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Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (2003)

by Ross King

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2,146245,210 (3.88)60
In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel. With little experience as a painter (though famed for his sculpture David), Michelangelo was reluctant to begin the massive project. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the four extraordinary years Michelangelo spent laboring over the vast ceiling while the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, the pope's impatience, and a bitter rivalry with the brilliant young painter Raphael, Michelangelo created scenes so beautiful that they are considered to be among the greatest masterpieces of all time. A panorama of illustrious figures converged around the creation of this magnificent work-from the great Dutch scholar Erasmus to the young Martin Luther-and Ross King skillfully weaves them through his compelling historical narrative, offering uncommon insight into the intersection of art and history. Four years earlier, at the age of twenty-nine, Michelangelo had unveiled his masterful statue of David in Florence; however, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with the curved surface of vaults, which dominated the chapel's ceiling. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant, and he stormed away from Rome, risking Julius's wrath, only to be persuaded to eventually begin. Michelangelo would spend the next four years laboring over the vast ceiling. He executed hundreds of drawings, many of which are masterpieces in their own right. Contrary to legend, he and his assistants worked standing rather than on their backs, and after his years on the scaffold, Michelangelo suffered a bizarre form of eyestrain that made it impossible for him to read letters unless he held them at arm's length. Nonetheless, he produced one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, about which Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists, wrote, 'There is no other work to compare with this for excellence, nor could there be.' Ross King's fascinating new book tells the story of those four extraordinary years. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, inadequate knowledge of the art of fresco, and the pope's impatience, Michelangelo created figures-depicting the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood-so beautiful that, when they were unveiled in 1512, they stunned his onlookers. Modern anatomy has yet to find names for some of the muscles on his nudes, they are painted in such detail. While he worked, Rome teemed around him, its politics and rivalries with other city-states and with France at fever pitch, often intruding on his work. From Michelangelo's experiments with the composition of pigment and plaster to his bitter competition with the famed painter Raphael, who was working on the neighboring Papal Apartments, Ross King presents a magnificent tapestry of day-to-day life on the ingenious Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early-sixteenth-century Rome.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
This was very interesting nonfiction about Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel, but also about the activities of the artist Raphael and Pope Julius II during the same period. It includes diagrams and illustrations, some of which are color plates in the center of the book (that I wish had been larger), 28 pages of end notes, a 10-page bibliography, and a 17-page index (that would have been longer if the font was larger). ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Oct 2, 2019 |
Ma che bel libro, un saggio di storia e storia dell'arte che si legge come un romanzo. La figura di Michelangelo inserita nel contesto storico e artistico e delineata con raffinatezza e semplicità. Ce ne fossero altri, di libri così! ( )
  Eva_Filoramo | May 3, 2018 |
A great telling of the story of the Sistine chapel. I wish I had read it before seeing the ceiling. At least I have pictures. I have a much better and hopefully more accurate understanding of Michelangelo the man. It also depends my understanding of his artistic influence. ( )
  waldhaus1 | Mar 29, 2018 |
5446. Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling, by Ross King (read 26 Feb 2017) Because I so enjoyed reading Ross King's Brunelleschi's Dome on 12 Jan 2007, when I saw this book I decided to read it. It tells the story which begins in 1508 when Pope Julius II induced Michelangelo (born 6 Mar 1475., died 18 Feb 1564) to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The book tells in detail, much of it being technical, of the fresco work that Michelangelo did, and difficulties he overcame to create the most famous ceiling in the world. One is amazed anew by the life style of Julius II and his temperament--though the life style of too many Popes of that time we know to be scandalous--but one is glad that such behavior by the Pope did not overly phase Michelangelo,. I certainly would be glad to see the ceiling again after reading he book, but the Internet does enable one to see some of it, probably better than a tourist could. ( )
  Schmerguls | Feb 26, 2017 |
I found this an interesting read about an incredible Renaissance artist and a demanding Pope. However, I do have to be honest and say that the book was rather dry as it became bogged down with unnecessary detail. It certainly wasn't a page-turner, but I found the process of doing frescos, the sketches and cartoons, the paint mixing the finding the right pigments extremely interesting.

Also, what amazed me was, that at the time of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo had never really worked with paint making his achievements even more remarkable. ( )
  HeatherLINC | Feb 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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The Piazza Rusticucci was not one of Rome's most prestigious addresses. Though only a short walk from the Vatican, the square was humble and nondescript, part of a maze of narrow streets and densely packed shops and houses that ran west from where the Ponte Sant'Angelo crossed the Tiber River.
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In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel. With little experience as a painter (though famed for his sculpture David), Michelangelo was reluctant to begin the massive project. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the four extraordinary years Michelangelo spent laboring over the vast ceiling while the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, the pope's impatience, and a bitter rivalry with the brilliant young painter Raphael, Michelangelo created scenes so beautiful that they are considered to be among the greatest masterpieces of all time. A panorama of illustrious figures converged around the creation of this magnificent work-from the great Dutch scholar Erasmus to the young Martin Luther-and Ross King skillfully weaves them through his compelling historical narrative, offering uncommon insight into the intersection of art and history. Four years earlier, at the age of twenty-nine, Michelangelo had unveiled his masterful statue of David in Florence; however, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with the curved surface of vaults, which dominated the chapel's ceiling. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant, and he stormed away from Rome, risking Julius's wrath, only to be persuaded to eventually begin. Michelangelo would spend the next four years laboring over the vast ceiling. He executed hundreds of drawings, many of which are masterpieces in their own right. Contrary to legend, he and his assistants worked standing rather than on their backs, and after his years on the scaffold, Michelangelo suffered a bizarre form of eyestrain that made it impossible for him to read letters unless he held them at arm's length. Nonetheless, he produced one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, about which Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists, wrote, 'There is no other work to compare with this for excellence, nor could there be.' Ross King's fascinating new book tells the story of those four extraordinary years. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, inadequate knowledge of the art of fresco, and the pope's impatience, Michelangelo created figures-depicting the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood-so beautiful that, when they were unveiled in 1512, they stunned his onlookers. Modern anatomy has yet to find names for some of the muscles on his nudes, they are painted in such detail. While he worked, Rome teemed around him, its politics and rivalries with other city-states and with France at fever pitch, often intruding on his work. From Michelangelo's experiments with the composition of pigment and plaster to his bitter competition with the famed painter Raphael, who was working on the neighboring Papal Apartments, Ross King presents a magnificent tapestry of day-to-day life on the ingenious Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early-sixteenth-century Rome.

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