Art, affect and persuasiveness

Art is one of the greatest sources of inspiration of all time.

Sunday morning, we went to the Castello Sforzesco to see ‘The body and Soul, from Donatello to Michelangelo’ – an exhibition dedicated to Italian Renaissance sculpture.

It was a beautiful sunny day. We wore our face masks, showed our green pass, and went in to explore.

art exhibition at Castello Sforzesco  'The body and the soul, from Donatello to Michelangelo'

At that time (1453 – 1520), communication was in the hands of the church and nobles, those who had power and money. From this viewpoint, there’s not much difference compared to those who deploy massive communication nowadays.

One of the sections was called ‘Sacred art: affect and persuasiveness.’
The board reads: ‘Affect and persuasiveness became the two key words in religious sculpture: following the work by Donatello around 1450, emotion and the motions of the soul took centre stage in artistic practices, in the desire to deeply, even violently, affect viewers.’

In other words, those who had money commissioned artists to represent catholic figures to influence the masses. Undoubtedly art was magnificent, and viewers could feel the pathos.

Modern methods of persuasion

Translating this communication process to modern times, we see that the logic of influencing people is still crucial. ‘Affect and persuasiveness’ are used not to make the masses believe in God but to sell them everything. Brands and products are the new gods.

Over the centuries, masses went from faith believers to consumers. However, artists still had to work hard to make something breathtaking to influence people. Indeed to reach that level of beauty, their artistic work demanded an enormous effort.

Now, the two keywords are still the same, ‘affect and persuasiveness.’ What changed is who the masses consider influencers. The way they put out their work and interact with their audience, which is a by-product of what we call progress.

In the past, art influenced us, taking to deep involvement, while empty superficiality impresses people now.

Perhaps something went wrong.

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