I think the Renasaince is definitely the golden age of painting, a time when a whole bunch of variables came together for artists and scientists.
The black death was just over and I think even one generation later people might have considered themselves lucky to be alive. Roman and Greek illusionism was rediscovered so figures in paintings would appear to be in a 3d space, thanks in large part to the crusades and the books which were brought back and translated to into latin. Those volumes also led the church to allow more emphasis on Platonic values which tend to question the environment. In a way Renasaince artists were like kids in a candy store. What I find really beautiful is that those artists are still naive, it's the first time for them to experience a knowledge of drawing a figure with weight and understanding that things receed in the distance. Also it was the Renasaince artist who first posed the question of movement which occupied so much of European thought until the 20th century.
Here is Leonardo Da Vinci trying to draw moving water... http://www.visi.com/~reuteler/vinci/eddy.jpg