While artists in Northern Europe were embracing technical innovations in the field, their counterparts in Italy were experiencing monumental shifts not only in their respective crafts, but in every aspect of their society as well. Discontented with the intellectual stagnation of the Middle Ages, thinkers in Italy, and especially in Florence, began looking back to the Classical Age for inspiration. Due in part to the arrival of the printing press in Italy in 1464, works from Aristotle, Plato, Euclid, and Ptolemy became widespread, and encouraged a new class of Humanists to strive for individual excellence that served the greater community. These individuals went on to play a great role in many Italian governments, incorporating their learnings in their civic duties.
This Classical revival not only brought along a shift in moral and ethical standards, but an artistic one as well. Painters, sculptors and architects began to study again the Classical themes of ancient Greece and Rome, adhering to their practice of imitating the natural beauty of the world.
Although the Church continued to be a major sponsor of artists during this period, wealth merchants also began to commission secular works for their own aggrandizement.
In continuing with the period’s theme of emphasizing the individual, the artists of this time began to make names for themselves, almost becoming celebrities of sorts. With massive workshops of assistants, they were able to replicate many of their works in an efficient manner, helping export the Italian Renaissance throughout Europe.