According ages were challenged by the rational movement

According to Jacob Burckhardt, a
historian of the Renaissance, after the collapse of classical civilization, Western
Europe endured a thousand years of darkness under the oppressive hand of the
church in the feudal order. However, Italy lead to the rediscovery of classical
literature and a secular anti-religious set of values which constituted a new
and distinctly modern philosophy of life that glorified the individualist
creator and featured the attractions of the earthly life. Similarly, humanism
synthesized on the importance of living the moment and focusing on the present
and social values as opposed to living for the afterlife by dedicating all
actions to the measurement of one’s spiritual values. This was the approach
that promoted the success of classical civilizations. Civil and religious
authorities in the middle ages were challenged by the rational movement (the
renaissance) that took place in Italy because it positively contributed to both
religion and education by infusing the respect towards intellectual freedom.

The Renaissance humanists did not neglect or deny their Christian faith in
contrast with later forms of humanism; rather they solely aimed to create a
more direct line for the massive, excluding some of the middle management of
the church, their purpose was to motivate the individuals to have a singular
expression in determining their destiny and future. Humanism’s influence on the
visual arts was illustrated by the growth of realism, the use of perspective
and the representation of nature, as well as the classical emphasis on the

During the Early Renaissance
artistic subjects matters were profoundly influenced by the Christiane doctrine
as it was authorized by the Catholic church, however as the introduction of
humanistic value increased, artists gradually included secular artistic
subjects that were influenced by tales from classical mythology, a theme that
mirrored the private interest of patrons and collectors, it also reflected the
gender performance and masculine identity by expressing the same sex erotic
behavior. Moreover, Artists created allegorical images based on the Greek and Roman
classics that were commissioned by educated and wealthy people who pursued the
honorable academic study of classical literature, therefore artists who were
appointed as no more than craftsmen were raised to a higher status that is
similar to writers, scientist, and musicians as a result of the greater
implementation of rational and intellectual content to their work.

Correspondingly portraits were commissioned by all patrons of Renaissance art because
portraits were a symbol of one’s high social status, it determined power and
success as well as acted as a source of recording that for posterity. An
example of a portrait that released it’s constraints with religious medieval
values and shifted towards an affinity for classicism is the school of Athens,
a Fresco by Raphael. This portrait exemplifies many of the main renaissance
values. The artist included paintings of arches and classic philosophers as a
portrayal for classicism. He implemented a focus on people with central
positions such as Plato and Aristotle and other great thinkers, emphasizing the
importance of knowledge. This portrait depicts people exploring the world,
rather than solely depending on god for the explanation of the mysteries of the
world. Individualism was demonstrated in this painting through the artist’s different
and realistic modes of expression implemented on every individual in the
painting. The school of Athens detaches itself from religious affinities;
however, it represents human capabilities, power, and contribution. The main
focus of this painting is the two intelligent people, not God, which similarly
symbolizes gradual drift from religion and the decrease in religious dominance.

The Renaissance allowed art to assert
a more realistic tone to the paintings, for example, the Madonna and Child
painting by Ducci, 1300 and The Rest on The Flight into Egypt by Gerard David,
1597 depict more or less the same scene, the Virgin Mary or Madonna with the
infant Jesus. The Lighting in the Madonna and child is spread throughout painting
creating evenness, which prevents the viewer to focus on the main subject of
the painting, noting that there is no background in this portrait. Proportions
do not correspond to realistic proportions, especially between Mary and the
infant. On the other hand, the High Renaissance artist Gerard David’s use of
lightning in his painting is not uniform; his use of the light-dark method,
which is the propinquity of the usage of dark and light colors, creates a
contrast between edges and surfaces in the painting. Moreover, David follows
the development of linear perspective by alluding to the viewer an illusion of
a three-dimensional image as well as the development of mathematical terms of
proportion; he matches the proportion of the object with the relative
proportions of its representation following the representation of perspective
and human anatomy. Using these various methods allows the viewer to strongly
connect with the portraits in a personal level as well as it helps in
connecting the present with the past because of it’s realistic depiction of the
people from the century that it was painted in.


Renaissance art had various
functions some of them are it’s portrayal of social status through depicting
the ruling classes and prosperous merchants not only through the painting but
also though gifting paintings know as donor portraits. Portraits were
commissioned as a confirmation of one’s religious faith. However, it was also a
way for one to wash away his/her sins by contributing to the church and
providing it with additions or even restorations. The portraits, later on, act
as the memorial of the person who commissioned it. It’s presentation in the
church allowed people to pray for the immortal soul. In these portraits,
symbols acted as a device to signify wealth, qualities, lineage, and
accomplishments. Wealth was depicted through the assertation of certain
elements in the paintings such as jewelry and ornaments. An example is Lavinia
Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman. The symbolic features in this portrait can
be drawn from the white pearls that the woman wears – the diamonds and pearls
can be found on her shoulder together with a head brooch, a headdress, and a cap
framed with pearls, following is the word “LEAlTA” or loyalty engraved on the
pearls on her sleeve. During the 15th century, pearls were the most expensive
gem, they also stood for purity and virginity and were often gifted to brides
henceforth they had a significant role in constructing the women in the
painting’s identity to the viewer. This image along side other portraits during
the renaissance period witnessed the glorification of human and social order by
using the mode of realism and the emphasis on the human being.

The Renaissance was illustrated by
the representation of the human figure as a specific cultural movement
concentrated on the “rise of the individual” and the “discovery
of man.” (Burckhardt,1860). For writers who followed the tradition of
Burckhardt, the renaissance body symbolized a sense of heroic individuality to
demonstrate a specified subjectivity not apparent in medieval art; as a result,
it affirms a sensual experience and physical sensation, and to be free of the
modesty and body shame ingrained in medieval Christianity. It represented
essentiality, the rebirth, and renewal of a classical culture revolved around