Expression of Renaissance Ideals throught the Art of the Period
The humanist and secularist beliefs of religion, individuality, and antiquity were evident in the style and illustration of Italian paintings and sculptures in the High Renaissance era. A deep sense of piety, Greek and Roman philosophy, and secularism, can be found in nearly all Renaissance
paintings and sculptures, and the school of thought in Renaissance society that regarded the artist as genius contributed to all of these items.
Historically, religion is the defining factor of nearly all paintings in modern and medieval European history. The Last Supper by Leonardo, The School of Athens by Raphael, Michelangelo's huge sculpture of the ancient Hebrew king David, Giotto's paintings of the Virgin Mary and Saint Francis of Assisi, and Masaccio's The Holy Trinity
serve as an infinitesimally small sample of the vast selection of religiously inspired paintings, frescos, sculptures, and architectural endeavors created by Renaissance artists.
The School of Athens by Raphael is an artistic representation of the beliefs and interpretations of the Renaissance humanist philosophers such as Petrarch and Drusus. Great classical mathematicians such as Pythagoras stand under the statue of the Greek goddess of reason, Athena, while intellectuals such as Socrates teach on the right, under the statue of the Greek patron of poetry, Apollo. This fresco also illustrates the existence of an intellectual community of painters, sculptors, and leaders such as Michelangelo and Leonardo, who exist in the painting as Greek philosopher
Heraclitus and Plato, respectively. This select group of individuals was in fact the majority of the thinking power of the Italian Renaissance.
Leonardo da Vinci represents most strongly the secularist style in Renaissance art. His painting of The Last Supper shows the very strained emotions of Jesus' apostles when he informs them that he is to be betrayed. The lines of emotion and the expressions on the apostle's faces clearly depict the secularist real, the non-exaggerative, worldly style of secularism exhibited through the writings of Boccaccio and Lorenzo Valla. Michelangelo's dome for Saint Peter's Basilica and the roof of the Sistine Chapel display the secularist attitude the Roman Catholic Church adopted in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The fact that the Catholic Church, the wealthiest institution in the world, sponsored this art shows the elitist status that artists must have assumed in the Renaissance, and how the church supported the belief that the hand of God worked through the hands of the artists.
The genius and alleged divinity of Italian Renaissance painters gave them reason to create as if they actually possessed that divinity, which they did not, for God does not provide divinity to man for those means. For this reason, Renaissance painters created art to appease the society that held this esteemed opinion of them, that is art that involved the ancient Greek philosophy, religion, and popular secularist and humanist beliefs.
? Modern European History, Birdsall S. Viault