The philosophy, art, and wealth of the Renaissance were experienced by more than just the wealthy. To begin with, the invention of the printing press contributed to an increase in literacy rates. The rates vary from region to region, but European males in the 1300s held a five to ten percent literacy rate. By 1530 in London, the literacy rate rose to twenty-five percent, and by 1650, in Spain, it was over sixty percent.
Additionally, the bubonic plague, also known as the black death, created new opportunities for those who survived the pandemic. Notably, the Medici family – and many other men – took advantage of their new world and sought social mobility.
Many of these wealthy families became patrons of artists who, in turn, moved up the socio-economic ladder and experienced the Renaissance. For example, Raphael was an orphan by the age of eleven whose artistic talent lead him out of a life of apprenticeship and into one of fame.