French word meaning rebirth, now used in English to describe the great revival of art that took place in Italy from about 1400 under the influence of the rediscovery of classical art and culture.
The Renaissance reached its peak (known as the High Renaissance) in the short period from about 1500–1530 in the work of Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael. The Renaissance style then underwent a myriad of successive transformations in Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo, neoclassicism, and the Romantic movement.
The work of Raphael may be seen as representing the purest form of the Renaissance style and he was held up as prime model in the art academies until the mid-nineteenth century when artists turned their back on this classically governed approach. The revolt can be seen in movements such as the Pre-Raphaelites (who drew inspiration from the medieval art), realism, naturalism and impressionism.