Sistine Chapel Essay

1340 words - 5 pages

Michelangelo de Buonarotti, a distinguished painter, sculptor, architect, and poet of Italy was born in 1475 in the territory of Arezzo, in Tuscany. His time was of a new age of enlightenment where artistic and inventive freedom was beginning to come back into the forefront, Michelangelo stands as the archetype of the Renaissance genius, with a talent that transcends time and continues to influence and inspire contemporary artists. Michelangelo grew up and was first exposed to stone carving, “he regarded himself first and foremost as a sculptor.” (FIERO) Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II Della Rovere in 1508 to repaint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel frescoed earlier by Piero Matteo d'Amelia with a star-spangled sky. Buonarroti, who had always regarded himself as a sculptor, would now have to perfect the art of fresco. Michelangelo's lament that "painting is not my art" proved a hollow objection since the pope's stubbornness was greater than his. However, like all commissions that Michelangelo initially resisted, once he reconciled himself to the task, he threw himself into it with unrestrained energy. For four years, from 1508 to 1512, Michelangelo struggled with the manifold difficulties of painting nearly ten thousand square feet of a highly irregular, leaky vault. “Michelangelo inherited an enormous project more than three decades later, in 1547 having proved himself, among his other accomplishments, the most inventive and influential architect of the century.” (BECK) He painted the Last Judgment over the altar, between 1535 and 1541, being commissioned by Pope Paul III Farnese.

The Last Judgment, which Michelangelo finished in 1541 was the largest fresco of the Renaissance, it depicts Judgment Day. The entire ceiling and the altar wall were done in pure fresco. “Michelangelo declared that he would only do it in fresco, and that oil painting was a woman’s art and only fit for lazy well-to-do people.” (DeVECCHI) This fresco covers the entire altar wall. It is filled with angels, demons, and people. The people in this fresco appear to be either going to heaven or hell. The figure in the middle appears to be Christ because he has a bright light that surrounds him. There are also many references to his crucifixion on the fresco. Michelangelo painted the figures to be both nude and some are clothed. Those figures that are nude are anatomically rendered and have that perfected body much like the ancient Greeks and Romans. Michelangelo uses a wide variety of colors both vibrant and dull. In my opinion, this depiction of the Last Judgment is beautifully rendered and very stylized.

The idea of commissioning an enormous fresco, the largest ever painted in that century, depicting the Last Judgment, was probably suggested to Clement VII by the traumatic events that were undermining the unity of Christians at the time. After the pope's death, on September 25, 1534, and only two days after Michelangelo's arrival in Rome, his...

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