The Italian Renaissance ushered in an age of unprecedented artistic, scientific, and ideological development. Join Rick as he wanders the streets of Florence and beyond to investigate great Renaissance thinkers and achievements and to trace their effects across Europe.
Refer to the "Notes to Viewers" below for a list of comprehension questions, discussion prompts, and project ideas to guide you through the playlist and further your learning.
Notes to Viewers
1. What does “Renaissance” mean? Why did the time period earn this name? Why does Rick describe the period as “a revolution of ideas”?
2. What great thinkers and adventurers were part of “the class of 1500”? What other important movement in Europe coincided with the Renaissance?
3. Why does Rick state that Florence is “the birthplace of our Western world”? What factors made Florence a prime place for the Renaissance to begin?
4. What part of history did the Renaissance seek to revive and rediscover? How do you see this reflected in the works of art and architecture from the Renaissance?
5. Rick claims that the Accademia Gallery looks like a temple to humanism. What is humanism? Was humanism anti-religious? Why is the Accademia Gallery a good example of it?
6. Why is Michelangelo’s David considered “the Renaissance Man”? In what ways does the David epitomize the Renaissance?
7. What is a vanishing point? Why is it important to Renaissance art?
8. Who were the Medici? What influence did they have on the Renaissance? Do you think the Renaissance would have happened without them? Why or why not?
9. What were the primary purposes of art before the Renaissance? What were the primary purposes of art during the Renaissance? What caused this shift?
10. How did Leonardo da Vinci contribute to the city of Milan? How do these contributions prove that da Vinci was a quintessential Renaissance thinker?
11. Why is da Vinci’s “Last Supper” painting faded? Why is it considered a Renaissance masterpiece?
12. Who was Savonarola? What were his thoughts on the Medici and the Renaissance? How did he act on these thoughts?
13. Why does Rick say that Savonarola’s campaign was “a church-sponsored return to the Dark Ages”? Why would the 16th century Catholic church be opposed to the Renaissance?
14. What artistic period followed the Renaissance? How did it differ from the Renaissance? How does the difference between Raphael’s and Caravaggio’s paintings of Madonna and child showcase this difference?
15. Where did the Northern Renaissance take place? How was it similar to and how was it different from the Italian Renaissance?
16. Rick states that things that would have been shocking before the Renaissance became art during the Renaissance. What things are appreciated and celebrated as art by your generation that would have shocked the generation or two before yours? What do you think accounts for this generational difference? What art do you thing may shock you someday a generation from now?
17. Rick states that “you can’t have an art boom without money.” In what ways do you see this claim confirmed in Renaissance Florence? What new art projects are happening in your community? How are these projects funded? How are wealth and art connected in your society? How is all of this connected to the idea of “art for art’s sake”?
18. What does Rick mean when he says that Savonarola incited “moralistic hysteria” in Renaissance Florence? What examples of moralistic hysteria do you see in your society today? What types of people are on either side of these debates? What side of these modern conflicts are you on? If you lived in Renaissance Florence, who would you have sided with? Why?
19. Rick mentions that the Renaissance was an intersection of artistic and scientific developments and that Renaissance geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci were often skilled in many areas. Do you think we live in a society today that values both artistic and scientific discovery? With people’s work becoming more and more specialized, do you think it’s possible to have geniuses like those in the Renaissance today? Why or why not? Who might be an example?
20. How do you think people in the future will remember our 21st century society? Do you think we will be considered a stagnant time like Europe’s Dark Ages, or do you think we will be remembered as a time of rapid technological and ideological advancement like the Renaissance? Why do you think this? And how does your 21st century perspective influence how you view the Renaissance? Is it possible that people in the future could hold a different opinion of the Renaissance? How does the time period one lives in influence how they interpret past time periods?
21. In this playlist, we saw three different Davids from three different artists: Donatello, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio. Each David communicated the artistic technique, technological advancements, and values of its time period. Create a 21st century David. You can use any medium, and your David can be as literal or as abstract as you like. However, your depiction of David should clearly incorporate 21st century materials and values. Finish by writing a paragraph explaining your artistic choices and why you made them.
22. Imagine that you are Savonarola. Prepare a sermon for your congregation of 15th century Florentines explaining to them your thoughts on the artistic and intellectual developments of the time. In your sermon, offer your parishioners your vision of how society should operate, and instruct them as to how they should act.
23. Pretend you are a high school student in the year 2700. Your teacher has asked you to give a presentation on the 21st century United States. Prepare a presentation that highlights the artistic, technological, and ideological developments of 21st century American society. Include specific notable works and individuals as well as general trends and ideas of the time period. Give the period a fitting name and tell your classmates what you think we should learn from the 21st century United States.
24. Use the Rick Steves’ Audio Europe app to take a virtual tour of the Uffizi Gallery. If you access the audio tour on a smart phone or tablet, the works of art will display on the screen as you listen. As you follow Rick through the tour, make a list of the works of art covered. For each work, identify a couple features that make it a prime example of Renaissance art. Which work of art do you think was most influential? Why? Which work of art is your favorite? How do you think your 21st century perspective affected your preference?
WA SOCIAL STUDIES LEARNING STANDARDS: SSS3.9-12.1, H1.9-10.1, H1.9-10.2, H2.9-10.1, H2.9-10.3, H2.11-12.5, H3.9-10.3, H3.11-12.1