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The first phase of the Renaissance is the Italian period, beginning in the fifteenth century. The artists of this era included William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Sir Thomas More, and Francis Bacon. The early Renaissance also saw the introduction of Italianate architecture in England and the works of composers Thomas Tallis, John Taverner, and William Byrd. This era was also characterized by the development of new musical styles.

During this period, Italian and French artists produced a variety of paintings, including those of kings and queens, painters of the senate, and painters of the elite. Some works were inspired by the Renaissance, such as Fra Filippo Lippi's Man with a Pink Carnation. Other Renaissance works featured human characteristics with detachment and haughty nobility. The Mona Lisa is an example of portrait art during this time, and represents the height of the quatrocento.

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