Two Artists, The Renaissance, and God


During the Renaissance, man saw everything in relation to himself.  Man conquered all. Man measured all. Man made his own worldview.  Why should they not be able to ?  God became irrelevant because of this pride.  Predictably, this quickly caused humanism.  Every man was affected by this mind set, which spread like a disease .  Two contemporaries, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, show this mindset well.  Although they possessed distinctly different views about man, they had the same basic assumptions.

Michelangelo, like most other men of the time, believed the self to be the most important thing.  Clearly, this is evident in many of his greatest works.  His statues of men tearing themselves out of rock depicts this idea well.  Working on his own, man could liberate himself from the bonds of the world.  Because of this, man will always be victorious.  If man could fully tear himself out of solid rock, how could he ever fail at anything? However, Michelangelo’s most excellent example of humanism is found in his greatest work of art.  David was the humanistic ideal.  This man, who was perfect, was the man of tomorrow.  When looking at this statue, one would have confidence in what man could do because of his greatness.  However, in Michelangelo’s later works, human pride seems lessened, even to the extent of putting his own face on the man holding the dead Jesus.  Despite this, it can be concluded that he once thought that man was everything like every other man of the day.

Leonardo da Vinci, however, foresaw the problem of man, but failed to do anything about it.  By only looking at particulars, man would never decipher any meaning or absolutes.  Man was like a machine.  Seeing this, Leonardo tried to paint absolutes, which was what man could not figure out.  However, Leonardo still tried to find them in himself and what he observed.  Because of this, he failed in his attempts.  How could he think that he could find the answer to a problem without addressing it in himself?  Leonardo correctly assessed the problem of man, but ultimately failed to change it in himself because of his personal pride.

During this period of the Renaissance, man was everything.  Although Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci lived during the same time, their responses to this were very different as revealed by their art.  Michelangelo embraced human pride at the beginning of his life, but his later works revealed that he thought less of humanism toward the end of his life.  Leonardo da Vinci, however took an distinctly different approach.  Starting with the belief that humanistic particulars would go nowhere, he attempted to find absolutes like Plato of old.  Unfortunately, he tried to find these within himself, which resulted in failure.  Both men tried and failed to make a coherent man-centered view.  What was the reason for their failure? The Bible clearly explains that it was so because the only way to find meaning in life is through God.  Clearly, human pride has no room in God’s word.

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