The Renaissance Man
The term "Renaissance Man" emerged during the Renaissance period in Europe, which spanned from the 14th to the 17th century. The Renaissance man, also known as a polymath, is a well-rounded individual gifted and skilled in many different areas.
The concept arose from the renewed interest in classical learning, art, and humanism during the Renaissance. Scholars like Leonardo da Vinci, who excelled in painting, science, engineering, and various other fields, epitomized the idea of a Renaissance Man.
A Renaissance man in the fifteenth or sixteenth century would be an intellectual philosopher, studying a wide variety of subjects. Usually, the Renaissance man would be a writer and an artist, an inventor, as well as skilled in science and/or math.
Often, but not always, the Renaissance man was also good at athletics, such as jousting. A Renaissance man may be formally educated but could also be self-taught. Either way, a thirst for learning and knowledge was key.
Leonardo da Vinci was the prototype of a Renaissance man. Da Vinci was a philosopher and a well-known artist. His most famous paintings are the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
DaVinci was also a brilliant mathematician, which helped him in his inventions. Some of his sketches for invention ideas included a flying machine and the precursors to the modern tank and machine gun.
Like many Renaissance men of his time, da Vinci was a Christian and studied theology, or the study of religions. This is one of the differences between historical Renaissance men and Renaissance men today.
Another difference is that women today have access to the same education and opportunities as men, so today we can have Renaissance men and Renaissance women.
Perhaps that is why the term polymath is a popular alternative to Renaissance man. Either way, today’s Renaissance men are still philosophical thinkers who spend a great deal of time reading and writing.
Renaissance men are also gifted artistically, though this can take many forms such as music, acting as well as visual arts. Renaissance men today are often athletic and may speak several languages, another feature shared by da Vinci. However, da Vinci would have studied ancient Greek and Latin, whereas today’s Renaissance men might study any number of languages.