Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King

Robert Stapp
Director of Human Resources

King says, “Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling is about Rome in the years 1508 to 1512—sort of an artisan’s-eye view of the Renaissance.” In addition to being “an artisan’s-eye view” into the world of the artistic during the Renaissance it is also a view into the world of Michelangelo.

King writes of Michelangelo:

Worse than Michelangelo’s frugality was his personal hygiene, or lack thereof. “His nature was so rough and uncouth,” wrote Paolo Giovio in his biography of the artist, “that his domestic habits were incredibly squalid, and deprived posterity of any pupils who might have succeeded him.”

Pope Julius II commissioned the resistant Michelangelo in 1508 to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Ross’ book recounts the four years Michelangelo spent laboring over the ceiling while power politics and personal rivalries literally swirled around him.

Early in the painting of the frescos there was an outbreak of salt efflorescence and mildew that set the project back. The biographer and friend of Michelangelo, Giorgio Vasari, relates a story that because of the problems encountered, Michelangelo took a “jaundiced” view of his assistants and locked them out of the chapel and Michelangelo when on to paint the ceiling “without any help whatever…” and also frescoed the vault while lying flat on his back. Both, now known to be myths, but they make for good story.
“Restoring David’s Michelangelo.” NPR
Portrait of Pope Julius II, Raphael. Kahn Academy

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