So often when I’ve been thinking about something, the universe seems to conspire and that “something” crops up again in another context.
I had been bothered by the realisation that so much great art and architecture has come at the expense or in the face of great poverty. Not long ago I started reading a biography of Michaelangelo. He grew up in Florence where the Renaissance was born. Michaelangelo mixed with the scholars, painters, poets and philosophers of the time and admired and respected Lorenzo de’Medici (Lorenzo the Maginificent, the wealthy and influential “ruler” of Florence) who encouraged them. At the same time a Dominican friar, Savonarola, was vehemently preaching against the excesses of Florence and Rome.
The biographer, Bruno Nardini, describes the tension Michaelangelo felt. “As an artist he had no doubts. Art could only be nourished by intelligence and beauty, it could only unfold and flower around the Magnicent (Lorenzo). But as a Christian for whom life is only a moment of trial, he was forced to admit that Savonarola was right, that he was proclaiming against the vanity of all, the sinfulness of any idea that did not lead back to Christ.”
Nardini suggests that Michaelangelo, while continuing to study sculpture, also nurtured his soul through the scriptures and so was able to bridge the beauty of art, and the Christian message.
It had not occurred to me that the gifted creators of superb art might have to reconcile the excesses of their art with their spiritual beliefs.
My awareness of their potential dilemma makes me appreciate their talent and genius all the more.