Sculpture vs. Painting
Your First Drawing Classes
The First Great Oil Painting
A Painter’s Greatest Tricks
What Is Fresco?
An Angel a Day
Painting: Is Color Secondary?
Drawing with a Camera
Peek Inside a Renaissance Art School
A Very Short History of Art
The First Artist
When Art Began
Portraits and the Artist
- Michelangelo Smashed His Pietà to Pieces
- Michelangelo's Portrait of a Devil
- Michelangelo's Thinker
- Why Michelangelo Disliked Leonardo da Vinci
- Great Line Drawings
- Botticelli in the Sistine Chapel
- Michelangelo vs. Bernini
- Giotto's Perfect Circle
- Who's Who in the Last Judgment?
- A Love Letter from Michelangelo
How I learned to carve marble statues
- 2,822,597 hits
Having just begun a blog about Michelangelo and the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling I was thrilled to find your site. Looks great, I love the detail of information you go into; a lot of reading to come.
My blog grew out of a five year obsession with the ceiling, something that began with an 8,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that my wife and I began shortly before she was killed in an accident. I kept trying to find out what the ceiling was supposed to mean, but couldn’t since Michelangelo never revealed his plan to anyone. I eventually began to see the ceiling as a jigsaw puzzle itself and discovered the way to find the meaning is not by putting all of the pieces together but by figuring out the one piece that was missing.
As I said, I’m just beginning. But I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have the time to look. http://sistinepuzzle.blogspot.com All best.
Dave: Thanks for your message. Good luck at figuring out just what Michelangelo’s real plan for the Sistine ceiling was; why he chose certain Old Testament stories (why only the Old Testament ones—where’s the Savior Himself?), and so on. I was surprised that you say Michelangelo’s dream was to become a fresco painter since both his biographers quote him as saying he believed he was meant to be a sculptor.
Thanks for the reply Swallows. I did ask the same questions and answered them. The two puzzling questions for me were why was it Jonah who sits above the altar, a minor prophet known only for running away from God and being swallowed by a great fish, and why use five pagan sibyls when there were more than enough available prophets to fill out the twelve thrones.
As for the biographies, there is a third one to consider: Vasari’s first version of The Lives in 1550, which is now availble in English from Penguin (Michelangelo, Poems and Letters, 2007). When you read the opening pages it is easy to see why Michelangelo asked Condivi to publish his book in 1552: Vasari’s first version said it was Michelangelo’s father who discovered his talent and got him into Ghirlandiao’s workshop. Condivi said Michelangelo was always running off to be in the company of painters and for this his father beat him because he had no appreciation for art, and in fact, thought having an artist in the family would be a disgrace. Interestingly, as much as Lodovico Buonarotti hated painters, he hated sculptors even more.
What’s also interesting about Condivi is a comparison of the length of the story devoted to painting versus sculpting. In 55 pages of text, six pages are devoted to the Sistine ceiling and three total for the Last Judgment and Pauline Chapel frescoes while he covers the Pieta and David with only a page each. Also, in several key scenes like when Michelangelo meets him in Bologna a year before he paints the ceiling, Condivi calls him a painter, not sculptor.
Dave: Those are good questions about the big Jonah and the Sibyls.
Thanks a lot for the news that the first Vasari is available. I want to see it. I have never seen the first biography by Paolo Giovio either, have you? I got my idea of Michelangelo from Vasari and then Condivi. I thought that was as good as you could get—they both knew him. The selected letters I read only seemed to corroborate what they said. But one day, not even long ago, I bought his COMPLETE letters (Ramsden) and read them through, all 495 of them. And I saw a different man. I realized that many of Vasari’s stories mislead—about those supposed long periods of inactivity or about the possibility of his cheating Cardinal San Giorgio, for instance. Anyone reading Michelangelo’s own letters sees a man who drove himself to the edge all his life, who was so duty-driven that it nearly crushed him. No time for himself! You too must have been impressed by the way he took care of his father and brothers and nephew as though he were the father and provider of them all, and his preoccupation with the family dignity. Of course those two biographers hadn’t seen most of his letters. So I realized I had to change some of my ideas, especially those flights of the imagination that began with Vasari’s stories. Ramsden’s essays at the back of the collection of letters, and her footnotes as you read, give information it would be hard to get anywhere else. But you must know all this.
I’ll check out what you say about Condivi’s presentation.
I luv paintings,,,,,,
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Just found your blogs while googling Michelangelo’s “Night” while reading Hesse’s “Steppenwolf.” Hooray for the internet! Thank you for your blogs. They are wonderful!