The Great Debate Of Art

In my age of reason class we were asked to once again blog, and this time I chose to write about a topic that interested me very much.  While many of my classmates wrote about the comparison and progression from ancient art to modern art, I chose to write on the differences between iconic art and humanistic art.


Humanist art depicts very important people, and is very detailed, even including objects and events that may not catch your eye at first.  For example, the painting School of Athens, by Raphael, includes people such as Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and Socrates, the greatest scholars ever.  But the main point in the painting, the spot that attracts your attention, is the central figures that seem to be above the commotion.  The figure on the left is Plato, and the figure on the right is Aristotle (explain the background of Aristotle and Plato).  One significant part of these characters is their hand gestures; Plato is pointing up, signifying that we should be interested in the “supernatural” and abstract subjects such as astronomy and math.  But Aristotle is gesturing down, indicating that we should be concerned with what happens in the physical world, and we should be interested in history and science.


You an also notice that the room is completely split down the middle showing such figures as Pythagoras (Pythagorean theorem) and Socrates on Plato’s side, but on Aristotle’s side students are studying, and even Raphael himself is present, staring straight at us, seeming to be the only one aware of an “audience.” Also depicted on Aristotle’s side is Herticles, who is the only one slumped over, who is hard at work.  This example of Humanist art shows the great deal of hard-to-find detail involved in this painting, and is also a wonder, the skill of the painting itself celebrating the potential that humans can achieve.


Iconic art on the other hand is very straightforward and is not meant to be thought about but rather looked at and appreciated.  It is not meant to show what humans can achieve, or debate a topic, but rather to appreciate God and what he has done, and these icons are often just portraits of religious figures.


In my opinion I think that humanist art is much more interesting, and in terms of these famous examples a much better piece of art.  The Virgin Mary icon is a very blunt, very straightforward painting whereas the School of Athens makes you think about the characters involved in the painting and the general feeling of the characters.



  1. amandagowithit

    Nice post Sebby! I never knew so much about each piece of artwork. Since you mentioned that you humanist art better, do you happen to have a favorite piece or favorite artist?


  2. vijaye


    This is an excellent post filled with rich details that clearly highlight your extensive knowledge of renaissance art. However, you refer to the Virgin Mary as very “blunt” and “straightforward”. Why do you think people appreciate this piece of art?


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