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Themes of Italian Renaissance Art

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Themes of Italian Renaissance Art

As the fourteenth century ushered out the Middle

Ages in Italy, a new period of cultural flowering began,

known as the Renaissance. This period in history was

famous for its revival of classical themes and the merging

of these themes with the Catholic Church. These themes of

humanism, naturalism, individualism, classicism, and

learning and reason appeared in every aspect of the Italian

Renaissance, most particularly in its art.

Humanism can be defined as the idea that human

beings are the primary measure of all things (Fleming,

29). Renaissance art showed a renewed interest in man who

was depicted in Renaissance art as the center of the

world. Pico della Mirandola said that, "there is nothing

to be seen more wonderful than man." (Fleming, 284) This

could almost be taken as a motto for Renaissance art.

Michelangelo's David clearly supports Mirandola's statement.

Since Renaissance art focused on representing

tangible, human figures, rather than depicting scenes from

the Bible in order to praise God, the artists had to think

in more natural, scientific terms. Artists became familiar

with mathematics and the concept of space, as well as

anatomy. Lorenzo Ghiberti studied the anatomical

proportions of the body, Filippo Brunelleschi was

interested in mathematics in architecture, Leone Battista

Alberti, who was skilled in painting, sculpture and

architecture, stressed the study 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 express the structural forms of

the body beneath its external appearance. Their anatomical

studies opened the way to the modeling and the movements of

the human body. In painting, naturalism meant a more

realistic representation of everyday objects. In Fra

Angelico's Annunciation, he shows an exact reproduction of

Tuscan botany (Wallace, 237). Also, the concept of space

was important. In painting, figures were placed in a more

normal relationship to the space they occupied.

Human figures tended to become more personal and

individual. Three clear examples of that are Donatello's

David, and Leonardo's Mona Lisa and Last Supper, in which

the twelve different expressions of the apostles were

shown. Every statue, every portrait was an individual

person who made a profound impression. Mary and the angel

Gabriel became very human in Fra Angelico's Madonna

(Wallace, 45). Even when ...

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Keywords: what are the themes of renaissance art, what are the four main themes of the renaissance

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