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How Was the Human Body Represented in the Works of the Renaissance?
The art of the epoch of the Renaissance was represented mostly in the religious motives, but it must be noted that the art of this period is considered to be revolutionary for art in general. The mythological and biblical characters were the main objects for the artists of this period and the main sources of the inspiration. The focus on the representation of the human body was made on the reality and the correlation with realistic human bodies. The artists of this period tend to picture the human bodies in detail, and they tried to make their characters in the pictures look alive.
The idea of beauty in the Renaissance was different from the ideal of the previous period. It must be noted that the taboo of the human body which was implemented by the church in the previous period was eliminated and the human body became the center of the art of the Renaissance. It must be noted that in the previous period, a woman’s body was considered to be the path to sin, but in the epoch of the Renaissance, the female body became the representation of beauty, and the soul was moved to second place.
The artists of the Renaissance tried to find the formula which described the ideal human body. “It is known, that a sweep of human hands approximately is equal to human growth. It means that the human figure can be inserted into a square and a circle” (Stakhov and Olsen, 43). The art of the Renaissance came back to the ideals of antiquity. The representation of the differences between the male and the female bodies became the synonym of beauty. That is why the artists of that period tend to picture the female bodies in the manner which showed the differences and their female characteristics. The beauty of the female body was considered to be the body which was ready to give life to children. That is why the wide hips and big breasts were represented as the ideal of beauty. For the artists of the epoch of the Renaissance, the healthy woman’s body was considered to be the ideal of attraction.
Also, it is important to note that maturity was considered to be attractive. The elder women were considered to be the most beautiful by the artists and they pictured them more often than the bodies of young girls. This is why artists of that period often portrayed a woman who fed a baby with her breast. There is a strict connection between the ideal of the woman’s body and maternity. The artists of the epoch of the Renaissance saw beauty and mystery in the pregnant woman. They pictured the pregnant women, and they represent the pregnancy as the most attractive and the most beautiful which makes the woman even prettier and more attractive.
The clothes became more open; women bought fake hips and stomachs in order to look bigger. In the epoch of the Renaissance it was not taboo to pose for artists naked, and even more, there was a fashion to picture loved ones without clothes. “The nude was not only a supreme test for artist: there is much contemporary evidence showing that these images were openly recognized to arouse sexual feelings, in women as well as in men” (Tinagli, 5). It must be noted that there is a connection between the growth of the market relations and the manufacturing and the fashion for pregnancy. The society faced the need for more workers, and that is why the art pictured so many pregnant women and naked human bodies. In the epoch of the early Renaissance, there was a fashion for thin necks and light pale skin, and that is why women tried to look slimmer and to make their skin paler. The epoch of the Renaissance changed the ideal of the beauty; the women tried to look bigger, and woman had to be tall and with a massive figure which was able to become pregnant. Women’s breasts became the object of attention in the epoch of the Renaissance. The artists and the sculptors pictured this part of women’s bodies very often and they drew much attention to it. This part of the body was strictly connected to maternity and pregnancy. Also, it must be noted that the artists were interested in human anatomy in order to depict the human bodies in a more detailed way, but they faced the difficulties which were related to sources for the study of anatomy (Gent and Llewellyn, 118). The study of human anatomy was limited in that period. Anatomic theaters gained popularity during this era. These demonstrations were popular not only among the medical workers but also among the elite and the artists who tended to learn more about the structure of the human body (Sawday, 16). This fact contributed to the development of the realistic depictions of human bodies in this epoch.
It must be noted that the art of the epoch of the Renaissance returned to antiquity and the period before the development of Christianity. The development of this religion moved the woman to the second place, the woman became the representation of human the first sin, and that is why the cult of maternity was removed. The art of the Renaissance tended to come back to the values of antiquity, but it must be noted that values were related only to the way in which the bodies were depicted. “From the fifteenth to the nineteenth century plenty of evidence confirms that apprentice painters first learned to draw eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hands, and feet, then human anatomy from bones to muscles to skin and clothes. This training aimed at preparing professional artists to depict the human body in any position without needing a model” (Pollali and Hub, 156). In the epoch of antiquity, the ideals of the human body were different; it must be noted that the artists of that period mostly pictured the sporty types of the figures which were strong and in good shape. But the sculptures of human bodies in the epoch of antiquity were very realistic, and it must be noted that the artists of the Renaissance copied the techniques which were used in the past. The artists of the Renaissance came back to the cult of pregnancy and maternity; they tried to put the woman in the leading position in their art.
Comparing the ideals of the human body in the epoch of the Renaissance to the modern standards, it must be noted that there are many differences. In modern society, the ideal of the human body is strongly related to thin and refined female figures and sporty male bodies. It must be noted that the ideals of the male body have not changed much throughout history so speaking about changes in the ideal, it is more convenient to compare the ideals of women’s bodies. The modern ideals tend to change, but the truth is that in the modern society big forms remain unattractive in mass culture. The epoch of the Renaissance implemented the tendency to consider healthy women’s bodies with big shapes to be the most attractive as they can give new life. In the modern society, the cult of maternity is not developed as it was in the epoch of the Renaissance; the tendency of thin bodies is dictated by the fashion industry because the clothes usually are made for small sizes. On the other hand, it must be noted that in the current world there is a new tendency of body positivity which claims that the most important thing is health, and that the woman should feel comfortable in their shapes despite the commonly accepted ideals.
In conclusion, it must be said that the representation of human bodies in the epoch of the Renaissance was related to the realistic tendencies and the cult of maternity. The ideals of the Renaissance differ from those of modern society or medieval period. The artists came back to the ideals of antiquity.
Gent, Lucy, and Nigel Llewellyn. Renaissance Bodies. Reaktion Books, 1997. Print.
Pollali, Angeliki, and Berthold Hub. Images of Sex and Desire in Renaissance Art and Modern Historiography. Routledge, 2017. Print.
Sawday, Jonathan. The Body Emblazoned. Florence: Taylor and Francis, 2013. Print.
Stakhov, Alexey, and Scott Olsen. The Mathematics of Harmony. [Hackensack], N.J.: World Scientific, 2009. Print.
Tinagli, Paola. Women in Italian Renaissance Art. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015. Print.