(Fr. new birth), a term used alike in architecture, sculpture, and ornamental art, to designate a revival period or style after the Middle Ages. The Renaissance had its origin in Italy, where, at best, Gothic architecture secured but a precarious hold. The discovery (early in the 15th century) of the productions of the ancients in statuary and painting, and the bringing to light of long-hidden stores of Greek and Latin MSS. (as, for instance, Vitruvius on the architecture of the ancients), could not fail to bring Roman buildings into prominent notice, and to predispose the public mind in favor of the classic style. A new system was consequently developed, during the first stages of which (namely, the Transition period) the elements of Roman architecture came again into use, although the forms which belong to the Later-Romanesque period — as, for instance, the division of the window-arches by mullions — were not entirely abandoned. Starting in Italy, this new style reached its zenith in that country in the course of the same century. Although derived from that of Italy, each country had its peculiar Renaissance, described accordingly as French, German, and English Renaissance, preserving a general likeness, but each exhibiting traits exclusively its own.
1. Italian. — At the early epoch of its existence, the new style of architecture displays not so much an alteration in the arrangement of the spaces and of the main features of the buildings as in the system of ornamentation and in the aspect of the profiles. During the early period the endeavor was maintained to adapt classical forms with more or less freedom to modern buildings while later (in the 16th century) a scheme based on ancient architecture was universally prescriptive. Two distinct styles belong to this first period, viz. the Early Florentine and the Early Venetian. In the Roman Renaissance, the system of the second period, which confines itself more closely to classical elements, is more prevalent. The decoration of the interiors of the buildings of the Renaissance is copied from ancient Roman architecture. The rooms are either vaulted or have flat ceilings; but in both cases they are adorned with paintings, after the manner of those discovered in the Baths of Titus. Ornamented panels were employed in large palaces for horizontal ceilings, as also in churches, though in the latter case they were more often applied to cupola vaultings, as notably in St. Peter's. SEE ROME.
2. French. — France was the first to introduce the new style north of the Alps, Fra Giocondo, an Italian artist, having been summoned thither by Louis XII. Giocondo erected for cardinal D'Amboise, the minister of that monarch, the celebrated Chateau Gaillon. At this time the Flamboyant (q.v.) style was still in its vigor, and the consequence was that a blending of the two styles temporarily prevailed. After the period of Philibert Delorme, who completed the chapel of the Chateau d'Anet in the Renaissance style (1552), the Gothic style was, as a rule, abandoned. At the same time, the general arrangement of the Gothic churches was retained, and it was only the Renaissance system of decoration which was substituted for the Gothic. The ground-plan, the proportions, and the whole structure, with its flying buttresses, pinnacles, clustered columns, and deeply recessed portals, are borrowed from the pointed style. It was only in the details and in the ornamentation that the Renaissance was followed. The Tuileries, as built for Catherine de Medicis, is a great example of French Renaissance when at its best. In its elevation richness is perceptible without excess, and symmetry is attained without stiffness: in fact, it presents a design in which aesthetic laws are fully considered, and the details harmoniously, if not magnificently, executed.
3. German. — The Renaissance style was not employed in Germany before the middle of the 16th century, and the most noteworthy instances of it are the Belvedere of Ferdinand I on the Hradschin at Prague, and the socalled Otto Henry buildings at Heidelberg Castle. In Germany, as in other countries, the elements of the preceding style are intermingled with those of the Renaissance during the early period of its prevalence. The fault of the German Renaissance style is a certain heaviness-an exuberance, not to say extravagance, in its constructive character and decorative details.
4. Spanish. — In Spain an Early Renaissance style appears, a kind of transitional Renaissance, belonging to the first half of the 16th century. It consists of the application of Moorish and pointed-arch forms in conjunction with those of classical antiquity. In this way a conformation was produced which was peculiar to Spain, and the style is characterized by bold lightness, by luxuriance in decoration, and by a spirit of romance. In the reign of Charles V, this ornate Early Renaissance style gave place to a later one, which. in reality, belongs to the Rococo style. Among the Renaissance edifices of Spain may be mentioned the upper gallery of the cloister of the Convent of Huerta, the townhall of Saragossa and of Seville, and the Alcazar at Toledo.
5. English. — The Italian Renaissance style was introduced into England about the middle of the 16th century by John of Padua, the architect of Henrv VIII. English buildings of this style are distinguished by capricious treatment of forms, and generally exhibit a deficiency of that grace and dignity, both in details and ensemble, which lend a peculiar charm to Italian structures in the same style. Longleat House, Wiltshire, and Wollaton Hall are specimens of this style. See English Cylop. s.v.; Rosengarten, Architectural Styles. SEE ROCOCO; SEE ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE.