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Art and Politics

From the renaissance to the contemporary era, artists and patrons have used their platforms to depict political ideologies and endorse politicians through their artwork. In the renaissance, especially in Italy, many of the artists created religious-themed sculptures and paintings that got support from powerful political families. Besides, some artists customized their paintings to reflect certain political and social issues at the time, thereby creating a political perspective based on the huge appreciation of art. Therefore, in this paper, several paintings and sculptures are examined portraying their political essence.

Titian, Isabella d’Este

Isabella is known for her artwork and the ruler of Mantua. Her political influence is based on the advocacy for civic humanism. She wanted everyone to live in harmony. Therefore, she engaged, artists, poets, writers in an exchange of ideas and works of art in Renaissance Italy. During her time, few women were taking political positions such as being a ruler, and therefore upon her death, her sculptures and her portrait remain as a symbol of a magnanimous woman who shaped the idea of civic humanism. Isabella understood her duties as ruler, using predefined principles. Artists later tried to make a portrait of her but many didn’t perfect her image and hence rejected work of no resemblance. In this regard, artists wanted a perfect image of her which depicted the strong-willed Isabella and her legacy shaping civic humanism which was adopted in America. Famous artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci also was a candidate in painting her and this depicts her symbol as a ruler.

Sofonisba Anguissola – ‘Self Potrait’

She is among the first women artists to gain fame for her artworks. Among the impacts of art, rich political families promote such art, using it to draw people who appreciate art and lovers of the personalities of people in portraits. Sofonisba in Renaissance became famous for his works and found herself in marriage with Philip II Spain. The family of Philip was in power in most of Europe. From her artwork, she entered the inner circle of Europe’s most powerful rulers. In this case, her being as powerful, she could use her art to present political ideologies from her husband’s rule. However, from femininity, she didn’t do much of naked human form and other painting of biblical figures which were termed racy. Her artwork was focused on family and as a political figure in her family, her family continued to rule Europe based on the notion that as Sofonisba depicted a happy family, so would the people’s happiness manifest. Her portrait was painted to remind people of her sophisticated portraits and her mannerism style in portraying a happy family ruling Europe.

Raphael – ‘The School of Athens’

Raphael was influenced by art by Leonardo Da Vinci and throughout his artwork, he portrayed humanism. In the political era, many politicians want to identify with people, show their compassion, and make promises to make life better. In this case, many politicians engage in humanitarian works to gain recognition and capture the attention of many. In his creation, ‘The School of Athens’, he gained attention from the pope at the Vatican. In the creation, great philosophers are represented, that is, Aristotle and Plato. The painting raises questions on philosophy and politics. It shows how people can coexist even with different ideologies. In politics, there are winners and rulers. Therefore, once the losing party admits defeat and decides to work with the government in power to progress a nation as one, then the idea of humanism is embraced. Besides, Raphael’s works inspired the ninja turtles which depict corrupt politicians. In this regard, his artwork and as an artist influences the coexistence despite different political ideologies.

Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruvian Man

Leonardo is well known for his inventions, architecture, works of art, and anatomical drawings. His ideas for a wide range of universe concepts are expressed through his works of art. Artists only portray what is in society through their paintings, they do not have to be vocal about any issue. The interpretation of their work is left for society to speculate. Da Vinci painted some of the famous pieces, the most renowned is Mona Lisa, Secret supper, Savior the world, Vitruvian Human among others. We should emphasize that Da Vinci was not a political or religious person, but some of the paintings were an interpretation of what he thought on some concepts he saw in society. Da Vinci completed the Vitruvian Man drawing around 1490. Although many artists had attempted the drawing earlier it is Da Vinci who was able to complete it. The painting is very significant, from the political view it portrays the need for equality in society for harmonious cohabitation. And it has helped in the shaping of the current political system of society.

Giorgione – The Tempest

The tempest is a painting that was painted by the Venetian artist Giorgione. The painting is also given the name Thunderstorm. The painting has ambiguous imagery, a lot of speculations surround it with so many conflicting interpretations. It is only safe to say that no precise meaning has been reached to describe the painting. With a range of possibilities, there are many religions, classical history, bucolic poetry, and political explanations linked to it.

From the political perspective, Giorgione’s landscape depicts a socio-political aspect of the Veneto region. In this case, Tempest is a representation of a vision of peaceful Venetian territory despite being under siege by foreign armies. The painting inspired the Venetian territory to fight for their freedom and reclaim their peace from the oppressing foreign army. So, the painting helped shape the political structure of the Venetian people. The impending storm depicts the political instability that was to come and that was being experienced in the territory which had to be overcome for peace to prevail. The political peace and stability are portrayed by the woman breastfeeding a baby.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Return of The Hunters

This painting depicts a world of chaos, where the cold winter with much activity shows the dynamics of life and the things to endure to survive. The picture with all the entities brings about the idea of humanity, following the peasant scenes and landscape with people trying to make a living. From a political perspective, the painting paints a picture to politicians of how society is struggling to survive and its landscape which helps in shaping their agendas in service to the people as they watch them from a bird’s eye view. In the painting, humankind is vulnerable, and the cold winter season has taken a toll on the community. The humans here are helpless. Therefore, politicians need to come to their rescue. Such painting redefines the perspective of politicians concerning their promises to the people and gives them an understanding of the issues to deal with. In this case, politicians will gain popularity if they prioritize humanitarian works to contribute to the survival of humanity.


Stokstad, M., & Cothren, M. (2020). Revel Art: A Brief History. (7th ed., Chapter 13). Pearson.


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