The Renaissance Influence on an Artist Life Today

By Cayla Jackson

Like spring after a long Yukon winter or the promise of the cherry blossoms, the Renaissance brought new life to the arts after the dark ages. It allowed art to be more humanistic and natural even though it was still a time of great influence from Church and Nobles.

When I learned about the Renaissance, I learned about the power and persuasion the Church had with most art being created for mere religious purpose. But the church was not the only influence with powerful families including the Medici family using their patronage and wealth to increase the humanism of art. The Medici family used their money to increase their power and sponsor the most promising artists during the renaissance period. A lot of the renaissance paintings we see have included such great artists as Leonardo DaVinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello.

Donatello was an Italian renaissance artist who did many sculptures including "David" made in 1410 and "Judith slaying Holofernes" made in 1455. "David” was a bronze statue 158 cm high and 51 cm wide at the base, the first free standing sculpture of its time. It is the first nude sculpture executed in the history of art and not only supporting the birth of naturalism but depicted a sculpture full of resistance and emotion. This made me curious because if "David was the first sculpture that was fully naked what impact did it have on the renaissance and how did Donatello feel about it? Where did his inspiration come from? It is this sculpture that I connect with because of the emotion it portrays similar to the emotion I put into my paintings and artwork. I connect with the sense of my surroundings each time I create.

"Judith slaying Holofernes" was my favorite sculpture because of the story and power behind it. I think it shows the triumph of an intelligent beautiful woman over an ugly tyrant which provides me with such hope. It was such a powerful statement for the renaissance but shows how individualism was reborn and remains a vital part of art today.

Botticelli’s portrait of "La Bella Simonetta" (1480-1485) stood out to me. The portrait was of Simonetta Vespucci who was so beautiful with her portrait recreated by many. I was curious about the beautiful woman and why she was painted.

Simonetta was born in 1453 and her parents were grand nobles. She was married at the age of 16 to Marco Vespucci. Her life was short. “La Bella Simonetta” was pleasing to the eye and it makes me curious how the artist saw her. Was Botticelli so compelled by her beauty or was it the fact that her parents were Nobles and wealthy? I don’t believe that she was seen as a sexual object but a breath of outstanding beauty that demanded attention. Like a rainbow after a fresh spring rain or a sunset that takes your breath away, this woman could not be forgotten. I often wonder if anyone will see me as a worthy subject to paint or draw and if I will every take someone’s breath away.

Giuliano di Piero de Medici’s art piece " Venus and Mars" (1483) Tempera on Panel interested me because of the use of tempera which now most artists either use acrylic, oil or watercolor. It makes me curious why the artist picked tempera as his material but as it was made from egg yolk and ground color pigments it may have been a matter of convenience and working knowledge. "Venus and Mars" the subject of the painting was fascinating as the description with Mars in Venus' lap gazing up at her could be interpreted to depict a marriage, or love vs war. It was pleasant to the eye with the painting being created perhaps on a bedhead or piece of wainscoting. I felt like this painting could be interpreted as love conquers all. It is through the Medici family's power and sponsorships that artists like Giuliano were able to be inspired to create humanism, naturalism and independence giving art a new beginning that would influence many for years to come.

I feel like without art like Donatello's "David" we wouldn't have developed a more humanistic view of art or experienced an opportunity to express emotions through our creations. The rebirth of art and its power would have remained dormant like the warm earth under a layer of glacial ice. Without powerful families like the Medici family and the Church, I feel like art wouldn't be the same as it is today. Even today art is influenced by those families that are able to support the arts including the Federal Government. This answers my personal question “How did the renaissance affect our society today?"

Through the confidence and inspiration of artists like Donatello, Botticelli and Giuliano during the renaissance, art was given the chance to plant a seed and create its own path of hope, realism, humanism and independence. These are all characteristics that influence our society nearly 600 years later. It is because of these great artists that I am able to be here today using freedom, movement and color to draw and paint my joys, pains and emotions for others to see, feel and touch.

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