Thursday, January 31, 2013

Italian Renaissance (pt. 15)

Michelangelo had also been busy during the Medici's exile with another famous and almost superhuman work of art—the ceiling paintings of the Sistine Chapel.  From 1508 to 1512, Michelangelo worked on this most insulting of tasks.  You see, other artists such as Botticelli had already been commissioned to paint the walls of the chapel, and many of these paintings had already been completed; the person put to the task of painting the roof was usually of lesser talent, since nobody looks for very long at a ceiling, which is too far away to see and puts a strain on the neck to look at anyway.  Michelangelo was furious at being given this lowly task, and Michelangelo's temper was not something to be taken lightly—he was notorious for it.  The fresco I showed to demonstrate one-point perspective (of Christ delivering the keys of the church to Peter) is on one of the walls of the Sistine Chapel, as is this widely-seen fresco by Raphael.  (I'm sure you've seen the two little angels at the bottom of the fresco somewhere else before.)
In defiance, then, Michelangelo resolved to make the ceiling so magnificent, as it would put to shame the "lower" works of his peers.  Furthermore, having just produced the finest sculpture in the history of the world, he considered himself a sculptor, not a painter.  To be commissioned to paint (let alone to paint the less important ceiling paintings) was, to him, something of an insult.

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