The human figure and its presentation in the art are some of the most important aspects in portraying how the world has become civilized over time. The nature of depicting the human figure has considerably changed in different eras, as shown in the three pieces of art shown below.
Duccio di Buoninsegnacreated the Maesta, which is an example of how the human form was depicted in art between 1300 and 1399. Done in 1308, the painting is regarded as one of the best historical works of art and used a combination of tempera and gold applied on wood. It is currently located at the Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, Siena.
The Maesta is an important piece of art since it represents the ideology of one of the earliest schools of art, Sienese School of Painting. Besides, it is a piece that shows how artists could apply the Byzantine form of art.
Figure 1: The Maesta Altarpiece
Maesta Altarpiece (1308-11)
The Maesta, in depicting the human form lacks the kind of naturalism that was introduced in the Renaissance art. The focus here was on the symmetrical composition of the work. This was realized through application of the vertical perspective, which was common during this period. The depiction of the human figure as shown in this piece of art is abstract and majorly two-dimensional. This is attributed to the fact that minimal technological advances had been made during the period .
Northern European Renaissance
Northern European Renaissance art is often overshadowed by the revival observed in Italian art during the same period. It is undeniable that Italian artistry profoundly influenced the northern European art, but the latter still maintained to keep its distinctive place in history.’ The piece of art referred to as The Crucifixion and The Last Judgment by Jan van Eyck, done in 1426 is one of the pieces or art during the period. It is currently located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It is a historical piece since it portrayed the work of one of the founders of the concept of Flemish painting. Also, it is a piece of art that built on the reputation of Jan van Eyck as one of Europe’s greatest artists, recognized even in Italy.
Figure 2: The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment
The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment 1426
The Crucifixion is a piece that showed the ability of artists in the Renaissance period to apply three-dimensional space. The human figure was more naturalistic in this age, as compared to the previous period. Besides, the combination of the portrayal of Jesus and that of the surrounding landscape is a concept that artists in this age used to evoke the desired emotions. The representation of the human figure showed the ability of artists at the time to combine realism with innovation. It can be argued that the improvement in the depiction of the human figure during this age came because of developments in technologies in aspects such as printing. The exposure to new lands and continents was also a factor that led to this kind of depiction .
Unlike in the early periods where the artists were focussed majorly on the spiritual aspect of the human body, the artists in the Italian Renaissance period were more concerned about the appearance of the body. The Vitruvian man is a sketch that was done by Leonardo da Vinci in 1487. The drawing made on simple paper is currently found in the Accademia Gallery in Venice.
The drawing is an important historical piece of art since it showed the development that man had made towards understanding anatomy. Besides, it was a demonstration of how the world was symmetrical in nature, just like in the art.
Figure 3: The Vitruvian Man
The Vitruvian Man 1487
The depiction of the human form was a show of artists to present a more naturalistic man, with people depicted more as sculptures that were common during the ancient Greek civilization. This depiction of the human form can be seen because of the close connection of art to science that the artists of that period had established. Their paintings took a more mathematical perspective, which explains how they were able to provide an illusion of three dimensions on their drawing surfaces .
Stokstad, M., & Cothren, M. (2013). Art History Volume 2, 5th Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions.