Michelangelo’s 500th Anniversary of the Sistine Ceiling

November 1st, 2012 Posted in Art, Galleries/Museums/Exhibits

Five hundred years ago on October 31st, the completed Sistine Chapel ceiling was presented to Pope Julius II by Michelangelo after over 4 years of neck-breaking work by an artist who had never previously painted in the buon fresco technique.

It is still one of the most amazing sights in the world.

Preparatory drawings for the Sistine ceiling

When Michelangelo was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II in 1508, he thought he would be working on his commission to sculpt figures for the papal tomb. Instead, he was given the assignment of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, having never worked in the art of fresco before. This required him to not only learn from scratch the intricate and precise steps of painting buon fresco, but also to design the scaffolding for the project. And, no, contrary to movie lore, Michelangelo did not work lying on his back, but rather stood with his head dropped back, thus causing life-long neck, back and eye difficulties.

Did you know that Michelangelo also wrote poetry? In 1536, Michelangelo met Vittoria Colonna, fifteen years his senior. They had an intense friendship for the next eleven years until her death. Michelangelo wrote at least 300 sonnets, many of them dedicated to her. Who would have known?

“Sonnet With a Caricature”

Michelangelo never stopped working, even accepting the role of chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in his seventies.

An amazingly talented gift to the world.

Photos courtesy of the British Museum and Ross King’s Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling

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