In Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling Ross King gives a penetrating look into the life of Michelangelo Buonarroti during the four years he spends painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. At a scale of nearly five thousand and eight hundred square feet and almost seventy feet above the ground, this would be an incredible task for the artist. He faces many challenges, mentally and physically, during the process, but still finishes the ceiling in an incredibly short amount of time considering the size of his work. Michelangelo is renowned for his moody temper and reclusive lifestyle. Most people find him to be an extremely difficult person, due partially to his lack of concern for anyone but himself, and to his undaunted stubborn nature. The one man with whom he will despise and contend with all his life was Pope Julius II; he is also the man who commissions him to paint the ceiling. Ross King's purpose in writing this book is to detail Michelangelo's magnificent struggle with personal, political, and artistic difficulties during the painting of the Sistine ceiling. He also gives an engaging portrait of society and politics during the early sixteenth century.
Michelangelo is an unequivocal example of an eccentric and egotistical artist whose entire life revolves around his work. Anything not related to his art he considers to be void and worthless. He spends all day working and only stops to eat and sleep when it is absolutely necessary. He very rarely spends time with anyone except for the artists he works with and his assistants. He is extremely distrustful and intolerant of others, especially other artists. In fact Michelangelo seems to make enemies or offend someone everywhere he goes. He even goes so far as to accuse Bramante, a fellow artist and architect, of plotting to have him killed.
There is no one Michelangelo will ever detest more than Pope Julius II, who has a fearsome reputation for being violent and unforgiving. His uncle is Pope Sixtus IV and since nepotism is tolerated at this time, Julius goes on a jet set ride through church hierarchy. Once he becomes the pope he has only one goal: to ensure the power and glory of the papacy. He begins raising taxes, supporting simony, and offering indulgences to raise funds for the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilca. Bramante is in charge of the rebuilding of St. Peter's, which is Julius' largest project at this time. Meanwhile Michelangelo, who is sculpting Julius' funeral tomb, stops receiving his payments. He tries to talk to Julius about the matter, but Julius refuses to see him. In response to the supposed threats on his life, and more realistically because of the fight with Pope Julius II, Michelangelo leaves Rome in April of 1506, vowing never to return again.
Michelangelo always considered sculpture to be his speciality. This is why many people, including Bramante, do not think he would be the best artist to paint the Sistine. Julius had seen Michelangelo's...