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It seems that Christian art is never without a nod to classicism, but where early Christians used Roman religious symbols, Renaissance Christians embraced both the art and philosophy of the ancient world. As the darkness of the Middle Ages came to an end, the rediscovery of Greco-Roman art complemented and reflected an ideological change in Europe: the development of the Julian High Renaissance was supported by the Pope's interest in the splendor of ancient Rome ... and by the sensational discovery of the Sculpture group “Laocoon and his sons” (Hartt 494). In the form, the artists of the Renaissance began to replicate the artists of antiquity in their idealization of the human form. And although the Catholic Church continued to rule the continent - especially in the south - the spread of the intellectualism associated with ancient Greece began to flourish in the Mediterranean in association with Catholicism.

These two ideologies, which were divided during the suppression of the Middle Ages - classical philosophy and religion - enter into a new partnership in the Renaissance: artists and philosophers, each in their own way, combined Christian belief and ancient philosophy into a balanced, rational, humanistic system (Stokstad 315). These interests even shaped the theological attitude of the church to ancient doctrine: This [fusion of art and religion] was made possible by a rare confluence of interests between the artistic and theological culture of the papal court, particularly with regard to human nature and the human body (Campbell 349). And so art and religion began to modernize together under the veil of Christian humanism.

Artists like Michelangelo and Raphael took Christian art to a radically new place with works like The School of Athens and The Creation of Man. Gone were the days when religious art was strictly functional, although that role still had its place: Michelangelo wanted to demonstrate the ability of art to represent and even reveal Christian principles (Campbell 348). In the Renaissance, painters not only asserted their technical dominance, but also promoted the Renaissance ideology (both artistic and religious) that placed artists in the realm of philosophers. During the Renaissance, a decidedly pro-artistic tradition developed for the first time in the history of Christian art. This means that the artists of the Renaissance differ significantly from the anonymous artists of earlier epochs in that, in addition to their religious imagery, they enforced their own philosophies.


school of athens, raphael, 1509, vatican palace

The school of Athens : Raffael, Stanza della Segnatura, Vatikanische Paläste in Rom, 1509 (Photo c / o Wikipedia )

Raffaels School of Athens , in addition to being one of the most famous Renaissance paintings, offers great insight into both the mental framework of the Renaissance as a whole and the mission of the Renaissance painter. While not a religious work per se, elements of the play attempt to capture a unified theory of theology and philosophy as it appears in the Pope's signature room in the Vatican palaces. This goal is also underlined by the fact that the work of Raphael's Disputa is juxtaposed, a decidedly religious painting by the same author and the same era.

To highlight the piece's religious connotations, one has to look at the setting. Although the school is populated by ancient philosophers, it takes place under the central dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. By placing the figures here, Raphael attempted to create an arena in which the humanism of the Romans and Greeks could coexist with the ideology of the Catholic Church in a post-medieval demonstration of intellectual ecumenism. To further reinforce the ecumenical character of the school, Greek and Roman gods adorn the walls of the basilica, a clear nod to the tendency of early Christian artists to depict the divine in relation to pagan gods.

This desire for union was not only felt by Raphael. Julius II's intense affection for classical works of art was reflected not only in his choice of artist, but also in his theological orientation. Christian humanism primarily celebrated the achievements of people in tandem with God. So where once pagan philosophers had no place in a church, they were now presented as doctrines in the house of God.

The second crucial element from which one can most clearly deduce School of Athens is the image of the painter as a philosopher. This message is delivered twice. First, as David Rosand argues, Raphael, the painter himself, is ultimately the real one inventor populated by this total of the intellectual values ​​of the Renaissance (214). A careful analysis of the painting reveals Raphael's message in a way that was not previously possible in art. The separation of the pages according to Plato and Socratic, the grouping of the philosophers according to studies and the delicate counterost in Plato and Socrates testify to Raphael's intensive understanding of the philosophy of antiquity and thus demonstrate both its popularity and the painter's ability.

Michelangelo at schoolIn connection with this model, Raphael used another technique to firmly anchor the painters of the Renaissance in the philosophical school. With the Greek titans, a melancholy figure sits at a desk in the foreground of the picture. By placing the disturbed Michelangelo in the foreground and (slightly) in the center while waiting for divine inspiration, Raphael reassures the viewer that the artist is indeed part of the philosopher. In a similar and perhaps more vital way, Raphael places an inconspicuous Renaissance man to the far right of the painting, knowingly looking at the viewer from behind a group of scholars. In addition to Michelangelo, Raphael also places himself among these thought giants. This is how the philosophical art of the Renaissance was born.

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Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, 1512, Sistine Chapel

Creation of Adam : Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Palaces in Rome, 1512 (Photo c / o Wikipedia )

After Raphael established the artist's role as a philosopher, the flow of Renaissance ideology in art did not stop. When Julius II needed a renovation of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he turned to the master of classicism, Michelangelo. The young artist's permeable works, both for the Vatican and abroad, extolled a skill for the human form that no artist had shown since Roman times; While Raphael was interested in the thoughts of the Greeks, Michelangelo was intensely interested in their bodies. When painting the ceiling and especially The creation of Adam , Michelangelo combines this technical finesse with a dogmatic statement about the human body that is literally reflected in the halls of the chapel itself.

As noted in A New History of the Italian Renaissance, Christian humanism involved not only respect for the faculties of the mind, as Raphael demonstrated, but also respect for the body: the preachers in the Sistine Chapel preached sermons in elegant Latin modeled on the Roman orator Cicero, who extols the dignity of man in the image of God and the glorification of the human flesh in the incarnation of Christ (Campbell and Cole 349). So, The creation of Adam reflected this feeling in both the portrayal of Adam and that of God. Adam, limp and inactive on earth, illustrates the idealized human in Michelangelo's eyes. His muscular contortions mirror those of the Ignuti around him, and his nudity avoids the idea that the body is a place of shame.

God faceLikewise, God the Incarnate Father is as human as art has ever seen him. Where most of the earlier depictions include the human face, Michelangelo shows the full human form of the Father. Not only did he take this form, but he took the liberty of showing the legs and arms of God. No doubt Michelangelo was trying to illustrate the idea that God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them (Genesis 1:27). In the face of God one can also see human emotions develop. In the past, God had been a stubborn and mild figure, at least in facial expression. On the ceiling, Michelangelo depicts a determined God who creates the sun and moon, and a compassionate God who touches life in Adam.

While this interpretation was a radical leap in faith for many Christians, Michelangelo's image of God has by and large become the classical image of God. Perhaps that's because God the Father is taking on a truly human form more than any other image before - and that is exactly what it was about.

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Galleria dellacademia, David, Michelangelo, 1504

David : Michelangelo, Galleria dell’Accademia in Florenz, 1504 (Photos c / o Wikipedia , University of Columbia)

Although this piece was made for the state rather than the church, its renaissance theological connotations can still be taken into account. In the David statue, Michelangelo once again expresses his interest in creating a perfect human form. In contrast to previous depictions of David, he tries to highlight the humanity of a David before victory. To do this, he had to use both skillful counterost and expression in order to turn a mythical hero into the person he was.

lemon v. kurtzman

Michelangelo's David shows courage but also concern in his demeanor. As his torso prepares for battle, slingshot in hand, his legs lean back as if rearing up against Goliath in the distance. This duality not only flaunts Michelangelo's finesse, but establishes David firmly in the realm of the living. While Donatello saw David only as a winner, Michelangelo sees him as a person.

David's faceDavid's face gives credibility to his portrayal as everyone. Again, there is a clever mix of courage and fear. His face looks outward, with a firm mouth and fiery eyes. But his fearful, slightly arched forehead betrays the necessary courage to face Goliath. We don't have an inevitable hero; We have a person who was capable of heroic things.

Thus, David is treated in a similar light to God. While God is usually a passive hero, Michelangelo makes him a dynamic person, capable of compassion and aggression. Likewise, David's one-dimensional past is largely ignored as Michelangelo produces a fearful victor. This piece reinforces the ideals of Renaissance humanism by celebrating humanity by bringing Biblical characters to life in ways that art never had. For while the artists of the Renaissance may have adopted a perfect form, that form was only the means to illustrate the deep humanity of faith.

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letztes Abendmahl da vinci, santa maria delle grazie, mailand, 1498

The last supper : Leonardo da Vinci, Santa Maria delle Grazie in Mailand, 1498 (Photo c / o Wikipedia )

Perhaps the best-analyzed painting in the world, da Vinci's The last supper is another work in Renaissance artistic philosophy. Drawing on the works of Raphael and Michelangelo here, Da Vinci influences the philosophy of both artists by infusing each figure with humanity, evoking the ideals of Christian humanism, and conveying his own interpretations of the iconic image.

sad jesusDa Vinci's separation of each group of apostles serves to isolate their answers. In each group, the response of the individual apostle is highlighted by this technique. From surprise to anger to confusion, da Vinci is able to portray these larger-than-life figures as people capable of all the emotions we are. Even Christ seems melancholy at the news that he himself brought.

Apart from the Christian humanism of the piece, the symbolism of da Vinci occurs throughout. Far from the exaggerated conspiracies of The da vinci code , Leonardo's symbolic nod is subtle and apt. The tripartite division of the apostles and the triangular figure of Christ indicate the presence of the Holy Trinity in the room. Even the light sources - the three rear windows - make this divine presence abundantly clear - the light literally comes from the Holy Trinity. And even though there is no halo, Christ is still divine - his halo is the natural light of the vanishing point. Hence da Vinci's symbolism differs from Raphael's - he is completely consumed by Christianity and not by its obsession with the Greco-Roman classics.

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