What are your thoughts on the imagery of the Italian Renaissance and the philosophy of reawakening the “man [who] is the measure of all things” once again to art?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea of reawakening the artistry and culture of the past and giving new energy to the creative and inquisitive spirit of people is, indeed, one that inspires many. The Renaissance imagery and philosophy of cultivating man's interest and talents as a viable measure of culture and scientific advancement brought human beings out of the stagnation of the Middle Ages and revived the creative spirit, a spirit that is intrinsic to progress.

A representative of the new thinking of the Renaissance, Giovanni Pica della Mirandola declared that God made man and woman to know the laws of the universe, to appreciate its beauty, and to be in awe of its greatness. In addition, God gave human beings the freedom of will and the ability to love. Mirandola further declared,

...the Creator [said] "I created thee a being neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal only that thou mightest be free to shape and to overcome thyself. Thou mayest sink into a beast or be born anew to the divine likeness....To thee alone is given a growth and a development depending on thine own free will. 

Thus, the emphasis on the development of man's mind and spirit fell to man rather than to the Creator; blind religious devotion to the spiritual end of heaven characteristic of the Middle Ages moved to a new interest in human beings' place on earth with the Renaissance.

In order to "shape and overcome" their lower nature, those in the Renaissance sought to elevate the spirit and develop the mind with new knowledge of the world and science and art. To begin with, the classical arts and learning of Greece and Rome were revived. Artists such as Michelangelo and da Vinci inspired people. Then, too, there was a rebirth of intellectual energy. When the printing press was invented by Johann Gutenberg and books were printed, scholars as well as others were able to read books and expand their knowledge. Great men such as Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci designed inventions which improved scientific knowledge. Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci also left the world with inspiring art. For instance, the Sistine Chapel, whose ceilings hold the story of creation, has inspired many with its magnificent depictions of creation as Adam's finger touches his Maker's, and, then, Adam and Eve as they are expelled from the Garden of Eden.

After the Renaissance that began in Florence, Italy generated such art, innovation, and intellectual energy, other parts of Europe were influenced by this awakening, and they, too, markedly changed the path of many people's lives with remarkable achievements in art, science, and exploration.

Certainly, if Europe had continued to exist in the manner prior to the Renaissance, the world would be a far different and duller place. The art, learning, and discoveries of the Renaissance hold a beauty, inspiration, and significance that have truly changed humanity, as well as the course of history. Indeed, with its inspiring art and its reawakening of man's intellectual power, the Italian Renaissance produced a profound effect upon the civilized world.

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