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RUNNING HEAD: THE SISTINE CHAPEL1The Sistine ChapelUniversity of Oklahoma
The Sistine Chapel 1The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the landmark works of High Renaissance art. Pope Julius II commissioned the Italian artist, Michelangelo Buonarroti, to create a series of frescoes to adorn the 132 by 44 by 68 foot ceiling of the cavernous Sistine Chapel (Szalay). Beginning work in 1508, Michelangelo worked for four years taking a large toll on his body that resulted in permanent damage to his vison. His paintings were based on stories from the Old Testament, nine of which were taken from the Book of Genesis. Michelangelo had steadily gained fame during the years that led to this papal commission. He was widely praised for his marble sculptures, Davidand Pieta, that demonstrated remarkable command of the human form in a spirit commensurate with the loftiest Classical traditions of Greece and Rome. Raphael Sanzio, a painter who was a contemporary of Michelangelo’s, and Donato Bramante, who served as chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica, jointly recommended the selection of Michelangelo to the pope. Ironically, scholars report that the recommendation was something of a setup: his “benefactors” hoped that Michelangelo, far more reputed as a sculptor than as a painter, would either fail at the task or be utterly unable to get along with the pope. Almost incredibly, Michelangelo rose to the challenge and delivered what stands to this day as one of the leading creations of the Italian Renaissance tradition in painting (Michelangelo Paints the Sistine Chapel).Michelangelo made several operational changes over the four years that he devoted to theSistine Chapel ceiling. For example, he came to realize that the figures were too small in his initial frescoes readily to be seen by viewers on the ground, so he decided to paint subsequent frescoes using much larger figures. As the paintings progress toward the altar, they become
The Sistine Chapel 2larger and also markedly more dynamic in composition. The artist also decided to paint what would look like a molding to frame the individual scenes. Also intermixed with the Biblical scenes are pagan-style sibyls, or prophets, which Michelangelo exploits to reinforce the notion that the entire Old Testament, as well as its Classical forebears and analogues, are intended to set the stage for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of mankind (Michelangelo’s Painting of the Sistine Chapel).The paintings that cover the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel make ingenious use of both Christian and Platonic, or Classical Greek, symbolism (Christian and Platonic Symbolism in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling). Each of the portraits is an independent study in the careful composition of a Biblical scene in order precisely to exploit metaphor, analogy, and suggestion. The fact that Michelangelo so brilliantly succeeded in conveying the story of the Creation and the coming of Jesus reflect how richly he deserves his preeminent status as one of