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Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (2003)

by Ross King

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2,584315,716 (3.91)71
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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English (26)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Fascinating history of the Sistine Chapel ceiling art, from how Michelangelo wanted nothing to do with it at the start to how out of pocket the Pope was during the whole process. This is a quick read that doesn't get too bogged down in the details, very enjoyable. ( )
  KallieGrace | Oct 26, 2023 |
Great read and having been to the Sistine Chapel a couple of years ago, it also brought back great memories. This is my second Ross King book and I now have to read all of his works. Big fan. ( )
  everettroberts | Oct 20, 2023 |
Michelangelo was a grumpy and admittedly ugly man who was so talented it’s almost unreal. A sculptor, he reluctantly accepted the commission to paint the Sistine Chapel with almost no knowledge of how to paint alfresco, much less of painting the correct dimensions of humans or anything else on curved surfaces that would look normal while standing 60 feet below. And yet he did, creating a monumental work of art I simply cannot wait to see. This book was an intimate look at Michelangelo, his relationships with Pope Julius II, his family, his assistants, and with the famed artists at the time: Rafael and DaVinci. We hear his words in his poems and letters to his father and brothers, who probably did indeed take advantage of Michelangelo’s hard-earned money. ( )
  KarenMonsen | May 14, 2023 |
Quick read, filled with interesting details about Michelangelo, Raphael, Pope Julius II, and the figures of the Sistine Chapel. ( )
  revatait | Feb 21, 2021 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (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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