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The Influence Of Humanism In The Renaissance

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The Influence of Humanism in the Renaissance

For centuries, people looked to religion for the answers to their greatest questions. The Church had a firm grip of how people viewed the world. God's will was to be followed without question and any attempt to explain a phenomenon without God's involvement was heresy. When the Renaissance began to spread across Europe, the qualities of humanism became more prominent. Scientific and rational analysis was becoming of great interest compared to supernatural explanations. Renaissance world-view can be characterized by a growing humanistic orientation that can be demonstrated by analyzing cultural artifacts from the era.

Humanism created an interest in the Classical Latin and arts of past Greece and Rome. Humanist teachings focused on Latin and Greek grammar, rhetoric, poetry, ethics, and history. Paintings and sculptures once again began to focus on the beauty of the human body. A subtle sign of humanism's rising influence is Lorenzo Ghiberti's bronze panel, The Sacrifice of Isaac. The image was biblical in nature, but was also used to show the perfection of the human body. As Abraham is preparing to sacrifice Isaac, the observer takes notice of how Isaac is place on a pedestal. His nude body, while slightly leaning away from Abraham, is mostly erect, showing the sculpted muscular structure of what could be considered a perfect male specimen. Although it's possible to see the panel is a pagan view, the fact that it was chosen and Ghiberti given the contract shows how humanist ideals were already beginning to work their way into the world view of the time.

What is regarded as definite step in Renaissance taste is Donatello's statue David. The statue is the first freestanding nude since Roman antiquity. According to an analysis by Professors Lawrence Cunningham and John Reich, Donatello wanted to show the beauty of David's adolescent form wearing only greaves and a shepherd's hat (Cunningham 12). Michelangelo's rendition of David, sculpted less than a century later, looks even more reminiscent of ancient Roman styling. Meant to impress and awe its observers, it again in bodies the image of the beauty of the human body. Its large size, exaggeration of the length of the arms and hands, along with the contraposto pose, shows how quickly humanism ideas had spread with the Renaissance.

At first, humanism was actually thought by some to be a way of validating and supporting the Church. With man being viewed as the measure of all things, and man being created in the image of God, it would be shown how God is perfect in every way. Pico della Mirandola's literary work Oration on the Dignity of Man is a clear example of how the early goal of humanism was to create a better understanding of God, stating how humanity is the apex of creation, creating a link with the world of God and of the creation (Cunningham 24).

However, as the sciences began to contradict what the Church taught the public, humanism began to be painted in a more pagan light (Kreis). Copernicus's assertion that Earth was not in fact



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