In some ways the Renaissance turned the world and man’s place in it upside down. In the years between the fall of Rome and the mid 14th century, the Catholic Church dominated Europe and. The pope and monks controlled learning and taught that the world was God’s creation and that man was weak and full of sin. Around 1350 in Italy, a rebirth of art and ideas, which we call the Renaissance made it’s first appearance. Attention began to shift from God to man, from heaven to earth, from astrology to reason, and from despair to optimism. Three areas where this expression and discovery illustrate how the Renaissance changed man’s view of himself and the world are in art, literature, and astronomy.
One area where Renaissance artists expressed their interest in human nature was in paintings. First compare the picture of the Madonna with the Renaissance painting of the Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci showed a woman as she really looked. He used shading, natural folds in clothing and human expression to paint a person. This is very different from Buoninsegna’s painting. He painted a statue. The face has few features, and is 2 dimensional. The child looks like a little man, and he uses religious symbols to portray emotion. Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa demonstrates the new Renaissance idea of human nature because it illustrated a shift from the use of symbolic representation to convey and idea to the use of human emotions or recognizable scenes. It also shifted focus from religious figures to the individual in a natural setting with greater realistic detail.
Literature is another area where the Renaissance changed thinking about man’s nature. According the play, Everyman, people have nothing to look forward to but, sin, death, and judgment. More than 200 years later, William Shakespeare writing celebrates man’s existence, “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason!…” Whereas, medieval Everyman sees man as powerless and the message is depressing, Shakespeare’s Hamlet sees human beings as incredible and beautiful, full of potential.
Still another area where Renaissance thinkers influenced how Europeans thought about man’s nature was in the area of astronomy.