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Art in the Renaissance Period

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            In 1450, many scholars were exploring the unknown to gain more knowledge about the  world that surrounds them. A wide-range of fields from the arts to science were studied and mastered. This fondness for discovery paved the way for the birth of the Renaissance in Europe which in French literally means “rebirth” (Dowling “The Renaissance”). This period is believed by many as the commencement of the modern history (Dowling “The Renaissance”) because historians believed that during the 14th to 16th century the rational civilization founded by the Romans and Greeks were rediscovered “after the medieval centuries” characterized by superstition and rudimentary aesthetics.  The renaissance was also set during the middle ages, which was a term “coined by historians” to determine the “gap between classical and modern civilization” (Historyworld.net “History of Renaissance”).

            The era of the Renaissance started at the northern part of Italy that propagated to the whole of Europe. Florence, Naples, Rome, and Venice were some of the Italian cities  that “became centers of trade between Europe and the Middle East.” More so, many Arab scholars were able to save ancient Greek writings which were later on passed to the Italians when they traded with them. “These ideas, preserved from the ancient past, served as the basis of the Renaissance” (Dowling “The Renaissance”).

            Humanism was the dominant philosophy during the Renaissance. The development of humanism started with the yearning for a more practical education. Then, it focused on religion, aesthetics, the benefits of history and the significance of man’s purpose which is to savor life and “serve the community.” In addition, it emphasized the beauty of “earthly satisfaction” instead of the “preparation for paradise.” “It had its spiritual side, but it reflected a society that was more interested in worldly matters-a society that was practical, canny, self-conscious and ambitious.” People’s interest for humanism was pushed by the want to study the classical past which was caused by the alterations in the “medieval university curricula” and the illogical desire to instill change. At that time, people were dissatisfied with the status quo. They believed that the state and the church needed to be modified to cater to the wants and needs of the public. “Rome was the secular and spiritual capital of the world that became the focus for these aspirations.” In short, the people wanted to relive the glory days of Rome that gave the birth to the manifestation of the Renaissance (Hale 15-16).

            Moreover, the ideas of  “revival and share in the glories of classical antiquity” have attracted particularly the interests of the privileged to advocate humanism. Not only the few wealthy people but the scholars and geniuses also welcomed with open arms the new movement of humanism. Their regard for Latin as the “sweetest, richest and most cultured” became the origin for their passion for the past. “Latin literature and Greek principles”  have even become the foundation of “the classical education.” Also, their strong curiosity paved the way for the excavation of ancient ruins, creation of extensive libraries and the collection of  exquisite artworks. Because of this enthusiasm, the renaissance came into being and “their zest and self-confidence set the temper of time” (Hale 21).

            In the 15th century, many areas or aspects of the society have flourished and art was one of them. The Renaissance art made realistic and naturalistic representation of its subject matter compared to the products of the Middle Ages. Patrons of the arts at that time wanted pieces that illuminated the “human beauty and life’s pleasure.” Because of this specific demand, many artists opted to study perspective to show depth, chiaroscuro to show realism and texture for two-dimensional artworks (Dowling “Renaissance Art”). Artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael Sanzio were three of the world-acclaimed Renaissance masters who have changed the way art is perceived today.

            Leonardo da Vinci was considered a jack of all trades because he both excelled in the fields of art and science. Da Vinci “was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer,inventor, and scientist” (Thinkquest.org “Overview”). He made several groundbreaking inventions and discoveries that have shaped the Renaissance period. In the year 1452, Da Vinci was born in a family of a notary and a peasant at Vinci. During his adolescent age, his parents sent him to Florence to be exposed to the booming art scene there and also to jump start his career as an artist. His creative skills were honed under the tutelage of Andrea Verrocchio who was known as a Florentine master (Lairweb.org “Leonardo’s life).

Then in 1483, he went to Milan where he was asked by Lodovico Sforza to create a sculpture to commemorate Sforza’s father. Moreover, in this great city, Da Vinci was able to paint an exquisite artwork called Madonna of the Rocks or others call it the Virgin of the Rocks (Thinkquest.org “Overview”). This Renaissance painting illustrated a typical religious theme which is “the Immaculate Conception.” He used different symbolisms such as the dove plants that represented the Holy Spirit and the hear-shaped leaves to show “love and virtue as a way to emphasize the purity and innocence (Lairweb.org “Virgin of the Rocks”). Aside from being an artist, Da Vinci was also a renowned “inventor and engineer.” He built several infrastructures from “state buildings to church” that have set up the standards for architecture from 16th century to the modern era. More so, he also perfected the study of human anatomy and the production warfare armaments. By 1519, “Da Vinci died under the care of Francis I, a French king (Thinkquest.org “Overview”).

            Another Renaissance master was Michelangelo  Buonarroti whose immense talent remains unmatched until today. His creations were products of “sublime beauty that express the full breadth of the human condition” (Bonner “Early Life”). Michelangelo was born in Caprese, Italy on 1475 to a well-to-do family. Then after his birth, they moved to Florence where he became an apprentice of Domenico Ghirlandaio. Michelangelo’s artistry led him to live with the family of “Lorenzo de’ Medici, the leading patron of the arts in Florence.” Unfortunately, he was thrown out from this household which prompted him to do some traveling in Bologna and in Rome. It is in these places where Michelangelo established his name as a distinguished sculptor. But after quite sometime, he decided to return to Florence and sculpted his world-famous “David” that is a quintessential Renaissance sculpture (BBC “Michelangelo”).

Patriotism was the inspiration for the materialization of the sculpture of David. Michelangelo intended for it to demonstrate the triumphant battle for the independence of Florence as well as the natural beauty of this Italian city. He used the “Renaissance humanistic theory and style” to show off “balance and grace, strength and power.” More so, he wanted to express the “human form” in his sculptures which connotes the “making of men.” Overall, the grandiose and refined statue of David emanates the rich culture and history of Florence and the accurate portrayal and comprehension of the human anatomy (Parmiani “Michelangelo’s David”). Moreover, Michelangelo’s artistic career was highlighted by numerous commissions. His talent was solicited by government and church officials all over Italy to make exquisite paintings and sculptures such as the Last Judgment at the Sistine chapel and the sculpture of Moses for the tomb of Julius. In 1564, Michelangelo was laid tor est in Rome (BBC “Michelangelo”).

            Meanwhile, Raphael Sanzio was another Renaissance painter who have perfected  composition, perspective, harmony and even exceeded the techniques used by Michelangelo and  Leonardo in the treatment of colors. It was in the year 1483 that Raphael was born at Uribino. His father was his first teacher who taught him how to paint. Then, he further trained with Perugino who influenced him to develop harmony and clarity in his paintings. When he went to Tuscany and Umbria, he was exposed to the artworks of Leonardo which advanced his artistic progression in terms of compositional device. This technique was very evident in Raphael’s “Madonna and Child with the Infant Baptist.” This painting depicted the scene of a young Christ taking a carnation flower from a toddler John the Baptist. “The space between their hands is the center of the careful geometry of the composition.” Because of this, Raphael was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint frescoes on the Vatican Apartments wherein the most well-known was the “School of Athens” which was intended to celebrate the great ancient thinkers that were painted at the library of the Pope. Francis I of  France was one of the major collectors of the masterpieces of Raphael that paved the way for the Italian Renaissance to expand in France. Raphael died in 1520.

            The Renaissance have given numerous contributions to society. It introduced new ideas about life and the world that advanced the evolution of man. Artists, scientists, politicians, religious leaders “inspired humanity with a new spirit, a spirit destined in time to make things new in all realms,–in the realm of religion, of politics, of literature, of art, of science, of invention, of industry.” This period have also reacquainted the people to history and ancient traditions which is believed by many as the foundation of a progressive culture. As a result, Christian beliefs and classical civilization were reconciled that fused the distinct  “qualities and elements” of the two that led to the restoration of the  “broken unity of history.”  Another effect of the Renaissance was the reformation of education in advocating humanism which inspired new discoveries and learnings for the scholars. More so, this philosophy have “enriched, chastened and refined” the literature across Europe during the Renaissance period (Van Ness Myers 251-274).  Overall, the Renaissance showed the innate capability of man to instigate innovations and their enormous appetite for knowledge in order to bring development and prosperity to the society. If it were not for the Renaissance, the contemporary world would not be able to enjoy the the benefits of having a rich and multifaceted civilization.

Works Cited

Bonner, Neil R. “Early Life.” 14 December 2001. Michelangelo.com. 7 July 2008,             <http://michelangelo.com/buonarroti.html>.

Dowling, Mike. “Renaissance Art.” 5 January 2005. MrDowling.com. 4 July 2008      <http://www.mrdowling.com/704-art.html>.

Dowling, Mike. “The Renaissance.” 5 January 2005. MrDowling.com. 4 July 2008             <http://www.mrdowling.com/704renaissance.html>.

Hale, John R., Renaissance: Great Ages of Man. Amsterdam: Time-Life, 1982.  

“History of Renaissance.” 16 June 2008. Historyworld.net. 4 July 2008             <http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?  groupid=3088&HistoryID=ac88>.

“Leonerdo’s life.” 2000. Lairweb.org. 7 July 2008       <http://www.lairweb.org.nz/leonardo/life.html>.

“Madonna and Child with the Infant Baptist.” 2008. The National Gallery. 7 July 2008             <http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/cgi- bin/WebObjects.dll/CollectionPublisher.woa/wa/work?workNumber=ng744>

“Michelangelo.” 7 July 2008. BBC UK. 7 July 2008   <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/michelangelo.shtml>.

“Overview.” 2008. Thinkquest.org. 7 July 2008           <http://library.thinkquest.org/3044/nov_over.html>.

Parmiani, Floria. “Michelangelo’s David.” 6 June 2008. Floria Publications. 7 July 2008          <http://www.floria-publications.com/italy/italian_culture/michelangelo_david.html>.

Van Ness Myers, Philip. Medieval and Modern History. Boston: Ginn and Company, 1905.

“Virgin of the Rocks.” 2000. Lairweb.org. 7 July 2008            <http://www.lairweb.org.nz/leonardo/rocks.html>.

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