Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sistine Chapel

I have to admit I told a fib in an earlier blog entry because I did not think I could pull off what I just have. When I was in Rome this weekend, I did actually manage to snap several surreptitious photos of the inside of the Sistine Chapel. It was all dreadfully Mission: Impossible-esque as they were all without a flash as I was palming my camera upward when the guards weren't looking. I have managed to piece them all together and lighten them all up drastically. They turned out pretty nice actually. This is the actually ceiling, or as best as I could reconstruct it from the 15 different shots. This was Michaelangelo's early work, when he was about 31. If you look closely, you can see all the stories of creation, expulsion from the garden, Noah, etc., on the interior. Portraits of Old Testament prophets and such are on the outside.

There was a major restoration project in the 80s, which took off several centuries of candle and incense soot, revealing for the first time in modernity the brilliant colors that were used. This came as quite a shock to the art criticism world, and virtually every art history book had to be re-written because critics always thought Michaelangelo had used all these drab colors. Various theories had been created in Egghead academia that the darkness represented Michaelangelo's manic depression, or that the symbolism was the darkness at the end of the world. Wrong...it was just smoke and soot build up from centuries of liturgical Popery. For some reason, I enjoyed the thought of snooty artsy critics having to rewrite their theses and explain they were wrong due to candles of burning animal fat.
This is the Last Judgment on the wall directly under the end where you see Jonah and the fish, above. Michaelangelo painted this near the end of his life, some 30 years later. He thought of himself as a sculptor, and found the whole notion of painting beneath him. He even signed his contract with the Pope as Michaelangelo the Sculptor.
If you can see, a few things of interest in this picture. Peter is giving the keys back to Christ in the center of the portrait; Pete's face is in fact the first Pope who hired Michaelangelo to paint the ceiling not the pope who ordered Michaelangelo to paint this work, whereas if you look at the very bottom right hand corner, you will see a man wrapped up in a serpent. That was the archdeacon who managed to tick off Michaelangelo some years before.
Also, Michaelangelo was a very pious man who thought that studying the female form was not proper since he was a man, so you will notice the women are all quite muscular because Michaelangelo had no other frame of reference. You might also notice, though it is hard to see from this shot, that those near the ground on Christ's right side are being helped up by dangling from rosaries...since Protestants didn't have them, they were apparently out of luck. I found this ironic because all this was being paid for by ripping off poor people by the sale of indulgences so Granny wouldn't be burning in Purgatory, the major issue that kicked off the Reformation to begin with.

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