When we hear the term Renaissance Man, it refers to a person who is multi-talented and is an expert in several different fields and intellectual pursuits. The renaissance covered about 300 years and is generally believed to have started in Italy with a resurgence of scholarly learning and pursuits.
Although there were others, Michelangelo and da Vinci are two of the most well-known of Renaissance men. Their art, architecture, poetry, music and scientific explorations and accomplishments are the embodiment of what it means to be a Renaissance man. The two men were contemporaries and stories are told of their bitter rivalry and dislike for each other.
Michelangelo was born in 1475 near Florence, Italy. He began his apprenticeship at age 13 in the studio of Ghirlandaio. His primary benefactor was the powerful Medici family. Among his most famous works are the statue of David, the Sistine Chapel, The Pieta and his architectural masterpiece, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo lived to the old age of 89 years.
He believed that the marble he was about to carve already contained the image, and his purpose was to set the image free. He wrote many sonnets and poetry. Irving Stone wrote “The Agony and the Ecstasy” a historical novel about the life of Michelangelo which was later made into a movie. Although it is historical fiction, it is well researched.
Michelangelo was a very religious man and acknowledged the divine providence that guides his hammer in a poem ca. 1528 writing the following:
If my crude hammer shapes the hard stones
into one human appearance or another,
deriving its motion from the master who guides it,
watches and holds it, it moves at another's pace.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452 in the village of Vinci, Italy and later moved to Florence with his family, and was apprenticed to Verrocchio. Among his most famous works are the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. His drawing of the Vitruvian Man, sometimes called the Proportions of Man, portrays a man with his arms outstretched within a circle in a square. The Vitruvian Man is intended to show classic ideal proportions. This has become an iconic image for many artists and has been adopted and modified and used in logos and advertising for decades. Da Vinci was also a mathematician, architect, botanist and engineer. He designed military weapons and chariots and worked on urban renewal projects in Milan, Italy. He died in 1519 at the age of 67 years.
Resources: Stokstad, M. 1995. Art History. NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, Prentice Hall, Inc
Poem was taken from the website: http://www.mcah.columbia.edu/arthumanities/pdfs/arthum_michel_reader.PDF