Renaissance was one of the crucial moments in the past centuries representing art. Leonardo da Vinci was the archetypal Renaissance representative for humanistic values whereas Michelangelo Buonarroti was a fundamental figure for symbolizing the classical concept of perfection. With Leonardo's love for nature and Michelangelo's love for masculine beauty, the two unintentionally created a style in art that the world now embrace. They were both trained in Florence and both best known as a painter although Michel always believed himself to be more of a sculptor. They both studied human anatomy but the similarities end there. Leonardo used the knowledge to glorify man whereas Michelangelo used it to worship God. The techniques used in their paintings and other artistic achievements are similar in style, but different in presumption.
The environment Leonardo grew up was surrounded by trees, rivers and mountains. It was a conditioned environment for Leonardo to study configuration, which lead to building his skills in observing what is just above the surface. “...the painter's eye sees but the surface of things it must in rendering the surface discern and interpret the organic structure that lies beneath” quoted from a section in Leonardo's notebook (1998). Later it was also the landscape that encouraged him to paint. His developed ability of observation and skill as an illustrator enabled him to notice and recreate the effects he saw in nature that also added a special energy to his portraits. The famous portrait of the Mona Lisa has a dramatic landscape background which made it seem like the world was in a state of instability (Andrews, 2009). Leonardo used intense and vaporous colours in the distance and then luminous colours to conjunct with the foreground. The outline of the woman is emulated with the waves of the landscape and steady curves of the river and hills behind her, creating a harmony. It was known that Leonardo kept journals to record ideas and observations because he had a tough time trying to explain what he could see that others couldn't. His relationship with nature and personal curiosity allowed him to explore and experiment various subjects, including the human body. He combines logic and analytical observation into art. An example of this is The Homo - Vitruvianus, which is “a study of proportions with the human figure inscribed in a circle and a square (Keaton, 2005).” It was used to show the principle of motion that a figure makes “in itself” without changing position and with the implicit suggestion of spiral process.
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Michelangelo's art, on the other hand, mirror his love for male beauty. During the Renaissance, masculinity was idealized. However Michelangelo's subjects in his paintings will be either given a feminine side or a reflection that shows his sensual response to them. This factor bothered Michelangelo and it shows in his sculptures and drawings as he struggled between proper ideas and carnal desire. Michelangelo's personal diary mentioned his reflection on his first two sculptures, “Already at 16, my mind was a battlefield: my love of pagan beauty, the male nude, at war with my religious faith. A polarity of themes and forms...one spiritual, the other earthly, I've kept these carvings on the walls of my studio to this very day (Ruehring, 2006).” Michel is a very disturbed man. He had internal conflicts, issuing coiled and crude behaviour. His paintings and sculpture, however, have natural scenes of mother and child love.
“... What Michelangelo lacked in grace and gentility he compensated for in artistic force and grandeur (Ruehring, 2006).” He has strong feelings for his own beliefs on what perfection is and tries to implement those beliefs into his art work. The image Michelangelo created of St. Bartholomew in The Last Judgement was tragic and tormented. The reason for this is because he had his own face hanged hideously like melted clay from one of the saint's hand, creating a metaphor for the artist's tortured soul. He was a remarkable artist, but he left many of his works unfinished as if he was defeated by his own ambition.
Leonardo was more than just an artist. His background varies from an astronomer, to mathematician and inventor. This was resulted by his characteristic of curiosity making him want to experiment with anything he can get his hands on. He studies how the world he lives function in scientifically terms and isn't afraid to try different approaches. As a scientist, he has knowledge in the fields of anatomy and it shows in his accomplishments through details. He was the first artist who dissected the human body to allow him to understand the workings of muscles and other internal organs. He also holds interest in physiognomy allowing him to register face expression and placing that emotion onto paper. These qualities are shown through his famous paintings such as the Mona Lisa. The posture of Mona Lisa, “…Everything about it speaks reservation and silence”. The famous smile, for instance, had viewers producing their own theories as to what the smile of Mona Lisa signifies to. The effectiveness of the smile is strengthened when looking at her eyes. The whole portrait is made to centre on her face. “By surrounding the facing with the darkened surfaces of her dress, hair and veil, Leonardo utilized the natural lighting embracing her breast and hands to focus attention on the face (Andrews, 2009).”
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Michelangelo grew up hearing about Leonardo's established reputation in success. However he was more dedicated to artwork than Leonardo. He focused mainly on paintings and sculpture. He once wrote that “...a true and pure work of sculpture -- by definition, one that is cut, not cast or modeled -- should retain so much of the original form of the stone block and should so avoid projections and separation of parts that it would roll downhill of its own weight.” These words reflect Michelangelo's love of quarried marble and his respect for the very stone that lies at the heart of his chosen art form of sculpture. Michelangelo installs his subjects with “a sense of moral cause of action (EDinformatics, 1999).” One of Michel's famous successes was his sculptor of David, posed before the fight contemplating the battle yet to come with no armour... “The David is the ultimate projection of heroic choice and heroic action (Sandstead, 2009).” Michel has his own concept of beauty and perfection. He tries to implement his concepts through artwork. The “Pietà” involves with Mary holding a dead Christ in her arms. Mary's face appears to be peaceful but it is her left hand turned upward in helpless resignation that betrays the true depth of emotion, which relates to the intensity of her grief. In the face of Christ, it reveals slight traces of suffering being endured. The expression is composed to peacefulness, without lingering agony. Both faces were polished to perfection and ideal beauty during the Renaissance. Youth was a key.
Leonardo's notebooks became famous after his death. It concluded a lot of facts that he discovered during the days he still walked on Earth. In his notebooks, it shows his curiosity and interest in the structure of man. All parts of man, whether interior or exterior, has been analyze carefully by him. “If you open your legs so much as to decrease your height by 1/14 and spread and raise your arms so that your middle fingers are on a level with the top of your head, you must know that the navel will be the centre of a circle of which the outspread limbs touch the circumference; and the space between the legs will form an equilateral triangle” Quoted from Leonardo's notebook (1998). The Vitruvian Man created by Leonardo is a drawing of a male figure in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and simultaneously inscribed in a circle and square. This work is Leonardo's attempt to relate man to nature. He believed each limb, each organ was designed and adapt to perform is function. For example, the muscle of the tongue was made to produce sound within the mouth to enable man to pronounce many languages. The Last Supper features great dexterity and mastery of the human form. By placing all the spatial lines and perspective points within the framework of the painting to draw the viewer to the center of the table, Christ is at the central focus no matter the angle.
Religion was one of the factors inspiring Michelangelo. He felt obliged to reveal the spiritual beauty of God although he struggled between his own theories and the whisper of “false” theories surrounding him created by science and politics. Michel has a background with the Christian Church and did many sculptures and painting for the church. Commission from Pope Julius II himself, Michel was requested to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. His work told an intriguing biblical story of Genesis “... beginning with God separating light and dark, progressing to the story of Adam and Eve, and concluding with the story of Noah (Ruehring, 2006).” His Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel was described as an echo of extreme crisis. It portrayed the second coming of Christ and the Apocalypse. “... The souls of humanity rise and descend to their fates as judged by Christ and his saintly entourage (Penn, 2008).” The style being used was different from his other creations. His figures were noticeably broader and more menacing. The piece shouted nudity, resulting in complaints of indecency. “...concept of the event shows figures equalized in their nudity, stripped bare of rank (Ruehring, 2006).” The structure of the painting showed the division between blessing and the damned as the saved ascending on the left and the damned descending on the right. The frescoes ceiling is dominated by the tones of flesh and sky. The scattered use of orange, green, yellow and blue added to the complex scene. Christ appears to be surrounded by the aura of “divine light”. Across his loins, a mantle is the only cloth used to cover him giving the echoes of his resurrection.
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In Leonardo da Vinci's and Michelangelo Buonarroti's art paintings they often exhibit the usage of detailed imagery, vivid colors and an unconventional way of creating depth and volume in their works. Leonardo was a gentle, self assured and highly honored artist His genius laid in the fields of anatomy, science and technology while Michelangelo's genius lay in his ability to sculpt. Michelangelo was an unpredictable, reserved, conflicting artist yet was recognized as a rising star. Leonardo worked hard for his own gratification, Michelangelo worked hard at his commissions. Inspired by nature or religion and their personal concept of ideal beauty, the two bring the world of art an influence in which defines renaissance today.
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