The ideas of middle ages were that your role in life could not be altered, and the only thing one had to forward to was death. When the Italian Renaissance occurred, the hordes of people were ready for change, ready to enjoy life and all its wonders. Concentrating on ones matchless qualities and toiled with an enterprise to savor the beauty and the beauty of the observer. Men, who embodied the Renaissance and its great thinkers, are all superb examples of a universal Renaissance man. New ideas such as humanism, individuality, and a new outlook on religion, were portrayed by the artistic geniuses of the time like Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo Da Vinci; all of whom depicted the galvanizing times through sculptures, poetry, portraits, and more.
In past times people were portrayed as undistinguished, in their presence and in what they did. People were considered boring and were also, never considered. Names were not given to these one-dimensional creatures they were referred to by whom they worked for, or what they did for that person. Not for what they stand for or their thoughts and feeling, but by their place in life. The lack of selfhood was due to the fact that observation drawn to oneself was uncouth and egotistical; on the path to heaven, people thought, beings should remain appreciative and humble. This would all change when artists started engraving their way into the world as painters with names and thought. This all started with the engraving techniques of Michelangelo, who wouldn’t stand for another man to receive acknowledgment for his workmanship. In the middle ages the people of the time did not have distinct faces and features, all the painting of people looked identical. Artists of the Renaissance did not bunch men together, but they put a name with a face. Portraits were being done of people with various names and features every day. Castiglione, a name given to a man, a man who set the bar for proper behavior by writing “The Courtier,” was painted by Raphael. A portrait of a real person, strutting his wealth and thoughtfulness. Raphael depicted him by his features and thoughts, not by his job.
Humanism was the appreciation of ancient Greece and Rome. The humanists considered the writings of the ancients as brilliantly written and an incomparable manner to the enhancement of life. The father of humanism, Petrarch, wrote elegantly of his adoration to the classic. He declared the present could not even compare to the past, there was simply no competition. The men who desired not to discover the classics and then deemed highly of themselves and their intelligence he claimed, knew nothing; they were just conceited. It was men like Petrarch whose love to antiquity made the humanist movement a success. The appreciation for antiquity did not end with literature, which is only one chapter of it, Botticelli displayed his love of the ancients in many of his creations. In Botticelli’s Primavera, he depicts mythological creatures of ancient Greece and Rome, a way to pay ohmage to the ancients for everything they have given to the world. The Birth of Venus, the title of this work speaks volumes, which was also done by Botticelli, Venus is a mythological figure in ancient Rome. This masterpiece also includes a thanks to the ancients by depicting them in a way of beauty that only Botticelli could. Titles give away so much, yet at the same time eludes one from what is underneath it all, like the Mona Lisa and The School of Athens by Raphael. The School of Athens embodies so much from architecture which resembles that of a Roman bath house, and in the middle of these domes we are forced to focus on two men, Aristotle and Plato. Once again pointing us to the times of antiquity emphasizing that modern scholars could be like the great scholars of the past.
Michelangelo’s portrayal of the human body was one of the most impressive of the time. In true fashion of portraying the human being as an individual, Michelangelo’s sculptures were so real it looked like people placed inside his marble. It was his study of all the human organs, a study strictly banned by the church, that made such sculptures as lifelike as they appeared. His fourteen-foot statue of the biblical figure David embodied both the religious influence of the time and the study of man that were prominent and influential in his life. The statue of David, show his every muscle and his face is so real one would expect it to speak to them. When he painted the Sistine Chapel, his talents as a Renaissance man were evident. Not commonly known for his painting skills, he painted three hundred and thirty-six assorted figures. The nine strenuous years he spent alluded to the devotion to the church. Another attribution to the church was The Last Judgement. Unlike his early religious works that had been light and peaceful this masterpiece was brutally honest. He was now able to show the way the body moved, as well as its displays of unrestrained passion, overwhelming grief, or endless torment.
Leonardo De Vinci was said to be born before his time, actually I feel that he was born to show what a Renaissance man, should strive to be. De Vinci may have excelled in painting; but he also dabbled in sculpting, architecture, music, engineering, science, and many more. His interpretation of the Last Supper brought Jesus to life, as he has studied the human body, giving Jesus noticeable features along with the other patrons in the painting. Although one could add the blue prints for the flying machine to his name De Vinci real masterpiece was that on a woman referred to as The Mona Lisa. When you stare at this portrait, one gets drawn into her mind which is full of a superfluity of ideas of her and what she is thinking. She is an ode to feminine beauty. She is a little bit of every woman, past and present.
The achievements of these artists during the High Renaissance resemble the achievements of the time period, along with the time period of the ancients. Their works, compared to those of middle ages, were a true departure. Where nature was the main subject in painting were now that man is bigger than nature, he is the supreme being, according to the times of the Renaissance. Men were shown as men, their great attributes were finally being acknowledged and respected. The Renaissance men paved the road of success for future generations, but remember, all roads lead to Rome!
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