Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Michelangelo's humanism

I'm becoming an avid fan of Michelangelo -- and we have yet to see David or half his sculpture in Florence.

Today I spend a little time at the Uffizi Museum in front of the only painting he ever finished -- The Holy Family. Apparently his patience with watching paint dry couldn't hold up the the sheer joy of hitting a rock with a hammer and chisel.

But this painting, like his statue of Bacchus I liked so much yesterday, speaks to me with its honest look at how people (even holy or mythic-god ones) really act.

Renaissance art, by and large, depicts exaggerated piety. That saintly look -- eyes cast upward to some unseen point, face poised somewhere between a smile and a moan -- was all the rage among painters and sculptors of the time. Subject No. 1 for Renaissance art, Jesus, is handsome and curly-locked if an adult, stiffly Mattel baby doll-like if an infant. Subject No. 2, Mary, is always lost in a distant thought while the world goes on around her.  And usually dressed to the nines for a poor girl.

But just as Michelangelo showed the God of Wine as a lush (duh), he showed the Holy Family as, well, a family. Jesus is a tyke, pulling mom's hair and kicking wildly as an obvious fed-up Joseph tries to hand him back to Mary. Mary gives him the Mom Look -- "Come on, J.C., I'm tired of this. Just get down here and get your diaper changed."

That's a picture of divinity to which I can relate: In his day, Jesus was just one of us.

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