During the Renaissance period, the focus of many artists became the portrayal of the beauty of the human body alongside the natural world. Patrons, those who support the arts with money such as the Medici family of Florence, helped usher in this period because of the way that they financed painters, sculptors and architects. Major patrons included wealthy merchants, the government and the Church. Some of the world's greatest artists at this time were hired to create works or art to decorate private homes or to display in public places.
As with many other disciplines during this time period, artists found inspiration in the art of the works of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. In the Middle Ages, most art had religious themes and this continued through the Renaissance. But influenced by the humanist ideas of the time, Renaissance artists began to interpret these subjects in new ways. The Renaissance also saw a growing interest in portraits and landscapes.
Raphael's "School of Athens," one of the most prominent examples of the way that Renaissance artists looked to Greek and Roman times for inspiration. Pictured in this famous scene are figures of Greek history and mythology, such as Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates, Apollo, Athena, Ptolemy and Raphael himself.