The Renaissance covers roughly the period 1400-1600, when a great interest in classical antiquity led to the flowering of the arts, literature and science in Europe. The term Renaissance – literally ‘rebirth’ – only originated in the 19th century. The Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt considered the revival of ancient culture as a break with the Dark Ages. For others, the Renaissance represents a more gradual transition to the Modern Age.
The Renaissance spread out from Italy. In the visual arts emphasis lay on the realistic rendering of nature, using perspective with a single vanishing point and other artistic devices. Along with subjects from classical antiquity, Christian scenes remained popular and were conceived in new, true-to-life compositions. Architecture and applied art adopted novel forms following Roman models: arches, columns, and triangular pediments. The ideal Renaissance artist was a homo universalis, a universal man versed in the arts and the sciences. Unlike many of their anonymous mediaeval predecessors, Renaissance artists were known and even famous in their own time.