The Renaissance – Michelangelo

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection”- Michelangelo (BrainyQuote). The Renaissance, which took place during the early 1300s to 1600s, was a period of big changes in European society where advances in art and literature were made (Esko). It was a time when people began to think of themselves as individuals, with God-given power to shape and control their destiny and environment.

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In Italy, it was thought as a rebirth of the ideas and energy of ancient Rome (Fitzpatrick). During the Renaissance, there were three main values that people focused on individualism, humanism, and secularism. Individualism was seen as having one’s own path whereas humanism is the concept that human, rather than God, is the center of the universe. Secularism, on the other hand, is the rejection of religion (Esko).

The Renaissance includes exploration, scientific revolution, reformations, and politics. It also embraces education and philosophy, patronage, and art and architecture. Copernicus, for example, is an astronomer that developed a different understanding of the universe while proving Ptolemy’s theory wrong. He created a different idea that the universe is heliocentric by using rational thoughts and relying on mathematics (Brady). Another example of what the Renaissance was that Renaissance artists used realistic, rounded figures, and natural poses to convey humanism. Leonardo Da Vinci was an artist who created the painting Mona Lisa that depicted stronger emotions than medieval paintings. In his painting, he had well-defined landscapes and 3-D figures filled with emotions that convey humanism, portraying the human body as a thing of beauty (Brady). The Renaissance is an important period in European society because it was a time that created new ideas about discovery, trade, invention, art, philosophy and the world. Not only did these accomplishments during the Renaissance paved the way for future advancements, but it also developed a new perspective of the world. The art techniques that were created during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries produce a different style of art that would still be used today.

The Renaissance was a ‘rebirth’ of science and culture. Michelangelo Di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Republic of Florence, into a minor nobility family in Florence and died on February 18, 1564. Michelangelo’s father was an administrator of the small dependent town of Caprese at the time of his birth and had several government jobs. Unfortunately, Michelangelo mother died when he was only six. At the time of the Renaissance, Florence, located in Northern Italy, was the largest city in Europe in the 15th century and an independent republic governed by wealthy merchants and guilds. It was the heart of the Renaissance movement and its atmosphere of prosperity and freedom allowed the artistic and intellectual community to flourished (Fitzpatrick). Since Florence was producing great painters and sculptors at this time, it allowed Michelangelo to become a Renaissance artist after being apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio, learning fresco painting and establishing his own foundational principles of his art (Buonarroti). During the Renaissance, Michelangelo was an Italian Renaissance artist, painter, architecture, and poet. In 1494, when the Medici family was overthrown, Michelangelo moved to Bologna where he was hired to carve a small figure sculpture figure that was needed to complete the tomb and shrine of St. Dominic.

As the project led to other projects, Michelangelo became very successful in his field. Two of his most successful sculptures, the Piet?  in 1498 and David in 1503, which served as a symbol of the Florentine Republic, allowed him to firmly establish his public reputation (Britannica). Along with David, Michelangelo was considered one of the greatest artists of all time, his works ranking among the most famous in existence. A Renaissance Idol is a person who shows all three main values of the Renaissance; individualism, humanism, and secularism. They are a person who is knowledgeable in many different fields and can do it all. During the Renaissance, a Renaissance Idol was either a scientist, inventor, artist, engineer, explorer, architect, or writer (Esko). Michelangelo is proven to be a Renaissance Idol because he was skillful as a sculptor, painter, architecture, and poet. He is also able to show individualism, humanism, and secularism in his artworks and sculptures. Michelangelo’s artwork had religious scenes that show real pain, joy, and all emotions. His figures were realistic and not “glorified”. Although Michelangelo was a successful artist, he was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio when he was thirteen and had many patrons throughout his career, with Pope Julius II being the main one. Because Michelangelo was so devoted to making his work perfect, numerous projects remained unfinished (Buonarroti).

Michelangelo Buonarroti best represents and is the true Renaissance idol because he shows: individualism thought out his life as Renaissance artists, humanisms when analyzing his detailed works, and secularism when looking at his sculptures. Michelangelo is qualified as the Renaissance Idol because he shows individualism throughout his life as a Renaissance artist. Individualism means having one’s own path or being famous, which Michelangelo was able to do. At the beginning of Michelangelo’s career, his father wanted him to take part in their family’s financial business. However, he decided to go against his father and became apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlando instead (Britannica). Michelangelo became an artist and followed his own path despite his father’s disapproval. He didn’t want to be held back by his father and lived up to his potential as an artist. Michelangelo also demonstrated individualism through his sculpture, David. The sculpture portrays a young man with a youthful face and heavily muscled adolescent standing assuredly, ready to battle. In David, an example of Michelangelo’s studies of anatomy can be seen through the muscles and veins that was closely modeled like a human body (High Renaissance). In Michelangelo’s sculpture, he displayed physical realism and facial expressions filled with emotions, showing individualism. David shows that he is capable of great accomplishments and achievements. Similarly, individualism emphasizes the moral worth of an individual.

Another reason Michelangelo qualifies as the Renaissance Idol is because he shows humanism when analyzing his detailed artworks. For instance, Michelangelo’s Piet  created for the French cardinal Jean Villiers depicted Jesus after he was removed from the cross resting upon the lap of Mary. What’s particular about this sculpture is that Michelangelo made Jesus very lifelike, making it appear as if Mary’s hand is creasing the realistic flesh under Jesus arm (High Renaissance). The way Jesus was sculpted emphasized the beauty and glory of his human form. It was classical humanism in its ideals of physical beauty. The Last Judgment located at the end of the wall of the Sistine Chapel was another painting done by Michelangelo that shows humanism. “The design functions like a pair of scales…both directed by Christ, who ‘conducts’ with both arms; in the two top corners are the cross and other symbols of the Passion, which serve as his credentials to be judge” (Michelangelo). All of the people in the paintings depicted some kind of emotions on their face according to where they were judged to go in the afterlife. Michelangelo also depicted nudity in The Last Judgement, presenting the human body as a thing of beauty in its own right.

The Last Judgement painting shows actual humanistic traits that exquisitely displays beauty through an idealized human form. Among many of Michelangelo’s great masterpiece, several of them exhibited secularism. David, created in 1505, did not only show individualism, but also secularism. David is a sculpture of a young man with a confident look and strong stance. His stance, along with his perfectly depicted body, shows that he is determined and confident. He also possesses the muscles that everyone wanted to have (Buonarroti). Secularism encourages people to enjoy life instead of being concerned with faith and salvation in the afterlife, and David is a perfect depiction of this. Michelangelo also conveys secularism in the Creation of Adam located at the end of the Sistine ceiling. It shows a muscular classical nude of Adam extending his hand to God. In the painting, while God is being surrounded by angels and cherubim, there is a red cloud shape that resembles the human brain (Michelangelo). This shows that ideas can also come from the human brain too, not just God.

This represents secularism because it shows interest in an idea that is not religious. In conclusion, Michelangelo was one of the greatest artists of all time, creating artworks that show the characteristics of a Renaissance idol. Michelangelo Buonarroti best illustrates the characteristics and ideals of a genuine Renaissance Idol because of showing individualism as a Renaissance artist, humanism throughout his artworks, and secularism when analyzing his successful projects. As an Italian Renaissance artist, Michelangelo showcased an idealized and higher vision of reality. “His adeptness with human emotionality and expression inspired humility and veneration. The psychological insight and physical realism in his work had never been portrayed with such intensity before” (Nichols). Many buildings, sculptures, and paintings across the world were inspired by him. Michelangelo impacted the Renaissance Movement through his sculpture and art, influencing future societies and modern western society today.

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