Changing perception of the world in the Baroque era

The 17th century is one of the brightest and brightest pages in the history of world art culture. This was the time when the usual, seemingly unshakable picture of the world was rapidly changing, and the ideals of the Renaissance collapsed in the public mind. This is the time when the ideology of humanism and belief in the limitless possibilities of man was replaced by a sense of the dramatic contradictions of life. On the one hand, there is a revolutionary upheaval in natural science, a new picture of the world is being formed, new philosophical trends appear, and in art – new styles and genres. On the other hand, political conservatism, pessimistic views on society and man prevail, irrationalism and mysticism are developing. In society, as the art critic A.A. Anikst rightly noted:

“Confidence in the near and inevitable triumph of positive beginnings of life disappears. The feeling of its tragic contradictions is becoming more acute. The old faith is giving way to skepticism. Humanists themselves no longer trust reason as a good force capable of renewing life. They also have a doubt about the nature of man – whether good principles really dominate in it. “

The changes and tragic conflicts of this era were figuratively captured by the English poet John Donne (1572-1631):

So much news for twenty years
And in the sphere of stars, and in the form of planets,
The Universe is crumbling into atoms,
All connections are torn, everything is crushed into pieces.
The foundations were loose, and now
Everything has become relative to us.

/ Translation by O. Rumer /

First of all, the concepts of man became relative, who was now thought of, on the one hand, as an insignificantly small particle of the universe, and on the other, as a great force capable of controlling nature. The great French scientist, religious thinker and writer Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) wrote about the duality of man, recognizing his limitless possibilities and calling him “the thinking reed.” A person was perceived as a complex personality going through the dramatic conflicts of his time.

Who are you, oh man? A vessel of fierce pain,
Arena of all sorrows, vicissitudes of a stream,
Fortune light ball, marsh light,
Snow melting in spring, flickering of candles, no more.

/AND. Grifius Translated by L. Ginzburg /

Scientific discoveries in mathematics, astronomy, natural science and geography, which expanded the concept of the world as a limitless, changeable and contradictory unity, contributed to the changes in the human worldview. The great geographical discoveries, the concept of infinity and the countless number of worlds of the Universe put forward by D. Bruno, as well as the laws of motion of planets around the Sun formulated by I. Kepler, created a holistic view of our planet, provided a huge empirical material for the development of other sciences.

The invention of the microscope (Anthony van Leeuwenhoek, 1673) and the telescope (Galileo Galilei, 1610) made it possible to look into the dizzying abysses of the universe – into the previously inaccessible infinitely large and small worlds. In what seemed to be calm and motionless, man discovered an amazing variety … The space-time model of the world was now built on the balancing of ordered space and chaos. The man became ever more deeply aware of the illusory and instability of space, which threatened to turn into unexpected metamorphoses at any moment. The transience of life, the running of time, he measured not in months and days, but in hours, minutes and even seconds. The paradox of fluidity and constant changeability of the time stream gave rise to mystical fear and doubts in the soul, forced more and more often to think about the frailty of human existence.

Where and in what did a person seek salvation from the troubles and contradictions of life? He tried to find peace of mind, meaning and balance in an intense spiritual and religious-mystical life, in an appeal to God and Eternity. But, torn apart by doubts and contradictions, he did not always find answers to the questions of Genesis that interest him:

Are you looking up to heaven? Or have you forgotten that
God is not in heaven, but here, in yourself? ..
Wait! What does “God” mean? Not spirit, not flesh, not light,
Not faith, not love, not a ghost, not an object,
Not evil and not good, not in small things, not in many
things, He is not even what they call God,
Not a feeling, not a thought, not a sound, but only that
which none of all of us knows.

/AND. Silesius Translated by L. Ginzburg /

In a vain search for inner support in God, man became more and more clearly aware of his helplessness before the universe, turned to mystical visions, miracles associated with martyrdom and suffering. Real life was perceived as sheer deception, a nightmare, “vanity of vanities.” (“Life is a dream” is the title of the Spanish playwright Calderon.)

The new, changed atmosphere of spiritual life was especially acutely felt by art.

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