The Italian Renaissance and the Northern European Renaissance were two very important time periods. Much of what they did paved the way for many other civilizations. These time periods have some very distinct similarities and differences. From architecture, paintings, literary works, and even music, you can clearly see where the two time periods merged and where they took different paths. We are going to explore some of these similarities and differences in the culture and art of these two monumental eras.
One major similarity in the art of both time periods was the emphasis on religion in their works. Both eras depicted religious scenes as a way to show their love of religion. Some examples include, in the Italian Renaissance, The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci and Creation of Adam by Michelangelo. In the Northern European Renaissance some examples include Adam and Eve by Albrecht Durer and the Mystic Lamb by Jan and Hubert van Eyck. They were both devout Christians and showed that through many works of their time.
Surprisingly enough, one of the major differences between the two time periods was also religion. The majority of people during the Italian Renaissance were Catholics and the Roman Church embodied most of their spiritual beliefs. Because of the thoughts of some people like Hieronymus Bosch, parts of the Catholic Church started to be questioned and rebelled against (Benton & DiYanni, 2008 p. 361). Eventually new religions started to emerge such as Protestant. These religions questioned some of the unnecessary rituals of the Catholic Church and started going by what they believed was right and the true way to eternal salvation.
The relationship between the art and the cultures of the Italian Renaissance was the focus on humanism. The focus was no longer always on a higher being, but on the individual himself. Understanding humanity became the main goal, and through truth and knowledge you could have a virtuous life (Benton & DiYanni, 2008 p. 310). Depicting the human body became important as well. Artists took great time and used immense detail in their works. It, however, was not always about beauty. The focus was to create a real and true image of the human body.
During the Northern Renaissance however, due to iconoclasm many of the works of art that had flourished during the Italian Renaissance were destroyed. Iconoclasm is the systematic destruction of religious icons because of their religious connotations (Benton & DiYanni, 2008 p. 361). People believed that this was a form of idol worship and justified it as being so. Even monasteries were destroyed due to this and this is also how the Church of England came to be (Benton & DiYanni, 2008 p. 362).
Social and cultural differences between the two time periods are reflected in the arts in many ways. During the Italian Renaissance there are many more religious paintings, literary works and music then in the Northern European Renaissance. One example of this is The Last Supper. This is not to say that the European Renaissance did not focus on religion, they just did not believe in things the same way and therefore had much less artwork depicting religious scenes. During the Renaissance in Northern Europe there were many different techniques used that showed the creativity of that time. Some of them included engraving on metal plates, woodcuts and creating paintings that actually consisted of several panels put together like Merode Altarpiece.
There were many differences between these two time periods, but one thing we can say is that they were both very passionate in what they believed and helped pave the way for centuries to come. There were so many ideas, techniques and even new religions that came from these two time periods, many of which are still studied or even used today. Their attention to detail and immaculate use of resources and imagination made their art work come alive and truly helps us understand the people of that time.