A similar (asymmetrical) balance between science and faith is evident in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel, 1511. Human Anatomy: bones and muscles are evident in the eye sockets, cheekbones, neck, collarbone, shoulder socket, pectorals, abdominals, thighs, kneecaps, calves, and ankles. God the Father displays the same definition of bone and muscle. The proportions may have been manipulated due to the small head (on his shoulders), broad chest, wide waist and heavy thighs. Biologically correct? Yes, the artist performed dissections so he knew exactly what lay beneath the surface of the skin, though the proportions and the way the muscles flow into the inside of the elbow are weak. Geology: “Adam” translates as “earth man.” He sits on earth. At the beginning of Creation, the earth is an indistinct mass of green and a ribbon of blue suggests water.

When the fresco painting of the Sistine ceiling was completed, various clerics objected to the poor balance of science and faith. They decried Michelangelo for being more interested in flesh, muscle, and the male body, than in the spiritual import of the narrative. They condemned his representation of God as too earthbound and humanly realistic.

God’s dress displays His body beneath: God has nipples, abdominals, fleshy thighs peeking out from his short dress, awkward knees, and if you look very closely, at the tension line across his torso, it is possible to see God’s belly button. How did God get a belly button? Obviously, Michelangelo was so obsessed with science that the spiritual context of the commission eluded him.  In conclusion, what percentage of the painting is science and what percentage is faith-based? Perhaps, at least 90% science and less than 10% science.

 

 

 

 

IN THIS BOX INSERT IMAGE TITLED “EL GRECO TOLEDO” 

The next example is El Greco’s View of Toledo, 1597. The motivation for the painting is fantasy/virtual reality. It depicts a panorama of the city where the artist lived. While some of the trees are beautifully painted (botany), buildings diminish in scale as they recede toward the horizon (perspective, mathematics), and the stormy clouds had been magnificently studied (meteorology), the brushstroke and color casts a dark or magical spell upon the landscape. The blackness of the buildings and white highlights appear ghostly and dreamlike. Critics have described the surreal quality as “the blue light falling dramatically from the heavens across the green Toledo hills may suggest the blue-green spiritual light often seen by visionaries, as if the entire landscape were bathed in a special spiritual atmosphere.” The late 16th century was a period of religious conflict. The Catholic Church was fighting the onslaught of Protestantism in Europe. One catholic strategy was to publish and promote accounts of divine intervention and spiritual awakenings in the lives of common people. This painting may represent the blending of the real and the surreal in the very religious capital of Toledo.