Renaissance art is the painting, sculpture and decorative arts of that period of European history known as the Renaissance, emerging as a distinct style in Italy in about 1400, in parallel with developments which occurred in philosophy, literature, music and science. Renaissance art, perceived as a "rebirth" of ancient traditions, took as its foundation the art of Classical antiquity, but transformed that tradition by the absorption of recent developments in the art of Northern Europe and by application of contemporary scientific knowledge. Renaissance art, with Renaissance Humanist philosophy, spread throughout Europe, affecting both artists and their patrons with the development of new techniques and new artistic sensibilities. Renaissance art marks the transition of Europe from the medieval period to the Early modern age.
In many parts of Europe, Early Renaissance art was created in parallel with Late Medieval art. By 1500 the Renaissance style prevailed. As Late Renaissance art (Mannerism) developed, it took on different and distinctive characteristics in every region.
Italian Renaissance painting is the painting of the period beginning in the late 13th century and flourishing from the early 15th to late 16th centuries, occurring in the Italian peninsula, which was at that time divided into many political areas. The painters of Renaissance Italy, although often attached to particular courts and with loyalties to particular towns, nonetheless wandered the length and breadth of Italy, often occupying a diplomatic status and disseminating both artistic and philosophical ideas.
The city that is renowned as the birthplace of the Renaissance and in particular, Renaissance painting, is Florence. A detailed background is given in the companion articles Renaissance and Renaissance architecture.
Italian Renaissance painting can be divided into four periods: the Proto-Renaissance (1300–1400), the Early Renaissance (1400–1475), the High Renaissance (1475–1525), and Mannerism (1525–1600). These dates are approximations rather than specific points because the lives of individual artists and their personal styles overlapped the different periods.
The Proto-Renaissance begins with the professional life of the painter Giotto and includes Taddeo Gaddi, Orcagna and Altichiero. The Early Renaissance was marked by the work of Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca and Verrocchio. The High Renaissance period was that of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. The Mannerist period included Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo and Tintoretto. Mannerism is dealt with in a separate article.