Humans in Art

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The Human Form In Art

Michael Herren

Art 1150.01N

19 November 2008

The Renaissance art produced in Europe in the historical period called the Renaissance. Broadly considered, the period covers the 200 years between 1400 and 1600, although specialists disagree on exact dates. The word renaissance means “rebirth”. The two principal components of Renaissance style are the following: a revival of the classical forms originally developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and an intensified concern with secular life—interest in humanism and assertion of the importance of the individual. The Renaissance period in art history corresponds to the beginning of the great Western age of discovery and exploration, when a general desire developed to examine all aspects of nature and the world. 3

During the Renaissance, artists were no longer regarded as mere artisans, as they had been in the medieval past, but for the first time emerged as independent personalities, comparable to poets and writers. They sought new solutions to formal and visual problems, and many of them were also devoted to scientific experimentation. In this context, mathematical or linear perspective was developed, a system in which all objects in a painting or in low-relief sculpture are related both proportionally and rationally. It was regarded as a window on the natural world, and it became the task of painters to portray this world in their art. Painters began to devote themselves more rigorously to the rendition of landscape—the careful depiction of trees, flowers, plants, distant mountains, and cloud-filled skies. They studied the effects of light out-of-doors and how the eye perceives all the diverse elements in nature.3

Donato di Niccol’o Niccolo di Betto Bardi was one of the best artist around and an major innovator in Renaissance art. Donatello was born in Flornce Italy in 1386. In his formative years he assisted Ghiberti in Florence with the bronze doors for the baptistery. By 1406 he had begun to work on the cathedral. His marble David still echoed the gothic form, but his St. Mark and St. John the Evangelist mark a turning point toward a new humanistic expression.1

The Statue of David depicts a young David standing nude (it is his first large-scale bronze nude statue in the renaissance) and holding in his hand Goliath’s sward, above the head of the dead Giant. As to its dating there is no agreement among the scholars, the most acceptable view suggest the statue to be from the 1440’s. It is the same subject as his earlier marble statue of the same scene from 1408-09, however it displays a very different David than the well-dressed victorious king. It is also different in the moment depicted because at the marble statue David still holds his slingshot, and hasn’t taken up the Giant’s sword in order to slay him.4

Donatello’s statue depicts a nude, with some feminine features. Having feminine body serves both as a possible explanation of Jonathan’s love for him because he was so beautiful like a woman as well as to show that his accomplishment in tossing the stone at Goliath was not a result of his feminine like physic but rather of God’s will. As in Michelangelo’s David, it could be demonstrated that the nudity of Donatello’s David is a possible interpretation of the biblical text describing the biblical hero and future king in the time of the fight with Goliath. David’s nudity at the time of the battle is contrasted with Goliath’s heavy armor, for the head, which is visible under the Hero’s feet, is covered in the most part by an iron helmet.4

However, Donatello’s David unlike the later figure by Michelangelo, is not completely nude. David wears a hat, which has a laurel on top, and a pair of boots on his legs.4

This might serve, as a kind of comic response to religious minded critics who might claim it is improper nudity of the Biblical hero and ancestor of Christ....
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