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The True Legacy of the Italian Renaissance

Amy Saad

The 14th-17th centuries in Italy were characterised by the revival of Greco-Roman classical literature and philosophy, as well as the promotion of new, revolutionary art. Such innovation and rediscovery of antiquity has truly shaped the world today, and the way people perceive forms of art. The Medici family were instrumental in facilitating the cultural ‘rebirth’ that was the Renaissance movement and thus, coined ‘Godfathers of the Renaissance’. It is this legacy of artistic innovation and strategic political manoeuvre that manifests in our world and inspires the influential people of today.

The Medici’s gained their extreme success as they knew the value of money in gaining crucial power over people and society. Being the owners of a family-run bank, Giovanni Medici, and his son Cosimo Medici purposefully lent money to popes and kings to finance wars and other indulgences and in return they would receive pivotal power in Florentine society. With this, the Medici family ran Florence for three centuries— facilitating the Renaissance movement. Cosimo Medici understood the value of art and sought to gain tourists in Florence in competition with Rome’s ancient remains. Through his charismatic personality, Cosimo was perceived to be a patriot for Florence and a wealthy and powerful political figure. Although, Cosimo was very cautious with the way he spent his money, he purposefully commissioned various artworks and architectural projects to make Florence more extravagant. His intelligence in business and maintaining power was “expressed through patronage in a city with…art potentialities” (Marcello Fantoni) thus demonstrating his humanist stance in making Florence a more favourable city through artistry.

The most important work commissioned by Cosimo was the Florence Cathedral, displaying a large dome roof equal to the span of the popular Pantheon. However, the Pantheon being built in ancient times used techniques of construction that were largely lost in the Dark Ages and Medieval period. Thus, employing Filippo Brunelleschi to complete the revolutionary dome without wooden scaffolding, required the revival of ancient techniques of construction and his own engineering genius. This project alone sparked the revolutionary art and architecture movement, encouraging ambitious artists to explore humanism in art. Ultimately, the various works commissioned by the Medici’s, particularly Cosimo were instrumental in accelerating the Renaissance movement which still marks influence in society today.

The Medici family legacy has also carried into today’s modern world through influential celebrities who use similar tactics to gain and maintain power in society. Think Donald Trump, The Kardashians, and Oprah— all in which have used different tactics all grounded in gaining mass popularity, making their names recognisable almost everywhere. In an ideal world, all those of high influence and power in society would use such power for good and social justice, but unfortunately, this is simply not how the world is. The former president of the United States, Donald Trump, is a highly ambitious individual causing major controversy about his use of power. But was his presidency really all bad, or has history overlooked some— if any, possible positive uses of his power? Needless to say, his presidency has been different to everyone before him; He had no government or military experience when entering the 2016 election, has been impeached twice, and had been permanently banned from Twitter by starting a riot at his successor’s inauguration. Donald Trump has a massive influence in society, with the power to draw a strong divide between those who support his character and political style, and those who dislike and criticise him. In making himself such a controversial figure, even those who dislike him spread more and more publicity making him more famous and consequentially richer.

It is clear that society has not strayed too much since the Italian Renaissance, with artworks still praised and political styles still being used by influential people. Thus affirming the true power and inspiration attributed to the Medici family so that their legacy remains strong 500 years after their domination of Florence.


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