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New York: Thames and Hudson, 1984, p. 62.**Charles H. Morgan, The Life of Michelangelo.New York:Reynal & Company, 1966, p. 103.
rivals. The pope, in fact, even threatened to tossMichelangelo off the scaffolding. During the fouryears that Michelangelo worked on the ceiling,he experienced unhappiness, dissatisfaction, andpoverty. In a letter he wrote to his father in January1509, he said: I am attending to work as much as I can. . . . Idon’t have a penny. So I cannot be robbed. . . . Iam unhappy and not in too good health stayinghere, and with a great deal of work, no instruc-tions, and no money. But I have good hopes Godwill help me.50The overworked artist was often depressed.Writing to his brother Buonarroto, he claimed, “Ilive here in great toil and great weariness of body,and have no friends of any kind and don’t want any,and haven’t the time to eat what I need. . . .”51Sometimes while painting the Sistine Chapel,Michelangelo faced extreme physical challenges.On one occasion, he slipped from his scaffold andtumbled down a considerable distance, hurtinghimself severely. His biographer Vasari describedMichelangelo98
some of his physical difficulties while working onscaffolding in the chapel: He executed the frescoes in great discomfort,having to work with his face looking upward,which impaired his sight so badly that he couldnot read or look at drawings save with his headturned backwards: and this lasted for severalmonths afterward.52While Michelangelo complained of his discom-fort in private letters to family and friends, he alsowrote poetry such as the following, describinghis difficulties:I’ve got myself a goitre [a swelling in the neck] from the strainAs water gives the cats in Lombardy,Or maybe it’s in some other country.My stomach’s pushed by force beneath my chin,My beard towards heaven, and my brain I feelIs shoved upon my nape, and my breast is like a Harpy,And the brush, ever over my faceMakes a rich pavement with its droppings. . .The Great Ceiling Painter99
In front of me my skin is stretchedAnd to bend it, folds itself behindAnd stretches like a Syrian bow.Thus, wrongheaded and strangeEmerge the judgments that the mind brings forth,In that no good shot comes from a crooked gun.My painting, when I’m dead, defend it Giovanni,And my Honour too, since I am not in a good place,And am not a painter either.53The great Florentine artist actually worked onhis ceiling masterpiece in two separate blocks oftime. In addition, he usually did not paint duringthe two coldest months of each winter. The firstproductive period lasted from 1508 through 1509.During late 1510, the scaffolding had to be movedbeneath the second half of the chapel. This gaveMichelangelo time to make two trips outside Rome.The first trip took place in September, and thesecond in December. By February 1511, he wasback to work. He did not stop until he completedthe ceiling, in October 1512.