Examples of Renaissance Men: They Don’t Just Live In the Past and Are Not Only Men!

Painting called the Concert Renaissanc period main

A “renaissance man” is a term used to describe someone who is a well-rounded individual.   It also describes an ideal member of the Renaissance itself, a period of the rebirth of learning. Some examples would include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo, and Artemisia Gentileschi.  A “renaissance” also is a general term for a period of revival of culture, including the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.  

She was also impressed by his accomplishments. “He’s a Renaissance man, and I’ve never seen anyone work harder,” she said.

A mother-in-law praises her new son-in-law

What Was the Renaissance?

After the fall of the Roman Empire (476 BCE), Western Europe took some time to get back on its feet.  This period is often known as the “Dark Ages.”  Europe eventually began to thrive once more.  Unfortunately, things started to go bad again, including the Black Death.  

Starting in the 1400s and continuing the next few hundred years, there was a time of “rebirth” or renaissance in areas of education, science, art, literature, music, and life in general.   

Humanism, a philosophy that valued human ideas and happiness, was very important.  Humanism accepts that it is okay for people to be concerned about things that are not merely necessary for survival or of religious significance.  It prizes a well-rounded life.  

The ideal person, the “Renaissance man,” had diverse talents, interests, and abilities.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo (1452-1519) was born in Vinci, Italy.  His many talents made him the first “Renaissance man” who later ones were modeled after.  As a teenager, Leonardo was trained to be an artist.  

Leonardo became an expert at drawing, painting, and sculpture.  Royalty competed to be his patron.  His sketchbooks show a diverse knowledge of science and engineering.  

His artistic skills were aided by his close observation of nature.  Leonardo learned how things worked, including the human body.  He revolutionalized new painting techniques as seen in his many famous paintings including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

Leonardo shows the many aspects of a true Renaissance man.  He was concerned about diverse things, skillful both in the scientific method and artistic perspective.  His sketchbooks also had philosophical musings such as “He who does not punish evil, commands it to be done.”

READ MORE ABOUT HIM: What Ermine Saw: The Extraordinary Journey of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Most Mysterious Portrait  by Eden Collinsworth


Michelangelo (1475-1564) was born in Caprese, near modern-day Tuscany, Italy.

He moved to Florence, a thriving center of the Renaissance, as a boy.  Michelangelo trained to be a sculptor under the patronage of the great Medici Family.  He later moved to Rome.

Michelangelo is famous for his sculpture of David (the biblical king and slayer of Goliath), who was crafted in the form of an ideal human figure.  He also was the author of many poems.  

The Pope himself chose this great Renaissance man to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Religious works were common artistic subjects at this time.  Such artistic works were honored for their cultural meaning as much as for their religious significance.  

Michelangelo used his diverse skills as an architect, painter, poet, and sculptor to portray the many complexities of humanity and the natural world.  


Artemisia Gentileschi 

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1650s) was born in Rome, Italy.  We are not exactly sure when she died.  Historians believe she died sometime in the mid-1650s.

Artemisia learned painting from her father.  She became famous in her own right, one of the few women painters of the era. She was the first woman member of a Florence school of artists.

Artemisia is well known for many biblical-based works involving women such as Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Some of her biblical-themed works included stories of wronged women such as Bathsheba.  These works have added meaning when we learn she was herself a victim of abuse.

She worked for many patrons in various cities as an independent artist for many decades.  Her independence is reflected in her subjects, active women who do not portray stereotypical feminine traits.  Artemisia is an early feminist icon, showing not all “Renaissance Men” are male.  


Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is the “father of modern science.”  

He was born in Pisa, Italy.  After studying mathematics, Galileo’s true fame came in the field of astronomy.  Using a telescope, he was one of the first to clearly see the craters of the moon.

Galileo’s views were controversial in his lifetime, ultimately leading to house arrest for the last decade of his life.  He became a model scientist as well as a warning against scientific ignorance.

Beyond The Renaissance 

“Renaissance” is a general term to describe a time of rebirth.  There have been renaissances throughout history.  And, in the process, a whole lot of Renaissance “men”.  

Catherine the Great (1729-1796) is an example of someone who followed in the footsteps of the people we discussed. She became a long-time powerful leader of Russia, ruling it as an “enlightened monarch.”  Catherine aimed to rule following the principles of the Renaissance. 

The Harlem Renaissance took place in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s.  It was a time known as a thriving time of African American culture, including music, literature, theater, politics, and scholarship.  For instance, Zora Neale Hurston was not only known for her fiction but also for cultural studies of places like Jamaica and Haiti.  

A well-rounded education continues to be an ideal that we follow today.  The Renaissance Men of the past help guide those of the present.  They are a good model for people today.

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.