Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling

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9780142003695: Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling

In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel in Rome. Despite having completed his masterful statue David four years earlier, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with challenging curved surfaces such as the Sistine ceiling's vaults. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant: He stormed away from Rome, incurring Julius's wrath, before he was eventually persuaded to begin.

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the fascinating story of the four extraordinary years he spent laboring over the twelve thousand square feet of the vast ceiling, while war and the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. A panorama of illustrious figures intersected during this time-the brilliant young painter Raphael, with whom Michelangelo formed a rivalry; the fiery preacher Girolamo Savonarola and the great Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus; a youthful Martin Luther, who made his only trip to Rome at this time and was disgusted by the corruption all around him. Ross King blends these figures into a magnificent tapestry of day-to-day life on the ingenious Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early-sixteenth-century Italy, while also offering uncommon insight into the connection between art and history.

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In 1508 Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He had been advised against doing so. The painting of the vaults was so difficult and Michelangelo was so inexperienced in fresco that it was considered a folly. Indeed, Michelangelo himself was reluctant for he considered himself primarily a sculptor rather than a painter. However, for the next four years he would labour over the vast ceiling, at first employing assistants and later, working alone, spending back-breaking hours with his face turned upwards. The result was one of the greatest masterpieces of all time. 'There is no other work to compare with this for excellence, nor could there be,' wrote Vasari in his Lives of Artists. Ross King's fascinating new book tells the story of those four extraordinary years. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems and inadequate knowledge of the art of fresco, Michelangelo created figures so beautiful that, when they were unveiled in 1512, they stunned his onlookers. Modern anatomy has yet to find names for some of the muscles on his nudes, they are painted in such detail. From Michelangelo's experiments with the composition of pigment and plaster to his bitter rivalry with Raphael, who was working on the neighbouring Papal Apartments, Ross King paints a magnificent picture of day-to-day life on the Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early sixteenth-century Rome.

Product Description:

In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The thirty-three-year-old Michelangelo had very little experience of the physically and technically taxing art of fresco; and, at twelve thousand square feet, the ceiling represented one of the largest such projects ever attempted.

Nevertheless, for the next four years he and a hand-picked team of assistants laboured over the vast ceiling, making thousands of drawings and spending back-breaking hours on a scaffold fifty feet above the floor. The result was one of the greatest masterpieces of all time. This fascinating book tells the story of those four extraordinary years and paints a magnificent picture of day-to-day life on the Sistine scaffolding - and outside, in the upheaval of early sixteenth-century Rome.

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