Stefano Zuffi, in his new book How to Read Italian Renaissance Painting (Abrams 2010), explains:
Wheras artists in the Middle Ages were not consciously ‘medieval’, artists in Italy between 1400 and 1600 very deliberately worked to bring about renewal. . . . At the heart of the Renaissance was the humanist culture that had first found expression in the works of Dante and Giotto in the 14th century. From that moment onwards more and more emphasis would be placed on humankind, and less on the divine—a major departure from the medieval worldview that placed God at the heart of everything. Humanism also encouraged study of the literature and art of Ancient Greece and Rome, much of which had been lost (or frowned upon) in the Middle Ages. This trend, soon bolstered by intellectuals and philosophers keen to escape the strictures of medieval thought, produced a vein of artistic brilliance and innovation that lasted right through to Caravaggio. . . . In this sense, the Renaissance sees the birth of the modern artist, an independent thinker as well as a craftsman.
Thinking is nice.
Below is “St. Jerome in His Study”, by Antonello da Messina. The painting was completed circa 1460-1475. Whatever else was going on in the late 15th century, Antonello da Messina, in painting St. Jerome as a thinker at his desk, uncannily anticipated the future of humanity—anticipated you:
Source: Wikipedia Commons