Italian RenaissanceAs the fourteenth century ushered out the Middle Ages in Italy, a new period ofcultural flowering began, known as the Renaissance. This period in history wasfamous for its revival of classical themes and the merging of these themes withthe Catholic Church. These themes of humanism, naturalism, individualism,classicism, and learning and reason appeared in every aspect of the ItalianRenaissance, most particularly in its art. Humanism can be defined as the ideathat human beings are the primary measure of all things (Fleming, 29).
Renaissance art showed a renewed interest in man who was depicted in Renaissanceart as the center of the world. Pico della Mirandola said that, “there isnothing to be seen more wonderful than man. ” (Fleming, 284) This couldalmost be taken as a motto for Renaissance art. Michelangelo’s David clearlysupports Mirandola’s statement. Since Renaissance art focused on representingtangible, human figures, rather than depicting scenes from the Bible in order topraise God, the artists had to think in more natural, scientific terms. Artistsbecame familiar with mathematics and the concept of space, as well as anatomy.Order now
Lorenzo Ghiberti studied the anatomical proportions of the body, FilippoBrunelleschi was interested in mathematics in architecture, Leone BattistaAlberti, who was skilled in painting, sculpture and architecture, stressed thestudy of mathematics as the underlying principle of the arts (Fleming, 285). Leonardo also looked at the geometric proportions of the human body (Calder,197). In painting, but especially in sculpture, artists were inspired to expressthe structural forms of the body beneath its external appearance. Theiranatomical studies opened the way to the modeling and the movements of the humanbody. In painting, naturalism meant a more realistic representation of everydayobjects.
In Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, he shows an exact reproduction ofTuscan botany (Wallace, 237). Also, the concept of space was important. Inpainting, figures were placed in a more normal relationship to the space theyoccupied. Human figures tended to become more personal and individual. Threeclear examples of that are Donatello’s David, and Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and LastSupper, in which the twelve different expressions of the apostles were shown.
Every statue, every portrait was an individual person who made a profoundimpression. Mary and the angel Gabriel became very human in Fra Angelico’sMadonna (Wallace, 45). Even when placed in a group, every individual figurestood out separately, as in Boticelli’s Adoration of the Magi. One form of artrepresenting the individual was the portrait. Wealthy families and individualscommissioned artists to create statues and paintings.
High regard for individualpersonality is demonstrated in the number and quality of portraits painted atthis time (Flemming, 286). Italian Renaissance humanism were motivated by arediscovery of the values of Greco-Roman civilization. An example ofarchitectural revival is Bramante’s Tempietto, a small temple built where St. Peter is said to have been crucified.
Bramante later got a chance to build on amuch greater scale: St. Peter’s Basilica. Clearly using classical civilizationsas his model Bramante said of St. Peter’s, “I shall place the Pantheon ontop of the Basilica of Constantine. ” (Flemming, 309-310) Other architectswent back to the central-type churches modeled on the Pantheon, rather than therectangular basilica that had evolved over the centuries. They revived classicalorders and “blueprints.
” Decorative motifs were derived directly formancient sacophagi, reliefs, and carved gems. Sculptors revisited thepossibilities of the nude. Painters, however, didn’t have the classicalreferences that sculptors had, so they used mythological subjects. With all ofthe studying and learning of art in the Renaissance, it would be of littlewonder that the subject of some of the art was learning itself. The most famousexample of this is Raphael’s School of Athens.
Raphael, along with Michelangelo,was placed in the painting among the ranks of artist-scholars. As members of aphilosophical circle intent on reconciling the views of Plato and Aristotle,Raphael and his friends reasoned that Plato and Aristotle were saying the samething in different words. The two philosophers were placed on either side of thecentral. On Plato’s side, there was a statue of Apollo, the god of poetry. OnAristotle’s side there was one of Athena, goddess of reason.
Spreading outwardon either side were groups corresponding to the separate schools of thoughtwithin the two major divisions (Barrett, 87). No matter what theme of theItalian Renaissance is named, there is always some example of a correspondingart manifestation of it. For humanism it was David, for naturalism it wasAnnunciation, for individualism, it was The Last Supper, for classicism, it wasSt. Peter’s Basilica, and for learning and reason, it was The School of Athens.
It was these themes, which dominated every other aspect of the Renaissance, thatdominated the artistic aspect. BibliographyBarrett, Maurice. Raphael. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1965 Calder, Ritchie. Leonardoand the Age of the Eye.
New York: Simon, 1970 Coughlan, Robert. The World ofMichelangelo: 1475-1564. New York: Time-Life, 1966 Flemming, William. Arts andIdeas. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1995 Walace, Robert.
Fra Anglelico and His Work.Chicago: Williamson, 1966