This gallery focuses on Neo-Platonism as it appears in Renaissance art. Among other philosophies that manifested in the work during that time period, Neo-Platonism appeared at the forefront of the guiding ideals of the Renaissance. According to Art Through The Ages, the tenants of Neo-Platonism served as a means to interpret art, literature, mythology, and Christianity during the Renaissance. With its origins in Plotinus’s interpretation of Plato’s doctrine, Neo-Platonism wasn’t distinguished from Platonism until the Middle Ages. It differs from traditional Platonic philosophy in the sense that it attempted to reconcile other groups of thought with the established tenants. For example, Neo-Platonists attempted to reconcile Aristotle’s hierarchies with Platonic thought, an effort that influenced numerous philosophers including Augustine and Boethius. As I mentioned, Neo-Platonic thought was not limited in influence to philosophers; it influenced artists as well. Central to the philosophical movement is the idea that physical beauty and intellectual thought can assist one in spiritual transcendence and union with the “Good.” This idea manifested in Renaissance art. Many artists strove to appropriately and ideally portray man in order to attain that spiritual ascension. On the same note, Neo-Platonism was the means to illustrate the compatibility of earthly love and Christian theology. There was a prominent Neo-Platonic belief that the male **** symbolized a state of innocence, one without sin. Idealized nudity, therefore, reflected God and the Good. The **** figure is appears often in Renaissance art and in nearly each of the pieces I have selected. Birth of Venus- Botticelli: One of Botticelli’s most famous paintings, Birth of Venus portrays the birth of the mythological Goddess. Venus floats into shore with the aid of the God of Winds and to be greeted by the Goddess of the Seasons. The work is Neo-Platonic for a number of reasons. To begin, the scene is a reference to a Neo-Platonic poem written by Agnolo Poliziano. The **** figure, idealized and proportional, is also present in the Birth of Venus. From a Neo-Platonic standpoint, the work in its entirety can be interpreted as the birth of love and spiritual beauty.
Birth of Venus can be found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (http://www.uffizi.org/artworks/the-birth-of-venus-by-sandro-botticelli/). La Primavera- Botticelli: Another Botticelli piece, Primavera was painted by a member of the Medici family. The scene depicts a range of mythological Gods and Goddesses, all of which have some relation to love. The work represents purity and innocence, and once again incorporates the **** figure. The red flowers can be said to represent the blood of Christ, hinting at reconciliation between physical beauty and Christianity. For these reasons it portrays the ideals of Neo-Platonism.
Primavera can also be found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (http://www.uffizi.org/artworks/la-primavera-allegory-of-spring-by-sandro-botticelli/).
Michelangelo’s Moses, displayed in the Wilanów Palace Museum (http://wilanow-palac.pl/moses.html) in Poland, is a replication of an identically named statue housed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome. In the statues, very similar to one another, Moses is seated and gazing to his right. Using a technique called figura serpentia, Michelangelo was able to portray Moses in arrested movement, caught in what is called the “Neo-Platonic” moment. That instant involves being overwhelmed by a spiritual experience. Furthermore, Michelangelo created an idealized, but biblical figure, reinforcing the interplay between Christianity and physical beauty.
Madonna in the Meadow- Raphael: Raphael’s Madonna of the Meadow can be found in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/r/raphael/2firenze/1/32prato.html). It portrays the encounter of the infants Christ and John the Baptist, overseen by the Virgin Mary. The work has an extreme sense of clarity. When taken into account with his use of pyramidal composition, the two create a sense of human grandeur. The subjects of the painting are religious figures, once again uniting Christianity and physical beauty.
Portrait of Pope Leo X- Raphael:
Raphael’s portrait of Pope Leo * can also be found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/r/raphael/5roma/5/09leo_*.html). It is interesting to note that it is not typical in the sense that none of the characters are looking directly at the viewer. Because of the nature of their gazes, it is clear that Pope Leo did not want to be portrayed as a typical head of state. However, some of the objects in the painting, such as the open book in front of him, demonstrate a desire to be seen as an intellectual. This is a Neo-Platonic notion. Furthermore, the rich colors create another sense of human grandeur is also central to Neo-Platonism.