Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling “No one who has not seen the Sistine ceiling can have a clear idea of what a human being can achieve.” (Goethe)
The Sistine ChapelLa Capella Sistina • EXTERIOR • Chapel decoration was started by Pope Sixtus in 1473 • Ceiling had been frescoed earlier with a star-spangled sky In 1508 Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II della Rovere to repaint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel • .
The Sistine Chapel • The ceiling was completed in 1512 when M was 37. • From this time onwards, Vasari writes he was referred to as “Il Divino” • He returned and painted the Last Judgement over the altar, between 1535 and 1541on request of Pope Paul III Farnese. • The ceiling is 40m long and shaped like a barrel
Influences on Michelangelo • As a young man in Florence studying painting, M sketched the work of Masaccio and Giotto. • He spent a lot of time in the Brancacci Chapel • He admired Giotto’s weighty 3D forms, Masaccio’s use of drapery and sculptural forms of his figures. • When sketching them he tended to add to the massiveness of the figures and define the drapery more strongly. • Can you recognise which character and which work Michelangelo is copying here?
Facts and Figures Can you match these stats to these numbers? 300 1990 1512 520 • Number of days it took to paint the Sistine ceiling? • Approximate number of figures on the ceiling? • Area of the ceiling in sq metres? • Decade that the ceiling restoration was completed?
Answers • It took 4 years and 5 months (1512 days) to paint the ceiling. Although he had some assistants mixing paint etc, Michelangelo was such a perfectionist he did most of the work himself. • There are over 300 figureson the ceiling • The ceiling is 40m x 14 m long (520m 2) (~ 2 ½ tennis courts) and the height of a 3 storey building. • Restoration of the ceiling started in the 80s and finished in the 1990s. Restorers used pure water and chemicals to clean away centuries of smoke and grime and reveal the true colours used by Michelangelo.
The Pope v the artist • Michelangelo’s relationship with Pope Julius II was stormy. He initially refused to paint the ceiling, saying he was a sculptor. • Julius II was very ambitious, a warrior pope who had led armies in battle. He was impatient with those who worked for him. • He often visited the Sistine Chapel, climbing the scaffolding to see how the work was going • He constantly asked Michelangelo how soon it would be completed
A dangerous job • Michelangelo painted the ceiling using traditional fresco technique • Extremely difficult and dangerous given the size of the ceiling and its height. • Scaffolding was 16m above floor. • Michelangelo had to bend over backwards and paint above his head • He invented a stool that he leaned on/rested his head on. • Paint splattered his face all day long and by evening his body was so cramped he could only read letters from his family by holding them above his head.
The Decorative Scheme • The CEILING is Divided into 3 zones. • The lowest zone: shows the ancestors of Christ – 40 generations worth, as described in Genesis. • The middle zone consists of Old Testament prophets and pagan sibyls [prophetesses]. Both “have knowledge of the Divine and mediate between man and God" (Fleming 192). Biblical AND Classical. • The center of the ceiling depicts the story of the creation of the world and man’s relation to God. 9 scenes taken from Genesis. Begins with creation and ends with the Last Judgement. • Diagram shows layout of the WALLS.
Layout of each band of the ceiling • Prophets / Sibyls on the outside • Ignudi, medallions • Scene from Genesis in the central
The restoration process revealed surprising bright colours to Art Historians