The Creation of Adam/ The Penitent Magdalene
The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo is a fresco that depicts a scene from the Book of Genesis. In it, the artist embodied the idea of the creation of man in the image and likeness of God. This idea is shown in the pose of Adam, who reflects the gesture of God.
The composition is divided into two parts: in the upper right corner is the Lord, who is depicted as an old man with titanic power, surrounded by angels. Swiftness and vigor of his figure is emphasized by the red color of the cloth. It is compositionally opposed to Adam, who is depicted in the lower left corner of the mural. He has a muscular young body, but his great forces are still asleep. This state of calmness before awakening is emphasized by the blue and green colors of the background. Adam reaches out to the God weakly and the only touch of his Father gives him energy and will. Touching hands are the center of the composition, and there is something similar to an electric impulse between them.
The Penitent Magdalene by Caravaggio is also connected with the religious theme, though it is not that evident as in The Creation of Adam. The artist depicts Mary Magdalene as an ordinary woman of his times, who is in distress. There are two symbols in the picture that are the signs that the woman is Mary Magdalene – a jar and jewelry that was thrown on the floor. It shows the woman’s disdain for the worldly vanity. Mary is the only focal point in the picture. She is in the center of the composition and occupies the biggest part of the painting. The contrast between light and shadow (chiaroscuro) is more significant in this work than in The Creation of Adam. In Caravaggio’s work, the figure of the woman stands out from the darkness and so the attention is drawn to her.
Both Michelangelo and Caravaggio used realistic forms to create their works. The lines are unbroken and the surface is smooth. There are no signs of aggressive brushstrokes that are the evidences of the painter’s presence.
Creation of Adam Response
Wassily Kandinsky interpreted the fresco The Creation of Adam in an avant-garde and abstract way. It might be difficult to understand what an original work of art was without knowing it. He shows the meeting of Adam and God as the meeting of a circle and a triangle. Perhaps, he wanted to convey an idea that there is a hidden sense in the painting that is more important than the form. It is difficult not to pay attention to the figures that represent the act of Creation in the original fresco.
I think that the interpretation of Kandinsky is philosophical in some aspects, but it does not correspond to my perception of Michelangelo’s work.
1. God created Adam as a likeness of himself, though on Kandinsky’s picture God is the circle and Adam is a triangle. As far as I know geometry, these two figures are not interrelated.
2. The gestures of God are not copied by Adam, there is no similarity and as a result, no act of Creation.
3. They are painted in different colors.
4. The colors are very symbolical: God is depicted as a black circle and Adam is a mixture of red and black. In the original work of Michelangelo red is the color of energy and power that is the characteristic of God. Black is a traditional metaphor for death and chaos. However, in this case the philosophical meaning of abstract interpretation becomes very unusual.
5. Kandinsky’s interpretation is not balanced. The geometrical mess in the left corner overbalances the circle in the right corner.
6. There are more figures on God’s side in original, but in the interpretation Adam’s “fan club” of lines and squares is bigger. Besides the compositional balance, the ideological accent is also shifted.
7. There is no focal point like the touch of hands.
8. The lines are broken.
9. The brushstrokes are evident.
10. The interpretation belongs to abstract art, not realism.