The End of the Renaissance?

When did the Renaissance end?

Some say it was when the Italian states lost autonomy after the foreign invasions of the late 15th century.


Swiss mercenaries crossing alps

Swiss mercenaries crossing the Alps

Others feel it was over by the 16th century when much of the peninsula was governed either directly or indirectly by Spain.


Pedro Álvarez de Toledo, Marquis of Villafranca, Viceroy of Naples

Certainly by the 1600s something had changed in the cultural climate of Italy.


When the Thirty Years’ War broke out in 1618 violence erupted in Lombardy.

1620 Massacre of Protestants – Il Sacro Macello


There was an outbreak of plague in Europe that struck Italy particularly hard in 1629-1630


Plague 1630

Ludovico Lana da Modena, The Plague of 1630, detail


Though astronomer Alfonso Borelli and Galileo’s student Evangelista Toricelli continued scientific studies,

Borelli Toricelli

Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679)     Evangelista Toricelli (1608-1647)


the Church’s condemnation of Galileo in 1633 put an end to free inquiry into cosmology and natural philosophy in Italy.

And yet…

freethinking thrived in Venice at the Accademia degli Incogniti, an intellectual society whose members appreciated writings of Ferrante Pallavico, such as his anti-papal work The Celestial Divorce.





The first public opera house opened in Venice in 1637


Teatro Grimani


featuring innovative operas of composer Claudio Monteverdi

The art form became immensely popular and soon Italian musicians, singers, and composers were highly sought after in all the cities and courts of Europe.

The composer Lully (born Giovanni Battista Lulli  in Florence) became  court composer to French King Louis XIV



his operas and ballets staged at the Palace of Versailles.

Versailles 1674


The Roman Catholic Church originally objected to this profane music theater and its response was the creation of sacred musical drama known as oratorio. This form, too, spread quickly beyond Italy, even to Protestant countries, such as England, where Georg Frideric Handel composed the most celebrated oratorio: Messiah in 1741.


Italian art spread across the continent as artists such as the Caravaggist Orazio Gentileschi  (1563-1639) traveled abroad,  working as court painter for King Charles I of England.


Orazio Gentileschi  The Finding of Moses (early 1630s)

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) followed in the tradition of Renaissance geniuses, in his mastery of sculpture, architecture, and urban design.

Bernini pluto proserpina

Gian Lorenzo Bernini Pluto and Persephone, detail, 1621


Gian Lorenzo Bernini The Ecstasy of St. Teresa 1645-52

The Renaissance did not so much end in the 17th century, as it began to transform…


Gian Lorenzo Bernini Apollo and Daphne 1623-4

…and spread beyond Italy

Palladio Inigo Jones

Andrea Palladio Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare, Vicenza, c. 1572   Inigo Jones, Banqueting House, Whitehall, London, 1622

Rotonda Rotunda

Andrea Palladio Villa Almerico “La Rotonda” 1580    Thomas Jefferson The Rotunda, Univ of Virginia, 1826

In so many ways the Renaissance is still with us today.


St Peters Capitol Wash 2

St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican                   United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.



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