As the story goes, Master Splinter found four baby turtles in the sewers of New York City. Alongside his new wards, he found a book of Renaissance artists, and gave the young reptiles the names of some of the greatest masters the world had ever known. So Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo were given their monikers, and began their ninja training. But what exactly was the Renaissance, and why did Master Splinter feel those were appropriate names for his sons?
The Renaissance was one of the greatest cultural occurrences to ever affect the world. Spanning the 14th-17th centuries, the Renaissance period brought enlightenment and advances in the arts, architecture, science, technology, and countless other areas to the European continent, helping to bring the area out of the Dark Ages. It is widely agreed that the movement as a whole began in Florence, Italy during the 14th century, but no one is quite sure who got the ball rolling. Theories vary from the Greeks to the Ottoman Empire in Turkey and even the Medici family.
The period focused on bringing realism, education, and a linear perspective to the study of humans as subjects. Painters and thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo brought advances in how science and art perceive the human condition, and set the stage for the great thinkers of the modern period. Even better served were the creation of the printing press, and its dissemination of written knowledge to the masses for the first time in history. Ultimately, the period was about the intellectual advancement of society. The thinkers were attempting to move from a religious-controlled world, into one that struck a balance between the church and the mind, as things had been in age of antiquity. The entire period was certainly a success.
There was a lot of good to come out of the Renaissance period. While it’s debated as to how much knowledge was “lost” during the Middle Ages, the Renaissance did bring a new line of thought to the world of the time. Logic, reason, and science found a happy medium with art and literature that had not been seen in the Europe for some 1,500 years. The modern world flourished, and Europe led the way into the age of exploration and conquest.
So why did the creators choose Renaissance artists for the names of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Renaissance means “rebirth”, and so like the world and knowledge these baby turtles were reborn. Additionally, it was all about educational growth, and so four newly developed minds were ready to be filled with all the knowledge a ninja master had to offer. As for their names, there’s no doubt that Master Splinter wanted to promote in his sons the greatness of best from the period of rebirth. Da Vinci is one of the names most often associated with the Renaissance, and is considered a father or modern thought. Michelangelo created some of the greatest artistic works retained by the western world. Who wouldn’t want to strive for the same greatness as the minds that helped mold the current era? Truly, Splinter wanted the boys to strive for great things, and their names were meant to be the starting point.
The Renaissance was a great part of the world’s development, and the ingenuity that came out of the period was unlike anything seen for hundreds of years. It was a period of rebirth, and the minds that sprang from it were unlike any before. The strengths of those individuals were given to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the boys were brought into the world destined for greatness. Stay tuned for a look at just what each Renaissance artist gave to his respective turtle.