I think that coming out of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance was a whole new society. The idea of humanism is so inspiring – the ability to rely on oneself and not on other gods (Zeus, rain gods, etc.). I think that, with the halt of depicting humans with naturalistic looks, the artworks from the Renaissance look astonishing. The sculptures are created so wonderfully that they reflect reality. The great detail displayed in Donatello’s David contains great accuracy. During the Renaissance period, human anatomy was of major importance. In David, the proportions of the limbs reflect that of a real-life person. Unlike the Greek sculptures from the Classical period, the muscles in this sculpture are subtle and not overly accentuated.
David was actually one of the pieces I used for my curation project and is probably my favorite one. My theme was the “Ideal (hu)man” and it illustrates how various cultures have different standards of beauty. There were some details about David in the lecture, but here is some more information about it.
David is a sculpture that was created during the Italian Renaissance and has a lot of the Classical-era features such as the S-curve with the hip pop. Between the Classical period and the Renaissance, there was a drastic decrease in artwork of the human body, due to the belief that such artwork would be considered a form of idolatry.
This work would be very shocking during that time as the sculpture may have been very provocative – while David is not completely nude, the only garments he is wearing is a hat and boots. Mentioned in the lecture, the feathers extend well above the knee towards the inner thigh. This is a drastic change compared to the conservative Middle Ages when Christians believed that the body was corrupt and thus focused more on the soul and geometric designs. Although this sculpture depicts a Biblical story, the overall artwork is very sensual.
Coming out of the Dark Ages, there had not been a lot of advancements in science and the study of the human body. A more popular sketching is Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci which really goes into detail about the proportions of man. The Renaissance artwork provided a lot of insight to the natural human body. The pose that David is in is called contrapposto, with the majority of his weight focused on one leg. This pose allows the shoulders and arms to be off-axis from the waist down. It allows the body to appear more natural and less archaic. It is clear that the sculpture was influenced by the Greek and Romans. Composed of bronze, this statue is hollow and was sculpted using lost-wax casting.
The study of anatomy is also seen in this sculpture – the proportions of the body reflect that of a real-life person. Unlike the Greek sculptures from the Classical period, the muscles in this sculpture are subtle and not overly accentuated. While David shows subtle muscle definition, they are not exaggerated.
The details in this sculpture are also extraordinary. The sword that David yields contains indents along the blade. The wrist and toes also show minuscule detail that reflects reality. The facial expression on David shows a hint of pride, and the sculpture as a whole not only reflects the Bible story, but also the political situation in Italy at that time.
Additionally, I was awestruck while learning about the dome of Florence Cathedral. Not only was Brunelleschi able to create the largest dome in history (and still is the largest dome today), but he did so as an amateur with no formal training. For me, something like that is like failing all my chemistry classes my senior year and switching to engineering and producing something great without all the engineering classes.
I think that we are currently living in a renaissance time. There have been so many changes in the past several years, and there is so much vision for the next few years too. Technology has rapidly changed in the past decade, and there is so much more to be done. New policies with net neutrality and data gathering are still at debate. There also has been major political change, such as legalization of gay marriage and marijuana, and Trump as our new president.
It seems we have not reached an equilibrium – a fine balance within our society. There are great things that we have accomplished in the fields of medicine and communication. Yet, there are still so many things we need to work on, such as education and social justice. Racism is still a large problem in the southern United States, especially with the more recent issues about deportation and DACA. Additionally, there are many outdated textbooks still being used in public schools.
I think we are in the midst of a renaissance, yet there are still areas in which we need one. The idea of self-education is available with the help of internet search engines, but there are so many things we can improve on as a society.
Adams, L. S. (2001). A History of Western Art (3rd Edition ed.). New York , New York: McGraw Hill.
Baumann, Paul. “Donatello’s David.” SUNY Oneonta
Harris, Beth, and Steven Zucker. “The Study of Anatomy.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy
Harris, Beth, and Steven Zucker. “Donatello, David.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, 20 Nov. 2011