How Did Changes in Art Reflect New Renaissance Ideals?

February 15, 2024

Art stands out from other forms of design and craft because it isn’t bound by functionality. Instead, it offers a powerful way to express ideas and emotions that words can’t. For this reason, many people consider it an essential part of human life.

Renaissance artists reintroduced classical ideals such as beauty, symmetry, and proportion back into the arts. Their works reimagined mythological and biblical figures while emphasizing humanism.

Though the Church remained a major patron of art during the Renaissance, works were also increasingly being commissioned by civil government and wealthy individuals. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael dominated the period known as the High Renaissance, which lasted from the early 1490s until Rome became a thriving center of Renaissance art following the sacking of Florence in 1527.

Leonardo’s The Virgin of the Rocks and The Last Supper exemplified psychological complexity, the use of perspective for dramatic focus, and symbolism. He also innovated techniques such as foreshortening and unified pictorial space in his work, Apollo and Daphne.

Raphael used the same compositional principles in his Academy of Athens, a mural painting depicting an assembly of ancient philosophers, to celebrate classical learning and its divine quality. He combined revered ancient Greeks with Renaissance teachers such as Plato and Aristotle to highlight a new idea of learning as an infinite cycle that begins with God, and ends with humans seeking knowledge to improve themselves and their world.

Renaissance architects like Donato Bramante and Brunelleschi used classical harmony and rotational symmetry to create buildings with an idealized, unified appearance, such as his Tempietto. His approach was revolutionary, as it emphasized the ideal proportions of the human body that were determined by Plato’s ideal forms, rather than by the actual physiology of the person being represented.

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