Michelangelo and Renaissance Religion
Michelangelo Buonarroti lived in a time when the medieval aspects of Christianity were overwhelmed by the upheaval of the Reformation. His art portrays this change in religious philosophy by discerning the major trends and objectives of the Renaissance. "His works show us...the changing world around him" (Richmond 4). In addition, Michelangelo seriously impacted generations of artists to come.
"The Renaissance was a rebirth that led to new ways of thinking in the sciences, philosophy, and architecture, as well as painting and sculpture" (Spence 6). This period of European history, beginning in the fourteenth-century, saw a renewed interest in the arts. It has been characterized by many as the birth of modern humanity and consciousness after a long period of decay, the Middle Ages. Until the revolutionary thinkers of the Renaissance, much of Europe was dormant and stagnant, immersed in the "Dark Ages" where the Christian God was viewed as a punishing and distant force. During the Middle Ages, Christian historians broke history into three divisions: the creation, the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the anticipated last judgement. Medieval scholars believed that they were living in the final age before the last judgement. The Renaissance brought a cultural break with medieval tradition known as humanism. This was the tendency of the time to attach great importance to classical studies and to consider classical antiquity as the common standard and model by which to guide all cultural activity. This ideology led Renaissance humanists to develop new divisions of history: antiquity, the Middle Ages and the golden age of rebirth. In contrast to their Dark Age counterparts, they adored the classical Greeks and Romans. They also condemned the Middle Ages as barbaric and ignorant, seeing their own superior age as one of light and the rebirth of classical heritage. A new image of God evolved. He was now seen as a compassionate, forgiving, and father-like figure who cared about His earthly and sinful children.
The Renaissance also brought drastic changes to the artistic world. The decisive break with medieval tradition occurred in Florence, Italy in 1420 with the invention of linear perspective. This innovation made it possible to represent three-dimensional space on a flat surface. In previous years, objects had been represented on the canvas as one-dimensional. This paralleled the one-dimensional thinking of the time and served to create rigid and unrealistic portrayals in art. Another ideal that evolved was the culmination of harmony and proportion. The human form was seriously analyzed for the first time. Careful attention was payed to minute details such as the shape of muscles and how they looked as they moved. This led to a more realistic and accurate reproduction of the human body. During the Renaissance "...the medieval aspects of the Christian religion were swept away,...