Neo-Platonism seeks the existence or relation of the ideal or The One in the human life. This is what renaissance artists such as Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo are trying to depict through allegories in their art.
Botticelli, to start with, was one of the early artists to reflect neo-Platonism in his works. He used symbols and figures from pre-Christian beliefs to convey neo-Platonist ideas. Take one of his paintings for example, the Primavera which translates as spring. This painting includes nine figures from Classical mythology. On the center is Venus coupled with Cupid. On their right are Zephyr, Chloris and Flora and on the left are Mercury and the three graces. The figures on the right represent the coming of spring, nature and its beauty. In contrast to that are the figures on the left which represent reason and the pleasures of human life. These are two different points which harmonizes on the center figure.
Being a prime mover of neo-Platonism in art, Botticelli’s techniques are yet to be developed. The symbols he portrayed are literal and, for the educated and elite, too obvious. But even at this point he has already defined the essentials for neo-Platonism, the fusion nature and grace. Then came Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. They both relate ideas in their own way. Leonardo focused on structure and Raphael on evoking emotions. Leonardo is known on our time as an inventor and a scientist, and these qualities can be seen through his art. He was a master of proportions, shading, depth and ways of making his work look “real”. Even outside of the standard of beauty as long as his work looks alive, for him, achieves the harmony of neo-Platonism.
Raphael took it further by involving and evoking emotions through his paintings. He was also interested with philosophy which shows that he is an artist as a scholar. This is seen on School of Athens which shows Plato and Aristotle along with other philosophers. On this painting, Plato is seen pointing heavenward explaining the facts of the universe while Aristotle points downward stating the society and the views of the world. Both of them are supervised by the statues of Apollo and Minerva, ensuring truth and wisdom respectively.
Towards the end of the renaissance there came the meeting point of pagan beliefs and the Christian cultures. This was when Michelangelo lived and experienced neo-Platonism as a whole. Not as visual parts nor as philosophical representations but as its entirety. But this also meant the end for neo-Platonism for Michelangelo accepted spirituality towards the end.
His representations and the transition can be seen on the paintings on the Sistine chapel. On the earlier paintings like The Creation of Adam, his interest on the beauty and elegance is apparent. His poetry also reflects his belief in the divine origin of beauty.
But through time and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, Michelangelo lost his interest in physical beauty and no longer believed in its representation of spiritual excellence. Later painting shows more Christian representation loosing detail and grace. He eventually fully lost his interest and decided to no longer paint becoming guilty of his love for physical beauty. In a way this was the end of neo-Platonism for Italian renaissance art.
The common denominator among Della Francesca, Alberti and Mantegna are their contribution to the perspective aspect of renaissance paintings. Each has professions other than being artist and this variety of expertise made the development possible.
Della Francesca, aside from being an artist, was a mathematician. He studied and wrote books which involved arithmetic, algebra and geometry. One of his books is the On Perspective for Painting. He also made innovations on solid or three-dimensional