The best Italian Renaissance books 📚

Browse the best books on Italian Renaissance as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Cosimo De' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron's Oeuvre

Cosimo De' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron's Oeuvre

By Dale Kent

Why this book?

Most art in the Renaissance was commissioned by specific patrons and this book superbly illustrates the complex interaction among patron, artist, and society by focusing on the greatest patron of art and architecture in fifteenth-century Florence. Cosimo de’ Medici was the most powerful figure in the city’s political and economic life, a fabulously wealthy banker, a devout Christian, but he had also an impeccable nose for great art. With the help of about 200 images, the book examines the religious, personal, and dynastic motivations behind Cosimo’s artistic patronage, both his direct commissions for the Medici palaces, villas, and chapels as…
From the list:

The best books to understand the art and culture of Renaissance Florence

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Book cover of The Companion Guide to Florence

The Companion Guide to Florence

By Eve Borsook

Why this book?

There are millions of great guidebooks on Florence, but none is more entertaining, informative, and lively than Eve Borsook’s. An American art historian who lived in the city for most of her life, she unravels Florence's history, art, and politics with verve, knowledge, and insight. As one would expect in a guide, she describes systematically the city, a chapter for each neighborhood, each chapter starting with detailed descriptions of its most interesting streets, squares, buildings, and works of art. But what makes this guide invaluable are Borsook’s commentaries that follow her informative descriptions. I suggest you read this book before…
From the list:

The best books to understand the art and culture of Renaissance Florence

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Book cover of The Renaissance in Italy: A Social and Cultural History of the Rinascimento

The Renaissance in Italy: A Social and Cultural History of the Rinascimento

By Guido Ruggiero

Why this book?

This book is a fantastic, broad overview of the Italian Renaissance (or rinascimento, the term Ruggiero prefers and which his subjects would have recognized). The Italian Rinascimento was a period, according to Ruggiero, of vibrant cities, social change, and cultural expression, in which intellectuals, politicians, and artists both looked back to an idealized classical past and forward to uncharted territory.

I love the way this book focuses on issues that preoccupied the people he studies and incorporates topics often absent from works on the Renaissance, including women, sexuality, economics, disease and death, and religion, among others. Even more important,…

From the list:

The best books on Renaissance Italy

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Book cover of Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy

Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy

By Paula Findlen

Why this book?

This is an excellent and fascinating book on the scientific culture of Renaissance Italy, where intellectuals and the wealthy elite began collecting and cataloging curiosities long before their northern European counterparts. Findlen demonstrates a key way in which Renaissance intellectuals could look back to an idealized ancient past while also creating new knowledge and institutions – namely the museum. This book is beautifully written, full of engaging stories, and shows a side of early modern science often ignored.

From the list:

The best books on Renaissance Italy

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