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).
Cited: Cunningham, Lawrence, and Reich, John. Culture & Values: A Survey of the Humanities Belmont: Thomson Higher Education Kreis, Steven. "Renaissance Humanism". May 13, 2004 The History Guide. February 11, 2008 < http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/humanism.html>