The mid-fourteenth century marked the beginning of a transition between the medieval and modern worlds. This transition is known as the Renaissance
— French for rebirth.
The movement began in Italy and encompassed almost all facets of life including politics, intellect, and art. The main contributors to the Renaissance (such as Petrarch, Da Vinci, and Dante) classified the medieval period as slow and dark, a time of little education or innovation. They viewed the medieval period as an interruption of culture between the classical world of Greece and Rome and themselves.
The idea of community distinguished the medieval period. People faced real threats from famine, disease, and warfare — dangers that fostered dependence on the community in areas such as work and religion. For instance, a medieval craftsman belonged to a guild that dictated all aspects of his business. The idea was that all craftsmen should make a good living, but no one should do substantially better than the rest.
The Renaissance, on the other hand, stressed the importance of the individual and individual talents. This idea, known as individualism, is apparent in the philosophy and art of the period. In addition, while medieval scholars had studied ancient Greek and Roman documents to learn about God and Christianity, Renaissance scholars studied them to discover more about human nature. This new interpretation was known as humanism.
Renaissance art also reflects humanism. While medieval art was meant to teach a lesson, perhaps a bible story, Renaissance art glorified the humanity of the individuals being portrayed. Medieval statues tended to be of unnatural-looking saints. In contrast, Michelangelo's David appears lifelike. Statues no longer were frozen images of piety; instead, they seemed ready for action.