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The Medici Family and Florence
Italian Renaissance patrons of the arts were rulers and popes who commissioned works of art mainly to increase their own prestige. Among the most prominent of these patrons were members of the Medici family, which controlled Florence for decades. Their commissions of paintings, sculptures, and architecture made Florence the early center of much of the greatest Renaissance art.
For example, Cosimo de’ Medici commissioned Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446) as architect for the rebuilding of the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence. The church reflects the influence of Roman architecture with its use of classical columns and rounded arches. Further, it is built to a more human scale than medieval Gothic cathedrals. Brunelleschi also incorporated into the church the largest dome built since classical Rome. This engineering feat exemplifies the Renaissance ideal of reaching one’s potential.
Source: Getty Images
The cathedral in Cologne shows the impressive scale and complexity of Gothic churches (left). The Church
of San Lorenzo reflected the human-scale church architecture during the Renaissance (right).
Cosimo de’ Medici’s grandson, Lorenzo de’ Medici (ruled Florence 1469– 1492), kept a large group of artists at his court, including Sandro Botticelli (1445–1520). Botticelli’s famous painting from 1482, Primavera (Spring), displays the artist’s interest in classical mythology, featuring the figures of Venus, Cupid, Flora, and Mercury.
Italian Sculpture and Painting
In the late 15th century, Rome was quickly becoming the prominent artistic center of Europe. Several Italian painters and sculptors dominated the period and continue to influence artists today.
Donatello One of the greatest Italian Renaissance artists, Donatello (c. 1386–1466) sculped in marble and bronze. He often used ancient sculptures as inspiration, but he had his own distinctive style. Donatello created a new type of sculpture. Instead of three-dimensional panels that a viewer could walk around from all angles, he sculpted marble panels that were shallow and yet gave the illusion of depth. The faces on Donatello’s sculptures were far more detailed and expressive than sculptures created by artists of the Middle Ages.

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