If one were to gaze upon the statue of "David" by Michelangelo (1475-1564), they would notice the high esteem in which the human body was portrayed. The sculpture almost appears to be a person itself, so real, proportionate, and beautiful that it is uncanny to fathom that it is an interpretation by an artist. The pride and appreciation exhibited in the work of art for the human physique demonstrated the humanistic ideas of the Renaissance. Humanism was not only a "respect for the individual, independent thought ", and the human body, but was an intellectual movement of the Renaissance based on the study of the antiquities and humanities (Charlton 48). Of the many ideas that surfaced during this period, such as secularism, realism, and individualism, humanism dominated, influencing even these concepts. Humanism was the emancipation and rediscovery of the individual, and it left an immense impact on literature, philosophy, and the arts. Humanism, "with its respect for the classical past, was merely a convenient vehicle for the subtle genius " of scholars, authors, and artists of the Renaissance (Kekewich 3).
Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374) was labeled as the "founding father" of humanism" during the Italian Renaissance. His achievements in the retrieval of Greek and Roman traditions, including rhetoric, and his attempts to follow classical style lead to the movement itself (Humanism: Italy" 2). Petrarch opted out of studying law in order to devote his life to literature. Written text itself was epitomized in classical Latin literature and he believed that the prose of Cicero was the ultimate model. He imitated the Latin prose of letter writing in his personal letters, enthralled to discover Cicero's Letters to Atticus in 1345 (Humanism: Italy" 1). His letters became a blueprint for humanists of the Renaissance, with letters becoming the favorite form of prose (Humanism: Italy 5). In 1368 Petrarch wrote De sui ipsius et multorum ignorantia (On his own ignorance and that of many others), which became a significant example of the contrast of humanism of the Renaissance to scholasticism of the Middle Ages.