The Time of Renaissance Humanism in Italy
The Renaissance is a period in the history of culture and art, reflecting the beginning of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. The classical forms of the Renaissance took place in Western Europe primarily in Italy, but similar processes occurred in Eastern Europe and in Asia. Its main features are the return to the ancient aesthetic values, freedom of judgment, the realistic nature of art, man and nature in the center of philosophy.
The main feature of the Renaissance is the integrity and diversity of human understanding of life and culture. The Renaissance is related to the formation of secular culture and humanistic consciousness (Bartlett, 2013). Similar processes were developing in art, philosophy, science, morality, social psychology, and ideology in similar conditions. Humanists provided spiritual culture with the freedom of judgment, independence in relation to the authorities, and bold critical thoughts. Personality, powerful and beautiful, became the center of the ideological sphere. Nature was considered pantheistic. The Christian God was losing its transcendent character; He seemed to merge with nature, and Nature was deified and acquired the features which it did not have in antiquity.
The sharp increase in the authority of art did not lead to its opposition to science and trade. Equivalence and equality of various forms of human activity were recognized. Applied arts and architecture reached a high level in this era, having linked the artistic creativity with technical design and craft. Renaissance art has democratic and realistic character; in its center are Man and Nature. The main subject of the literature image is a person in the literature and his strong personality. Another feature of Renaissance realism is life reproduction with all its contradictions.
Renaissance Humanism, or Classical Humanism, is a European intellectual movement, which is an important component of the Renaissance. The sources of Humanism origin are groups of so-called humanists. They arose in Italy – in Florence, Naples, and Rome in the middle of the XIV century and existed until the middle of the XVI century (Pater & Beaumont, 2010). Its feature was opposition to the church and to the universities – traditional centers of medieval scholarship. Italian humanists of the XV century relied on the revival of ancient culture, philosophical and aesthetic principles which were recognized as an ideal.
The main principle of the entire Renaissance humanist ethics was the doctrine of the high destiny of the Man and his dignity The Man, endowed with reason and an immortal soul, has the virtue and limitless creative possibilities. He is free in his actions and thoughts. Moreover, he is in the center of the universe (Pater & Beaumont, 2010). This doctrine is based on the opinions of ancient philosophy, and also partly on the medieval theological doctrine that man was created in the image and likeness of God. The Man is “the measure of all things.” Also humanists emphasized the need for an organic society and socially harmonious development. In addition, humanists considered the world as a huge living and changing organism and Man (“a microcosm”) was a part of nature (“macrocosm”). In comparison, the medieval philosophers saw the world as a hostile environment and man was considered as a pawn in the hands of God. All these philosophical ideas were transmitted to art pieces, which became more candid.
As a result, the social fabric was changed. Nucleate first manufactories and new maritime trade routes were opened, there was a rapid growth of the cities, feudal relations were canceled, and there was a significant rise of science. Humanistic tradition inherent in human consciousness, contributed to the formation of the first civilian modern societies.
Ideas of the Renaissance and Humanism were clearly depicted in masterpieces of geniuses of that time. In Vatican City there is a chapel, built on the order of Pope Sixtus IV, and therefore was called the Sistine. By order of Pope Julius II the chapel’s ceiling and walls were painted by one of the geniuses of the Renaissance – Michelangelo. The most famous and impressive of all the mural paintings of the Sistine is The Creation of Adam, which is the clearest reflection of the spirit of the Renaissance.
On this mural God the Father flies in the infinite space, and wingless angels surround Him. He extended his right hand toward Adam’s hand and almost touches it. Lying on the green cliff, Adam’s body is gradually beginning to move, he comes to life.
The whole composition is focused on the gesture of two hands. God’s hand gives the impulse, and Adam’s hand takes it, taking the vital energy to the whole body. Depicting that their hands do not touch, Michelangelo stressed the impossibility of connection of the divine and the human (Janson & Janson, 2004). Their hands also represent the idea that a person’s fate is largely in his own hands, he is endowed by God with free will.
The image of God meets Renaissance ideas absolutely. According to the artist, in God dominates not the wonderful beginning, but the huge creative energy. It is important to note, that the part of the composition, where God is, looks like the human brain. This is another embodiment of the idea that human life obeys not only the laws of religion, but also the laws of science.
In the image of Adam Michelangelo extols the power and beauty of the human body. This is one more reflection of the ideas of the Renaissance – a return to the ancient artistic ideas (Janson & Janson, 2004). Naked body is no longer covered with a fig leaf. The mural portrays it in all its glory, with all the naturalistic details. Thus, this mural shows a not very creation of man but the moment when he receives a soul, a passionate search for the divine, a thirst for knowledge.
To conclude, the Renaissance had a great positive influence on the world culture development. The art of the Renaissance embodied the ideal of harmonious and free human being, nourished its culture. In the heyday of humanism science, poetry, architecture, and the visual arts reached unprecedented proportions. At that time the art of Italy became a realistic direction and affirmed secular nature, which was an important feature of the Renaissance. The ideas of humanism are the spiritual foundation of the flowering of Renaissance art. The brightest representative of its ideas is Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam mural in the Sistine. It displays the revival of antic traditions in the depicting of people and shows artists’ view of God, Man and their relationship.