Introduction to Renaissance Art
Let’s take a look at one of the most brilliant journeys happened in art and world history
My name is Alex and I am an Italian Artist. Today I want to bring you with me on a journey that goes back in time, 520 years ago.
This modern renaissance art collection is an homage to my country, and to the greatest geniuses of the past from which we are still benefitting today.
It’s an introduction to help you understand the context of my artwork.
Why was the renaissance so important among other artistic periods? Can it still be relevant today? Is there any room for the renaissance in today’s society?
These and other questions are at the core of this collection of mine. If you want you can also listen to this article as an audio guide.
Introduction to Renaissance Art
This is the story of a few men who completely changed society and bettered the world with their passion and unbelievable hard work. People like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Copernicus, Shakespeare, Raphael, and Michelangelo were pure geniuses.
Unlike other artists, they explored arts and science in their own unique way, risking their lives by doing so. How exceptional is scanning the history timeline and identifying pure geniuses living at the same time and in the same place? Well, that’s what happened and this is what we are investigating here.
What was the situation before the Renaissance?
The journey to the renaissance was not straightforward. Society seems to follow a circular progression. Fortunate periods of time see wealth and knowledge succeeded by darkness and grinding poverty.
The middle age, which precedes the renaissance was a moment of real darkness.
1/3 of the European population at that time died because of the plague, the black death.
The ignorance of basic preventive treatments in the medical field and superstition as consequence created an explosive background for Europe.
The Catholic church was reaching its lowest point with the crusades and holy inquisition.
The roman empire had already fallen. Most of the scientific conquest were lost.
Illiteracy reduced the ability to survive and fed the superstition that fuelled the inquisition.
People were tortured and burned alive because they were labeled as witches or servants of the devil.
Humanity felt that they were at the mercy of some evil god. In fact, the doctrine taught at that time was that everything was decided by God, and man had almost no willpower and ability to decide his own fate.
This backward time didn’t stop what was coming. Unexpectedly mankind was about to face one of the most brilliant periods of the time.
Humanism began to Grow in Italy
A cultural movement called humanism began to grow in Italy and specifically in Florence. It was something completely new.
It was the change the world needed.
Italy became important as a trading center, with many coastal ports on the Mediterranean Sea. This had created a wealthy society whose money helped establish it as a place of learning and culture.
Artists and scientists very often were the same persons. For the love of discovering new things and establishing the true foundation of this universe, they were challenging the dogmas and the beliefs of that time.
An example was Galileo Galilei, an Italian astronomer that faced the roman inquisition for supporting the theory that the earth wasn’t at the center of the universe.
He pleaded guilty, spending the rest of his life under house arrest.
This movement promoted the brand new idea that people are the most important thing in life and that humans should focus on their achievements in areas like education, classical arts, literature, and science.
It also promoted the idea that there was something perfect in man. That he could, with science, art, and intellect, guide his own destiny.
This would not necessarily lead people to atheism but re-establish the relationship between man itself and the idea of God.
Another example of this concept was the Vitruvian Man, a work of Leonardo da Vinci, how perfect was the idea of a man inscribed in a circle and a square.
The man at the center of the universe
Leonardo da Vinci with the Vitruvian man created a famous sketch of a human figure inscribed in a circle and a square as a result of his studies on the ideal proportion.
The circle is a universal symbol with extensive meaning. It represents the notions of totality, wholeness, original perfection, the Self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness, all cyclic movement, and God.
The square represents orientation and direction, in contrast to the circle, which symbolizes limitlessness.
So the man perfectly suspended in between the circle and the square is a powerful image.
Study of the Anatomy
Another practice not being completely tolerated by the church was the study of anatomy on corpses. Both Leonardo and Michelangelo dissected many cadavers to find out from the inside the structure of humans.
Their ability and understanding of human anatomy were extensive and higher than any physician of that time.
That intensive study made possible the creation of masterpieces like Michelangelo’s David
The printing press was born
Can you imagine an era without the internet, books, newspapers, and pictures? How do you share knowledge?
A man named Johannes Gutenberg, from Germany set one of the biggest milestones in the communication age.
His invention was the printing press, a way to print books in days instead of years.
His first creation was a bible.
With the increase of purchases in books, book trade and industries started to bloom, such as paper-making companies.
With more people able to afford and acquire books, the literacy rate gradually increased.
Before The Renaissance, about 5-10% of the population could read or write, as The Renaissance progressed, the literacy rate went up to about 20-30%.
The printing press helped tremendously in the spread of the new philosophical idea developed in The Renaissance, Humanism.
The printing press was surely one of the biggest highlights of The Renaissance that still leaves its mark here in the modern world.
The Impact of The Renaissance
‘Renaissance’ means ‘re-birth’ and The result of this exciting journey was the new beginning of the modern world as we know it. That’s why it is still relevant today.
Fixed ideas of the Middle Ages were left behind in favor of new discoveries like the printing press, which leaves us to the mass media that we are used to nowadays.
The Renaissance, directly and indirectly, boosted the fields of:
- Medicine, with the study of anatomy,
- Science: with the study of stars and the solar system
- Communication and mass media: with the invention of the press which enabled books to be printed rather than hand-written, and allowed the distribution of information to a much wider audience than ever before, further fueling the clamor for more knowledge.
- Architecture: with the study of the perspective.
- Theology: to help people read and understand the bible. Helping to disseminate the Catholic Religion.
Perhaps if today you are reading this post, or listening to this audio, it is because the renaissance happened.
With all the developments, advances, and improvements, hardly anyone can deny The Renaissance wasn’t a better time to be living in than the Middle Ages.
The 14th century just rocketed off from the centuries before, spiraling into a new universe with a great education, technology, medicines, and lifestyles.
The brilliant minds that made this era an era to remember will always be remembered. Their minds decorated and purified the world.
They recovered the lost lives of people and left us to remember a rebirth that marked its place in history as one of the three greatest centuries of all time, The Renaissance.