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(empathy piece written for history class)


Period: Renaissance 1300s to 1600s, focusing mainly on Renaissance art


Empathising with: A patron of the arts present in Florence, Italy during the Renaissance

The year 1350 in Florence, Italy, marked the beginning of a lot of a rebirth of ideas and practices, which, today, is known as the Renaissance. I write as a patron of the arts present in Florence around that time, and thus am able to give a firsthand account of what it was like.

Art had always been my genre of interest and I had always looked at it with great reverence. Artists were not just mere painters with a brush and an easel, but instead people whose paintings were a reflection of their very soul. Hence, it was troublesome, to say the least, when artists were looked at as craftsmen before the Renaissance. The arts were not merely a craft but an expression of the one’s character and personality.

Thus, the Renaissance brought forward a new beacon of light for both artists and art lovers. Artists were no longer looked at as craftsmen but instead were seen as practitioners of ‘liberal arts’, a move that gave a lot of us hope of new avenues in art opening up. Other than the hope and optimism though, it felt pleasant to see the arts being finally acknowledged as what they truly mean, and not just mere paintings. I say that this period brought forth the hope of new avenues of art opening up because of the advent of even better painting, sculpture and architecture. All in all, these advancements in art were truly exciting.

Before the Renaissance, art had mainly focused on religious topics, leaving a passionate art observer wanting more out of a painting than just religion. The way I saw it, religion can also be acquired through other means such as meditation, praying and going to the church. While the focus on religion via art was still admirable, the lack of anything else in art and the already existing modes of religion made me wonder as to what else might be present in the field of art. It is because of these that the Renaissance was so welcoming since it brought forth quite a few significant changes in art.

These changes that I mention include less focus on religion and more on other things such as landscape. Art even became more three dimensional than before, which made it pleasing for any of us to observe since everything now felt more lifelike. What captured my interest more was how well three dimensional figures were projected on a two dimensional surface, because it made for an interesting observation when analyzing paintings. Added to this, two fields of science were also incorporated into art, namely anatomy and mathematics. Now as an art lover, I never had much interest for science, but seeing them get integrated in my topic of interest helped open my eyes to a little bit of science too. Anatomy was used to draw faces and figures more properly, and mathematics was used to help attain a better three dimensional perspective. These things struck me as particularly ingenious because previously, when drawing, artists did not pay much heed to how precise a face looked or how accurate the distance between two objects was. Thus, these mediums of science helped give paintings a more lifelike approach, something that made them even more beautiful to observe. Every painting looked like it was telling a story, and the more realistic approach to drawing them made me, as an observer, feel like the faces painted could almost talk to me.

I was never an ardent worshipper and did not use to go to the church regularly. I felt that there were other ways to adhere to religion than just going to the church. However, my regular weekly visits to the church came by as a result of the Renaissance art in the church. This era saw two new approaches to art, one of which was the fresco technique, used for murals on church walls. The other technique was the tempera. With both these techniques, what I noticed was that art got a permanent look, as both tempera and fresco were used to make pictures and colours more permanent. In fact, these new techniques showed how art is not just about paint brushes and water colours and gives budding new artists some tips to work with.

One of my favourite fresco pieces was that of Virgin Mary and Jesus painted by Giotto. I particularly like this piece because of how well the figures were put out there and how convincing they looked. Somehow it was this conviction that gave those figures the reverence that was attached to them, even if they were just a part of a painting. I say this because as much as I revered the art piece itself, there was no denying the reverence of Virgin Mary and Jesus in it. Moreover, these figures were placed against an architectural background, which not only added to the ambience of the painting but also left me with a feeling of depth and an attraction such that I could easily spend hours just staring at that painting.

Some of the famous artists of the Italian Renaissance include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. Michelangelo also designed many frescoes, his most famous works being two statues: David and Pieta, while Raphael revolutionized portrait painting. I specifically mention these two artists because of the advancements in art they put forward that are still being used to date. Indeed, it was a very exciting time for artists.

Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps my favourite artist from the Renaissance, particularly because of his two famous paintings, The Last Supper and Mona Lisa. His works consisted of oil paintings, which further reinforced the fact how that period was a rebirth of art because oil paintings were an avenue that had not been explored a whole lot yet. Da Vinci’s works left me in a state of awe because of the amount of perfection they reflected, and how they reflect his intellect both as a painter and as a scientist. The Mona Lisa was a mystery for me, and will always be, because everytime I looked at that painting I wondered what was hidden behind the smile. The painting may have been famous for how the woman was a figment of Da Vinci’s imagination, but to me, that smile looks like it has many different stories behind it. Indeed, such was the realism of Da Vinci’s work. The Last Supper, another one of his famous paintings, has attracted my attention because of how well he has perceived the scene when Jesus announces that one of his disciples would betray him in a painting. Other than the realism and reverence attached to the characters using techniques similar to that of Giotto’s Virgin Mary and Jesus, it is interesting to note how a certain depth has been achieved in this painting. The rebirth of art gave us new ideas as to how to achieve depth in paintings by enhancing a distant view from rearview mirrors, as was the case in Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. These ideas were such that they gave pleasure in being able to witness the works of such famous and proficient artists.

When the Renaissance came about in Italy, I was there, and thus was able to witness the entire process. Being the art lover that I am, it was naturally very exciting for me to see art finally being given the recognition it deserves. This was an era when some of the most famous artists of the world came to light, and it gave me immense pleasure to be able to view their masterpieces firsthand. Renaissance art opened up new dimensions of art as never seen before, and is one of the major reasons why my love for art not only stayed alive but even grew.