, was also an accomplished poet. Cosimo was aware of his son Piero's physical weakness and fearful that Piero would not long survive him. He therefore groomed his grandson Lorenzo to become a merchant and take over the family business. Lorenzo enjoyed the best education available, learning Greek, Latin, and philosophy (search for a general understanding of values and reality through speculative thinking). He received both a formal education, in rigorous sessions with teachers, and an informal one, in the company of humanists (scholars who promoted the human-centered literary and intellectual movement based on the revival...
(The entire section is 1755 words.)
March 6, 1475
February 18, 1564
"I'm not in a good place, and I'm no painter."
Michelangelo, on painting the Sistine ceiling as quoted in The Complete Poems of Michelangelo.
Michelangelo Buonarroti (known as Michelangelo) was the greatest sculptor of the Italian Renaissance. He was also one of the greatest painters and architects of the time. In fact, Michelangelo had an exceptionally long career and dominated the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a movement based on the revival of ancient Greek and Roman culture (the classical period). When he died in 1564, at age eighty-nine, he had lived nearly twice the expected life span of the average person in the sixteenth century. His impact on younger artists was immense, but it tended to be crushing. Major artists of the next century, such as Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640; see entry), were better able to study Michelangelo's ideas at a distance without danger to their own artistic independence.
(The entire section is 2924 words.)
Montaigne, Michel de
February 23, 1533
September 13, 1592
"It is an absolute perfection and virtually divine to know how to enjoy our being lawfully."
Michel de Montaigne, "Of Experience."
The French author Michel de Montaigne created a new literary genre (form), the essay, in which he used self-portrayal as a mirror of humanity in general. The term "essay" was first used by Montaigne for short prose discussions. It comes from the French word essai, meaning "trial," "an attempt," or "testing." The informal essay as Montaigne understood and developed it is the method a writer uses to test his or her own views on life and the self.
Begins publishing career
Michel de Montaigne was born into a noble, or upper-class, family in Périgord near Bordeaux, France. His father, Pierre Eyquem, was a Bordeaux merchant and municipal official whose grandfather was the first nobleman of the line. His mother, Antoinette de Louppes (Lopez), was descended from Spanish...
(The entire section is 1530 words.)
May 15, 1567
November 29, 1643
Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) was the foremost Italian composer of the seventeenth century. During his long career he mastered many forms of music, but he is best known for his operas. Monteverdi was one of the most experimental composers working between 1590 and 1625. During these years he introduced more expressiveness and drama into music, notably through what he called the stile concitato (agitated style). As early as 1600, Giovanni Maria Artusi (c. 1545–1613), a well-known music theorist, criticized Monteverdi for engaging in harsh "modernisms." His music represents the transition from the Renaissance into the baroque period (an era in music and the other arts that was characterized by heightened exuberance and drama). Monteverdi now ranks as one of the major European composers of all time.
Experiments with new music form
Monteverdi was born in Cremona, Italy, on May 15, 1567. Historians suggest that...
(The entire section is 1813 words.)
February 6, 1478
July 6, 1535
Humanist, author, statesman
"This means that if they suddenly had to part with all the gold and silver they possess—a fate which in any other country would be thought equivalent to having one's guts torn out—nobody in Utopia would care two hoots."
Thomas More in Utopia.
The life of the English humanist and statesman Thomas More exemplifies the political and spiritual upheaval of the Protestant Reformation, the movement to reform the Catholic Church. Now known for his revolutionary work Utopia, More was beheaded for opposing the religious policy of Henry VIII (1491–1547; see entry).
Influenced by humanists
Thomas More was born in London on February 6, 1478, to parents whose families were connected with the city's legal community. His education began at a prominent London school, Saint Anthony's. In 1490 he went to...
(The entire section is 2110 words.)
"Therefore, it appears that Adam's sin was greater than Eve's."
The Italian writer Isotta Nogarola is considered the first woman to become a major figure in the humanist movement. Humanism began in Florence, Italy, in the mid-1300s among scholars who promoted the study of the literary masterpieces of ancient Greece and Rome. They believed that this body of learning, called studia humanitatis (humanistic studies), could bring about a cultural rebirth, or renaissance. They also studied the Bible (the Christian holy book) and the works of early Christian thinkers. Humanists had faith in the human potential for great achievements, an idea that was entirely new for the time. They are credited with starting the Renaissance, which spread throughout Italy and northern Europe in the fifteenth century. Nogarola was an active participant in humanist circles. She produced a number of works and conducted extensive correspondence with the important thinkers of her day. She is most famous for "On the Equal and Unequal Sin of Eve and Adam," in which she asserted that Eve (the first woman on Earth, according to biblical tradition) should not bear the responsibility for...
(The entire section is 1691 words.)
Astrologer, physician, author
"He will pierce his eyes through a golden cage/Two wounds made one, then he dies a cruel death."
Aphysician and astrologer by profession, Nostradamus is said to have remained awake nights for several years, meditating over a brass bowl filled with water. He lapsed into trances during which he supposedly could see into the future. He then set his predictions down for posterity in a twelve-volume work titled Centuries. Since his death in 1566, scholars and the general public alike have remained fascinated by Nostradamus's forecasts.
Becomes famous for plague treatments
Nostradamus was born in Provence, a region in southern France, in 1503. Nostradamus is the Latinized version of his birth name, Michel de Notredame. His family was of Jewish heritage but they...
(The entire section is 2190 words.)
Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da
December 27, 1525
February 2, 1594
The Italian musician Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was the foremost composer of the sixteenth century. His sacred works represent one of the great achievements of Renaissance music. The Renaissance was a cultural movement which began in Italy in the mid-1300s. It was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanist ideals were soon influencing the arts, literature, philosophy, science, religion, and politics in Italy.
Begins as choir master
Born Giovanni Pierluigi, the composer adopted the name of his native town, Palestrina, which is located near Rome. Little is known about his early life, though it is assumed that at the age of seven he was a choir singer at the church of Saint Agapit in Palestrina. Records show that he was a member of the choir at the basilica (church) of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome in 1537....
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Andrea Palladio is one of the architects most closely associated with the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a cultural revolution that began in Italy in the mid-1300s. It was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanist ideals were soon influencing the arts, literature, philosophy, science, religion, and politics in Italy. His main contribution to architecture was the villa, or large country house, which became popular throughout Europe. Palladio was also involved in promoting the classical style developed by Italian architects in the fifteenth century. They refurbished old buildings and constructed new ones according to architectural details found in Roman ruins. Features of this style included simple but impressive building shapes, columns from the three basic classical orders (Corinthian, Doric, and Ionic), porticos (entrance porches), and loggias (roofed open galleries overlooking courtyards). Palladio adapted many of these features in his villas.
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Physician and reformer
The Swiss-born physician Theophrastus Paracelsus is considered the first to use chemicals to treat disease. His ideas were not widely accepted until the seventeenth century, when physicians and chemists studied his works and incorporated his methods into mainstream European medicine.
Paracelus's actual name was Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. After his death he was commonly known as Theophrastus Paracelsus or simply Paracelsus. He was born in Einsiedeln, a village in Switzerland, where his German father practiced medicine. His mother, a native of the village, served at a nearby monastery. After his mother's death, Paracelsus and his father moved to Villach, in a mining region of Carinthia. Paracelsus claimed that he was tutored by his father and various priests, including Abbot Johannes Trithermius (also called Heidenberg; 1462–1516), who was well known as an occult philosopher (one who studies the action or influence of supernatural or supranormal...
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July 20, 1304
"Rome was greater than I thought, and so are its remains. Now I wonder not that the world was ruled by this city but that the rule came so late."
The Italian poet Petrarch is considered the founder of humanism, a movement devoted to the revival of ancient Greek and Roman literature and philosophy. He has been called the first modern man because he wrote about the external world and analyzed his own thoughts and emotions. Conscious of the fleeting nature of human existence, Petrarch felt his mission was to save works by classical authors for future generations. He also popularized the sonnet form and is considered by many to be the first modern poet. Petrarch's personal letters mark a distinct break with medieval traditions and a return to the classical and early Christian practice of private letter writing. He provided the great stimulus to the cultural movement that culminated in the Renaissance in...
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May 21, 1527
September 13, 1598
El Escorial, Spain
Philip II was king of Spain from 1556 to 1598. During his reign the Spanish empire was severely challenged, and its economic, social, and political institutions strained almost to the breaking point.
Inherits vast empire
Philip was born in Valladolid, Spain, on May 21, 1527. He was the son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500–1558; see entry). In 1543, at age sixteen, Philip married his cousin, Maria of Portugal. She lived only two years, leaving a son, Don Carlos. Charles then arranged for Philip to marry Mary I (called Bloody Mary; 1516–1558; ruled 1553–58) of England, the Catholic queen of a basically Protestant country. Charles did this to consolidate his empire. Philip moved to England, but his stay was not a happy one. Mary died in 1558 and was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth I (1533–1603; see entry), who was committed to keeping England a Protestant nation. Charles V also died in...
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French humanist, physician, and prose satirist
"It is quite a common and vulgar thing among humans to understand, foresee, know and predict the troubles of others. But oh what a rare thing it is to predict, know, foresee and understand one's own troubles."
François Rabelais as quoted in Bartlett's Quotations. [Online] Available http://www.bartleby.com/66/45/45745.html, April 5, 2002.
The French humanist, physician, and author François Rabelais is acclaimed as a comic genius. He published several works, but he is best known for Gargantua and Pantagruel.
Facts of early life unknown
Unfortunately, there are large gaps in information about Rabelais's life. Some records suggest he was born in 1483, but it is widely believed the true date was closer to 1494. Rabelais was the son of a well-established lawyer in the town of Chinon, in the province of Touraine, France. He may have had a scholastic education, which would explain his dislike for overly learned, self-important scholars, an opinion he expressed in his writings....
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April 6, 1483
April 6, 1520
The Italian painter and architect Raffaello Sanzio, called Raphael, is considered the supreme representative of the High Renaissance (1495–1520). This was the period when artistic expression reached its height in Italy, home of the Renaissance. Since the Renaissance began in the early 1400s, art had been based on concepts from classical, or ancient, Greek and Roman culture. Paintings were characterized by balanced proportions (harmonious arrangement of shapes and details), idealized images, and rich colors. Renaissance artists gave particular attention to achieving a sense of depth, or three dimensions, by using a technique called linear perspective. Invented by the Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446), linear perspective is a system derived from mathematics in which all elements of a composition are measured and arranged from a single point of view, or perspective.
Moves to Florence...
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Rubens, Peter Paul
June 28, 1577
Siegen, Westphalia, Germany
May 30, 1640
"My talent is such that no enterprise, however vast in number and in diversity of subjects, has surpassed my courage."
Peter Paul Rubens.
The Flemish painter and diplomat (one who conducts negotiations between governments) Peter Paul Rubens was one of the best-known artists of the seventeenth century. He received commissions from Italy, Spain, France, England, and Germany as well as from his homeland, the southern Netherlands. His boundless imagination, capacity for work, and productivity were legendary during his lifetime. In 1621, when he was not yet forty-five years old, an English visitor to Antwerp (a city in present-day Belgium) described him as "the master workman of the world." Rubens said of himself, without boasting, that his talent was so great that no other artist could equal him in the variety of subjects he painted and the number of works he produced. Without...
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May 23, 1498
The Italian preacher and reformer Girolamo Savonarola was one of the most distinctive figures of the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a cultural movement which began in Italy in the mid-1300s. It was initiated by scholars called humanists who promoted the human-centered values of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanist ideals were soon influencing the arts, literature, philosophy, science, religion, and politics in Italy. Claiming the gift of prophecy, the mendicant monk (member of a religious order dedicated to a life of poverty) rose to power in Florence, Italy, through his harsh criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. He was angered by the corrupt behavior of popes, cardinals, and bishops. He demanded stricter adherence to the spiritual values of Christianity and greater social awareness of the poor. Earning the title, "Preacher of the Despairing," Savonarola gave immensely popular sermons (religious speeches on proper moral conduct) and became famous for his visions. His first vision was about the "Scourge [whip] of...
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April 23, 1564
Stratford-upon-Avon, England April 23, 1616
"What a piece of work is man!… The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?"
Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2.
The English playwright, poet, and actor William Shakespeare is generally considered the greatest of English writers and one of the most extraordinary creators in human history. The crucial fact about his career is that he was a popular dramatist at a time when drama (a composition in verse or prose depicting conflicts through dialogue) was flourishing in England. Audiences drawn from a wide range of social classes were eager to reward his talents. Shakespeare's entire life was committed to the public theater, and he seems to have written nondramatic poetry only when enforced closings of the theater made writing plays impractical. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the portrayal of the emotional states that are essential to human...
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"Slave of God, master of the world, I am Suleyman and my name is read in all the prayers in all the cities of Islam. I am the Shah of Baghdad and Iraq, Caesar of all the lands of Rome, and the Sultan of Egypt."
Süleyman I quoted in Suleyman the Magnificent. [Online] Available , April 5, 2002.
Süleyman I, who ruled from 1520 until 1566, was the last great sultan, or king, of the Ottoman Empire. The empire was a vast kingdom in the part of Asia called the Near East and in North Africa. The Ottoman Empire was formed in the 1300s, when the Ottoman Turks conquered the Byzantine Empire, the eastern part of the former Roman Empire, which was based in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey). The Ottoman Turks were Muslims, or followers of Islam (a religion founded by the prophet Muhammad), from Turkey. Süleyman was named after King Solomon (tenth century B.C.), the king of ancient Israel, whom the Qur'an (Koran; the holy book of...
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Ávila, Teresa de
"The pain was so great that it made me moan over and over, and the sweet delight into which that pain threw me was so intense that one could not want it to stop…"
Teresa de Ávila as quoted in The Life of Saint Teresa.
Teresa de Ávila (also known as Teresa of Jesus) was the founder of the Reformed Discalced (Barefoot) Carmelite Convent of San Jose. She is most famous today for her experiences as a mystic, which she described in her autobiography, Life (now titled The Life of Saint Teresa; published in 1611), and numerous other books.
Teresa was born Teresa de Alhumada in 1515 on a farm near Ávila, Spain. Her father was Alonso (Pina) de Cepeda, son of a wealthy Jewish businessman who had converted to Christianity, and her mother was Beatriz de Ahumada, a farmer's daughter. Teresa's Jewish grandfather had become a Christian because unconverted Jews were not allowed to live in Spain. In 1474 the Spanish monarchs, or rulers, King Ferdinand II (1452–1516) of Aragon and Queen Isabella...
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Vasa, Gustav I
May 12, c. 1496
Gustav I Vasa is considered the founder of the modern Swedish nation. During the Protestant Reformation he adopted Lutheranism as the state religion. He was also the first European ruler to form a national citizens' army, and he developed the Swedish navy into a major maritime (sea) power. Abandoning the tradition of electing a king, he established a hereditary monarchy that resulted in a Vasa dynasty (line of rulers from the same family). During his thirty-seven-year reign, Gustav I consolidated Sweden's independence and laid the foundation for the country's greatness in the next century.
Fights bravely in battle
Gustav was born in Uppland, Sweden, around 1496. He was the eldest son of Erik Johansson Vasa, lord of Rydboholm, who was a knight (nobleman soldier) and councilor of state. Information is lacking about Gustav's childhood and youth. He took the throne at age twenty-seven, during a tumultuous period in Swedish...
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December 31, 1514
October 15, 1564
Andreas Vesalius was the founder of modern anatomy (the study of the structure of the body). His scientific work and experimental findings revolutionized the study of the human body. Vesalius is remembered principally for his master work, De humani corporis fabrica, (On the fabric of the human body) which was published in 1543. However, his primary contribution was the use of more adequate data sampling than that used by his predecessors. Vesalius's work led to more systematic findings and expert demonstrations.
Shows early talent
Andreas Vesalius was born on December 31, 1514, in Brussels, the son of Andries van Wesele and his wife, Isabel Crabbe. Vesalius's paternal ancestors, moved from the German town of Wesel to Brussels in the early fifteenth century and became prominent as physicians and pharmacists. His father served as pharmacist to Margaret of Austria (1480–1530) and later to Holy Roman Emperor...
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January 1, 1484
October 11, 1531
"Everything that God permits or has not forbidden is proper."
The Swiss Protestant reformer Huldrych Zwingli paved the way for the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland. (The Protestant Reformation was a reform movement that resulted in the establishment of a Christian religion separate from the Roman Catholic faith). Zwingli's ideas had a profound and long-lasting influence on church-state relations in Swiss cantons (states in the Swiss Confederation) that adopted Protestantism. A contemporary of Martin Luther (1483–1546; see entry), the German priest who initiated the Reformation, Zwingli made significant contributions that permanently affected Western (non-Asian) civilization.
Receives humanist education
Huldrych Zwingli was born on January 1, 1484, in the village...
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