Art of Michelangelo in Relation to the Earlier Florentine Tradition Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1519 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Freshman  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

¶ … Michelangelo on the art and culture of Florence during the 16th century one cannot ignore the corresponding influence of Medici family. The Medici family's power and influence in Florence and Renaissance Italy in general cannot be overstated. The Medicis were an aristocratic family that virtually ran all political and social affairs, and some would argue religious affairs as well, in Florence for nearly two centuries from the mid-1500s to the early-1y00s. Their influence spread all the way to the papacy in the Vatican with four Medici family members having ascended to become Popes and they put their mark on history as they beautified Florence by patronizing architecture and the arts. The Medicis started one of the finest art schools that ever existed in the form of the Academia del Disegno that produced some of the best artists of the Renaissance.

The Medici's sponsorship of architecture and art produced many fine artists but none were greater than Michelangelo Buornarroti. The Medicis' sponsorship of Michelangelo allowed Michelangelo the freedom of produce some of the world's finest art but the art commissions granted to Michelangelo tell only part of the story as to the importance of the Medicis in Michelangelo's life. The Medicis also provided Michelangelo with political protection during his differences with the Florence politician, Savonarola. Michelangelo's differences with Savonarola might have ended his art career early but the Medicis' protection enabled Michelangelo to develop his reputation and cause him to be discovered by the Vatican that led to his being commissioned to sculpt the Pieta and the painting of the Sistine Chapel.

The Italian Renaissance was one of the most productive periods in the entire history of art which included paintings, sculpture, and architecture. This period witnessed a transformation in the social status of artists. Whereas artists had previously been viewed as craftsman, in Renaissance Florence they began to be viewed as true artisans. This meant that they were no longer considered as practitioners of the mechanical arts but as practitioners of the liberal arts. This transformation occurred as a result of the new emphasis in Renaissance art on the realistic description of figures and objects in painting and sculpture. This call to realistic depiction required an almost scientific examination by the artists to make figures and objects appear almost three-dimensional. Because this type of analysis involved the use of scientific methods artists began to claim that their profession required intellectual ability and knowledge and, therefore, they should be considered professionally superior to mere craftsmen. Artists used this argument to support their claim that they should be recognized as members of the liberal arts and not the mechanical arts.

Art in the mid-fifteenth century consisted of three specific disciplines, painting, sculpture and architecture. Florence, and the artists who lived and around Florence during this time frame, had a long lasting effect on the development of art. In painting the leading influence was Botticelli. Botticelli not only mastered the technique of using the line as a means of expressing movement he also used figures effectively inside his paintings to display examples of beauty. Botticelli successfully used expression on the faces of his figures to denote feeling. His emphasis was on the divinity of God and his painting style was indicative of the Florence school and remained so until Michelangelo brought his changes later in the century.

Michelangelo brought the influence of Neoplatonism into his paintings. Many viewed the Renaissance as a largely secular era but Botticelli had brought an emphasis on the Christian aspect. It was Michelangelo, however, that was best able to combine the pagan influence of the Neoplatonism with the Christian values of the era. In keeping with his neoplatonic leanings Michelangelo departed from the accepted standards of the day that required that painters faithfully represent their subjects, that is, the subjects of the paintings were expected to look as much like the actual person as possible. Michelangelo departed from this viewpoint. Many of his paintings resulted in the subject differing substantially from the actual model to the point of not resembling the subject in any way. He ignored standards that required that subjects in paintings appear proportional or that backgrounds be in perspective. Michelangelo often made objects in his paintings appear larger than they should be.

Michelangelo carried these departures from conventional Florentine tradition into his sculptures as well. Instead of attempting to produce artwork that mirrored reality, Michelangelo believed that the purpose of art was to represent ideal beauty. This concept was displayed in his famous sculpture, the Pieta, where he represents the Virgin Mary as being much younger than she actually was at the time of the crucifixion. Instead, he depicts Mary as a young woman. Similarly, he depicts David as a muscular, adult male when, according to legend, he was a mere boy at the time of his exploits.

Michelangelo's willingness to abandon the artistic disciplines demanded by the Florentine tradition was his belief that art should resemble an image of God. He believed that God implanted beauty in nature and that it was the responsibility of the artist to display the world in its most perfect form so as to honor God. Interestingly, Michelangelo also did not work from preconceived plans for his work. He believed that the canvas or stone provided the inspiration and that as he worked the canvas or stone would develop as it should naturally. Unfortunately, this philosophy resulted in many of Michelangelo's works never being completed as the inspiration was lost.

Much of Michelangelo's work was focused on human subjects but because he did not believe in the faithful representation standard proscribed by the Florentine Tradition his resulting artwork may only slightly resemble the subject. Michelangelo's goal was to portray the ideal form and not a reflection of reality. Whereas Botticelli and other Florence artists were determined to portray their art as closely resembling their subjects as possible Michelangelo was more concerned with honoring God by displaying his subjects as the ideal of beauty.

Consistent with his search for the ideal Michelangelo also rejected the standard of the day that depicted subjects fully clothed. Instead, Michelangelo often painted and sculpted his subjects in their nude form. For Michelangelo, clothing represented a connection to worldly affairs. By painting and sculpting his subjects in their nude form he presented them in their perfect form before being corrupted by worldly things. The lack of clothing represented Michelangelo's abandonment of earthly values and his devotion to God. For Michelangelo, the human form was God's perfect creation and was best viewed in the nude.

Michelangelo's influence on art and departure from conventional Florentine tradition was his use of his artwork to depict the conflict within man. Through distortions of the figures in his paintings and sculptures he took a different approach from most artists of his era who relied upon facial expressions to demonstrate glimpses into the soul and minds of their subjects. Michelangelo instead would distort the body of his subject to indicate emotional conflict without distorting the subject's facial features as his goal was to present his subject as near to the beauty ideal as possible. He believed that expressions of the soul should be done through depictions of bodily movements rather than through facial depictions.

Michelangelo's complete devotion to God was also brought out in his art. He believed that life was a journey toward a reuniting of the soul with God and his artwork often depicted the struggle between the individual's weakness for physical pleasures and spiritual fulfillment. Michelangelo believed that man must avoid worldly pleasures and work. Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling is an excellent depiction of this constant internal struggle within men between temporal and spiritual matters. In many ways Michelangelo's work epitomized the Renaissance period by recognizing that concentrating only on spiritual matters and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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