A new wave of thinkers, known as humanists, came to be important influences upon the ideas and people that surfaced during the time of the Renaissance. A humanist was often a believer in stressing the dignity of humankind, championing individualism and believing in most secular values. The education by which these humanists received was known as studia humanitatis, which provided them with the value of placing emphasis on the individual, which later influenced Renaissance visual arts. Linked back to studia humanitatis was also the stressing of one of humanists main practices—known as civic humanism, which also was portrayed through Renaissance art. The ability to acquire knowledge of the Greco-Roman times has shown a great prominence in the lives of many humanists, which also gave influence on many Renaissance artists’ and their work. Throughout the time of the Renaissance, many aspects of humanism life and values shed great influence upon the production of many Italian visual arts and artists in Italy.
Through a humanist education, known as studia humanitatis, emphasis was increasingly placed upon the individual, which gradually led to the development of visual arts with a basis of humanism influence. A Renaissance artist, by the name of Michelangelo, was one of the many people who were greatly influenced by the values of humanism. His work, entitled David, was sculpted in such a way that it expressed the humanist value of placing emphasis on an individual and giving him a feeling of “naturalism—“ and without this circulation of humanism, Michelangelo may have never glorified David’s body and many never had made him to appear so natural to the human eye. Another artist who was under a humanistic influence was Leonardo Da Vinci, painter of the Mona Lisa, which also showed individual beauty and demonstrated a new artistic technique of chiaroscuro or shading. Both these ideas shown through the Mona Lisa were taught through an education, known as studia humanitatis, which a classic humanist believer would follow. Humanism grew tremendously and the more people who were followers, the more it would spread so gradually the ideas spread into the minds of artists, like Leonardo Da Vinci. Another artist of the Renaissance was Antonello da Messina, whose work “Portrait of man” demonstrated a look into individual power and wealth. The man in the portrait is standing alone, representing his power and the fact that he has a portrait shows he is wealthy and that he too was influenced by humanism because he believed that he, as an individual needed to be given some importance, possibly taught through studia humanitatis. Many artists of the Renaissance period had been greatly influenced by the strong surface of humanism and its values and with their new insight and beliefs they reflected it upon their many works of art.
Later reflected in Renaissance art was one of the main goals of a humanist, often emphasized in the studia humanitatis education, known as civic humanism. One of the major pieces of Renaissance artwork was crafted by artists, Raphael, entitled School of Athens. The painting displays the humanism value of doing something good to better the environment and those around you (civic humanism) by showing many people together in one place discussing and learning to initially help better themselves and help those around them. For example, those of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates first better themselves by getting educated and then applied their knowledge individually and made many discoveries that would later advance and improve society. Artist Donatello sculpted David, yet in an opposing way to that of Michelangelo, which displayed a great example of civic humanism that many people of the time could relate to, especially humanists. Donatello portrayed David to be a young skinny boy with a helmet, which represented him to be his own little warrior, who could be capable of defeating a giant. By displaying David more like an everyday common man, people could see how he had educated himself in a skill for fighting and then applied it to protect others—which influenced many people to believe they could do the same and believe that civic humanism is a good responsibility. Renaissance art displayed a variety of humanistic ideas, especially those of civic humanists, as taught in studia humanitatis.
A main belief of humanism was the ability to acquire Greco-Roman knowledge of the past and apply to your future, as displayed in many works of Renaissance artists. The work done by Raphael in the School of Athens, shows his clear knowledge of Greco-Roman arches and columns and through his addition of the Greek philosophers of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, he demonstrates his studies of the great people and achievements in history. Another painting, the Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli displays many Roman gods and the goddess Venus as valued by ancient Rome. Also, Donatello’s sculpture of David, displayed the Greco-Roman religious beliefs of the biblical figure David and that Donatello had an understanding of the past beliefs and also shared them as well. These Renaissance artists displayed their knowledge of the past and the beliefs of many Greco-Roman philosophers and their beliefs as stressed in the importance of humanism and learning through studia humanitatis. Through these studies and influence of humanism, the works’ of these artists changed in a variety of ways because of their new insight on current life with knowledge of the past.
The Renaissance was known as a period of great achievement and rebirth, with great influence and gratitude of the humanist believers who weighed in heavily upon changing the way art and artists developed throughout this time in Italy. The basis of humanism was to learn through studia humanitatis and apply your knowledge throughout your life, as an individual with the duty of civic humanism—as shown through many examples of art like those of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. From the beliefs in individualism, glorifying the human body, civic humanism and responsibility to obtaining the knowledge of the past and Greco-Roman ideas, Renaissance art was pulled in many directions of influence and ultimately ended in a change that provided many artists with new insight, techniques and values.