View Page: Ancient Influences on Renaissance Art
University of Washington Honors Program in Rome

Ancient Influences on Renaissance Art
Section One 1 of 5

  Historical Background
Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II, a patron of the arts.
The Renaissance is everywhere known as a rebirth, but what was it a rebirth of? It was among other things a rebirth of the aspirations towards classical ideals in art. These ideals included realism, harmony, symmetry and the idea that physical perfection in art implied a perfection of both mind and spirit. This was a massive contrast to the art of the middle ages, but exactly in line with the work of the Greeks and Romans.

At this same time Rome was finally beginning to grow back up as a city. People were populating regions that had been left to desolation and ruin for over a thousand years, only to in many cases find valuable ruins while plowing a field, or expanding upon a foundation. This allowed for massive inspiration in the arts through the rediscovery of long lost ancient works, as well as a general haunting from the Romans' unimaginably impressive past.

Pope Julius the second enjoyed his pontificate from 1503 to 1513. During this time he had the 'Bellvedere Courtyard' constructed by the skillful Bramante. This was the era of many great discoveries such as the Laocoon and Julius II was a lover of these ancient works. This was indeed a perfect match as this courtyard was perhaps the first museum ever built for this specific purpose.

This was also the era of the great Michelangelo. Michelangelo enjoyed a position of favor in the Pope's eye, leading to an incredibly amount of access to these great works and inspiring him to magnificent ends. While of course others were to be inspired by these same ancient works, many were so inspired through the great work of Michelangelo rather than the originals. As such a great master of the times he had few peers who worked at an equal level of skill, leaving only the work of the ancients to learn from and compare to; they were to serve as both his mentors and his rivals.