Inspiring Art: “Adam”

Michaelangelo’s Adam is one of the best-known image of humanity’s divine aspect.  We see God bringing man to life, with a heavenly touch, departing from the Biblical description in a flash of artistic inspiration.  This is man in all his divine potential: potentially strong, potentially beautiful, potentially immortal…

Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” explores another aspect of an ideal conception of humanness: the relationship between humanity and mathematics.  The human figure here is shown as proportionate and symmetrical. Few of us ordinary mortals are quite as mathematically perfect as this, however…

Van Eyck’s Adam from The Ghent Altarpiece is more down-to-earth.  This does not strike me as the portrayal of an ideal man, but of an ordinary man. Naked, frail: “a poor, bare, fork’d animal”, as Shakespreare described us in King Lear:

Chapters 1-3 of Genesis describe the totally captivating stories of the creation of the universe, the earth, all of life, and human life in particular. “Adam”, for me, represents all of humanity: we are created, related, spiritual, embodied, sexual, articulate, inquisitive, logical, mortal, fallible…

And human fallibility is captured with such power in Masaccio’s painting below – one of the most harrowing portrayals of human failure that I know. This is of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise:

But overall, when I think of the story of Adam, I am more inspired than deflated. The story of Adam is the story of a universe where God intentionally creates a living, self-conscious human being. To be human is to live in a “storied universe” – an existence shaped by narrative, tradition, imaginative and spiritual illumination.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s