Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci
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The masterpieces of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci stun the whole world of humanism and art division that even today, the value of such arts are way out of human comprehension - Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci introduction. These pieces of art with alluring phantasms and detailed making have became the pride of human race. The Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci has captivated the eyes of so many art lovers from various countries and cultures. David, being the finest art of Michelangelo, has contributed very well to the human treasury of arts. These great products are unique and exceptional in many ways however, there are still comparisons between these arts that have contributed aesthetic values during the period of renaissance.
Michelangelo’s David and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa
In the Age of Renaissance Period
Renaissance is a movement and an era of awakening that transformed from the medieval order and laid the basis for Western civilization up to the present. In our current time, when the Renaissance is mentioned, what comes out to most people’s mind is art. Therefore, we will take painting and sculpture as our springboard for discussing some fundamental changes in attitude, utilizing Renaissance art as a window, as it were, onto the Renaissance concepts. In particular, we will look at how art evidences new attitudes toward man, his place in the world, and his relationship to God. Renaissance comes from the French for “rebirth”, which is a term coined in the nineteenth century originally to give the meaning of revival of art and letters under the influence of ancient Roman and Greek models. During the renaissance period, art has produced the primary trends of social classes and depictions of popularity. The ideals of art and architecture have been unified in the acceptance of classical antiquity and in the belief that humanity is a measure of universe. Renaissance painting and sculpture reveal changing attitudes of humanity towards its place in the world.
Two of the most significant products of this time period are none other that the masterpieces of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
David is one the stunning creations of Michelangelo that was carved from a single block of white Carerra marble mined from a Tuscan quarry. David is internationally acclaimed as a watershed in Renaissance art and established Michelangelo as the foremost sculptor of his time. The proportionality of its contours and the specificity of its details have acquired the eyes of so many people gazing into it. At first glance, you see the realism embedded in the sculpture itself and as stare at it for longer period of time, the awe of its perfection reveals itself. This creation indeed, is the perfection that has been brought only by human-hands, which is mainly Michelangelo’s sculpting hands.
Mona Lisa, on the other hand, has also created international depiction of mystery, flat art in perfection, straight realism and outstanding beauty. The famous renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci, who portrays an unknown woman with the enigmatic smile, is sparking a new kind of mystery, brings the work of art. The admiration that the painting has evoked has been attributed to fascination with Leonardo’s genius; the painting’s stunning realism and technique; the mystery of the Mona Lisa’s identity; and the twists and turns in its history. Leonardo is the only person in the history of painting who has been able to make a smile like that, an artist with not only an unmatched visual talent but also an extraordinary ability to switch from science to painting to architecture and back again with the utmost ease. However, this piece of magnificence has captivated the public because of one thing, Mona Lisa’s smile. No painter can actually imitate this smile. The following are the questions that aim to be answered:
a. Discuss how a specific philosophical position influences the aesthetic values of the period, renaissance. What are the philosophies that manifests in the art of da Vinci and Michelangelo?
b. Analyze two works of art from different discipline to reveal how each work of art adheres to the aesthetic values of the renaissance period. What are the implications of this analysis to the arts of da Vinci and Michelangelo?
These works of art have brought the influence of renaissance in the present generation. In this research paper, the subject is about the comparison of Michelangelo’s sculpture and Leonardo da Vinci’s painting considering the philosophical positions that are closely associated with the period of renaissance. The two works of art, each from a different discipline, which is involved in this paper, are painting and sculpturing since these are the mediums of the said artists.
The period of renaissance is basically the period wherein the people starts a new turn over from the dark ages that they have had. More evidently, the word renaissance means “rebirth”, which denotes “turning over.” This historical phase has started the revival of the people’s interest in the classical literature and arts.
According to the book of Henry & Parkinson (1993) entitled, The Renaissance and Seventeenth-Century Rationalism, the philosophy that greatly influenced the renaissance aesthetic value are humanism and scholasticism. These philosophies, during the time of David and Mona Lisa, are part of the contributing asset in the society of arts and sculpturing that root in the Italian society (p.16).
The centres of scholasticism were the universities, where philosophy teaching was based on the Aristotelian corpus, in particular the works of logic and natural philosophy… Scholastic philosophers consistently defended their right to explain natural phenomena according to the laws of nature without resource to theological arguments (p.16).
During the revival course of renaissance, the influence of scholasticism tries to correlate philosophy of the classical philosophers and medieval Christian orthodox. The idea of scholasticism is derived from the teaching strategy of Aristotle. It combines reasons and biblical doctrines in order to formulate stronger justifications of their theology (Nauert, 2006 p.9). The ultimate goal of scholasticism is to search for the answers to those questions that manifest contradictions.
Humanism is the philosophical belief that affirms the worth of human dignity and value of every individual. This belief is based on what is right and what is wrong, criminal and justice, that are based on the intrinsic nature of human beings. This conforms to rationalizations. The philosophy of humanism does not negate theology; in fact, humanism is interrelated with theology since right and wrong part of its fundamentals. The search for the truth and morality is the basic systems of humanistic approach. However, there are opposing parts present in humanism that contradicts theology such as the belief in paranormal beings or those things that are not verified by rationales. It only conforms to theological side of universal morality but negates the church, being the solution to all human difficulties and problems (Dewey, 2007 p.225).
Humanism greatly influenced the realm of philosophy especially in Europe. During the rebirth and revival of classical arts and literature, such philosophy has greatly generated the linkage between classical arts, particularly Latin & Greek, with cultural, political, social and aesthetic conditions. During the time of renaissance, the fundamental arts such as music, literary compositions, history, and classical studies are greatly revolted by humanists and their side is to have these liberal arts available for the public without considerations of their status quo.
The Argument of Philosophical Theories
The theories proposed during the phase of revival had created vast mishaps and produced conflicting opinions. Due to the opposing views between scholastics and humanists, the view of philosophy during that time was divided. The humanists proposed that theological beings were absent in the universe and that those things unseen was product of imaginations hence non-existent. They do agree in morality as something that is free and available for all people. Morality was taught independently from theology, and the dominating powers of the Christian religion was appointed to the individuals who reasons and move under logic; because of this, humanists were regarded by the Christians as heretics or those who rebels against the church (Black, 2001 p.275). The scholasticism did not argued with neither theology nor humanists but rather, they tried to correlate both. Their side tackled the materialistic occurrence of these theological beings such as angels, demons, gods, saints, Jesus Christ and Mary. Justifying their belief, they had formulated the sculptures and physical figures of these religious ornaments. For them, these were the material presentations of their religious beings but for others, they view it as the revival of classical arts.
Renaissance Arts and the Influence of the Theorists
Art, during the renaissance period, had already become the center of attraction. Works of art are assumed to possess meaningful, purposeful and functional image and not just the external picture itself. The theories of humanism and scholasticism greatly contributed to the development of renaissance art (Paolettii & Radke, 2005 p.12). Renaissance art was regarded as a rediscovery of the principles and spirit of ancient art, a three-sided influence among ancient work. The transition of theological beings from unseen to material manifestations, as proposed by scholasticism, had triggered the humanistic interventions. Since human eyes do not yet know beings like angels, demons or those unseen, the humanists illustrated these theological characters in humanistic form. This is the reason why these beings are in the form of human even though, man is not yet sure, if these beings are really in human form. This perspective had a great impact in the renaissance art (Henry & Parkinson, 1993 p.18-19). The human figure of humanism blended with the reasons of scholasticism and in the end, resulted in the arts of humanistic realism. David, the theological creation of Michelangelo, and Mona Lisa, the enigmatic smile of Leonardo da Vinci, had been part of these theoretical influences.
David and Mona Lisa – Painting & Sculpture
The liberal arts of painting and sculpturing are two of the most common depicture of classical renaissance art. These works of art manifests the theories of humanism and scholasticism, which evidently show in the works of various renaissance artists.
David illustrates the humanistic sculpturing talents of Michelangelo. Analyzing the work of Michelangelo, we can see that the theories proposed are greatly evident in the whole concept of this art. David naturally holds a privileged position. This is the first large public statue since antiquity to be completely nude, and his stance is that of a classical hero at rest full weight on one leg, while the other is free to counterbalance the position of the arm, all elements leading the attentive observer to comparisons with ancient art (Falletti, 2004 p.13). Applying the theories proposed in the latter part of the paper, we can see that the humanistic character reflects evidently in the figure of David. Not only it is beautiful to look at, but also the sense of heroism and manly character resides in the sculpture in a very detailed way.
As with Michelangelo, sculpturing, during the time of renaissance, are greatly influenced by three factors, theology, reason and imagery. The concepts of the sculptures are primarily related to religious characters such as David (1501-4), St. Matthew (1505-06) and St. John the Baptist (1455-60) while politics and history are also part of the contributing themes. The humanistic approach are carried in this theological beings, creating depicture of humanly image. Scholastics require manifestations of these religious beings therefore; the sculpture depicts the realism and materialism of man, so-called by humanists, imaginary beliefs.
Mona Lisa of 1502 is the famous work of Leonardo da Vinci, which is portrayed using painting as the field of art. The painting of Mona Lisa, is a portrait of a woman with a half-smile on her face, means allusive mystery. This product of da Vinci is worth an enormous amount or even priceless; however, the gorged products of Mona Lisa are worth a little since the unique contours of her smile stands unique. The aesthetic value attaches onto the perceptual painting of Mona Lisa. In order to create the calm and civilized stature of the object, Leonardo da Vinci has utilized the pyramid design. The hands positioning, neck, breast and facial contours are all systematically portrayed to commune simplicity. Geometrical structure of this painting is strictly angled and balanced, considering that this type of strategy is rarely achieved. Mona Lisa is known as the first painting to illustrate the sitter prior to an illustrative landscape. If we analyze the background of the painting, we can see the landscape that shows mountains with ice. The subtle indications of human presence are seen in the illustration of windy paths and a bridge.
Painting, being the next field of art, also has form part in the renaissance art development. During this period, the paintings are also influenced by the said theories. The illustrations of human postings with definite adaptation to realism and imbuement of mystery is widely seen. This is because of the propose purposely driven art by the scholasticisms that triggered the trend of such paintings. Beauty is not the primary substance of painting during that time, but the purpose and hidden meanings involved in the art. Moreover, the aesthetic values are decided upon the significance of the paintings’ meaning and not only by its beauty.
In the end, we can justify that the renaissance philosophical movements, particularly in the side of the primary theories – humanism & scholasticism, have greatly molded the depiction of arts during that time. Beauty is not even essential or the fore most part of the art but rather, the substance and purpose embedded in it are the criteria that produces the aesthetic value. Seen in the arts of Mona Lisa and David, the realism and the core mystery imbuement are all present but hidden. This is the aesthetic value of painting and sculpturing. To seed in the reason and purpose, which is the true beauty, and hide it in the physical eyes, is the main reason why analysis is essential in deciphering the meaning of the artworks.
The characteristics of renaissance art even adapted in the preceding periods and created less significance to outside appearance of the art but rather in its inner aspect.
Black, R. (2001). Humanism and Education in Medieval and Renaissance Italy: Tradition and. Cambridge University Press.
Dewey, J. (2007). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. NuVision Publications, LLC.
Falletti, F. (2004). Michelangelo’s David: A Masterpiece Restored. Giunti.
Henry, G., & Parkinson, R. (1993). The Renaissance and Seventeenth-Century Rationalism. Routledge.
Nuert, C. (2006). Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe. Cambridge University Press.
Paolettii, J. T., & Radke, G. M. (2005). Art in Renaissance Italy. Laurence King Publishing.