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Michelangelo And The Pope's Ceiling [Kindle Edition]

Ross King
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Almost 500 years after Michelangelo Buonarroti frescoed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the site still attracts throngs of visitors and is considered one of the artistic masterpieces of the world. Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling unveils the story behind the art's making, a story rife with all the drama of a modern-day soap opera.

The temperament of the day was dictated by the politics of the papal court, a corrupt and powerful office steeped in controversy; Pope Julius II even had a nickname, "Il Papa Terrible," to prove it. Along with his violent outbursts and warmongering, Pope Julius II took upon himself to restore the Sistine Chapel and pretty much intimidated Michelangelo into painting the ceiling even though the artist considered himself primarily a sculptor and was particularly unfamiliar with the temperamental art of fresco. Along with technical difficulties, personality conflicts, and money troubles, Michelangelo was plagued by health problems and competition in the form of the dashing and talented young painter Raphael.

Author Ross King offers an in-depth analysis of the complex historical background that led to the magnificence that is the Sistine Chapel ceiling along with detailed discussion of some of the ceiling’s panels. King provides fabulous tidbits of information and weaves together a fascinating historical tale. --J.P. Cohen


“Ross King deftly stitches modern Michelangelo scholarship into his fluent and gripping narrative. The result is a delightful book that overturns many legends.”

“A fascinating and carefully researched account of day-to-day life atop the Sistine scaffolding.”
The Times


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5.0 von 5 Sternen Mr. King Stays on Point 6. März 2003
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I enjoy reading biographies and Mr. King is one of the better writers when documenting those periods of European History he chooses. He wrote a wonderful book about Brunelleschi, and now offers readers and even more ambitious work on Michelangelo and Pope Julius II. Many writers seem to often stray, and are too sweeping and inclusive of other persons and events that also took place during the time they are documenting. Mr. King gives enough information to keep his subjects and their pursuits in context without diluting the premise of his books.
The painting of the Sistine Chapel may seem like too well worn a subject for another book but the author dispels so many misconceptions about the events that were involved in this creation that his clarifications are worth the read on their own. The book also includes magnificent color plates and numerous black and white drawings that make the book all the more interesting. But the images add to the book, they do not act as a crutch for an author lacking information.
Did Michelangelo paint while lying on his back, the book answers that question by sharing a letter and diagram of Michelangelo that he penned himself sharing the manner by which he worked? Were the frescoed ceiling and vaults designed and painted by Michelangelo on his own, how long did the work really take, and how close did the work come to be handed over to another artist before its completion?
The author also demonstrates the influence and politics that were a daily part of working for The Vatican and this particular Pope. Mr. King will share the discovery and rapid rise of the artist Raphael who was painting at The Vatican simultaneously with Michelangelo. Bramante who was to initiate the rebuilding of St.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Good From All Perspectives 19. Juni 2005
"Michelangelo And The Pope's Ceiling" tells the stories of the creation of Michelangelo's magnus opus and of the world in which he worked. It is a combination of biography, technical manual and social and art history.
The biography tells us of Michelangelo's life. We meet his family and gain an understand his training, his financial standing and his artistic history. I was surprised to learn that he was, primarily, a sculptor who was hired to build the tomb of Pope Julius II before being diverted into the ceiling project. The popular image of Michelangelo laying on his back while painting the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel is repeatedly dismissed.
The technical manual introduces the reader to the techniques employed in the creation of a fresco. The explanations of the then existing practices relating to the drawing of the sketches on paper for transfer to the wet plaster and the array and qualities of the pigments available make fascinating reading. The author brings the reader into the team of artists and assistants who made this work happen. The growth of the picture across the ceiling is shown not only as expansion from side to side, but also as the growth of an artist who adjusted his techniques as he viewed his work from the perspective of its admirers.
The social history places Michelangelo's work in the world of his patron, Pope Julius II. Julius was an amazing character, a warrior Pope who left his mark, not in the sanctity of his Church but in the magnificence of its churches.
The art history walks the reader across the scenes of the ceiling. I have never been to Rome, but after reading this book it seems that one could spend weeks trying to take the whole ceiling in.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Highly Entertaining and Informative 8. Januar 2004
Von Bruce Kendall - Veröffentlicht auf
I'd seen this book and BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME in bookstores for quite a while. I just couldn't bring myself to purchase either for a very silly reason. The author's name, Ross King, just didn't sound very authoritative to me, for some reason. More a name for a movie actor than a Rennaissance biographer. As it turns out, that was a baseless bias. King definitely knows his stuff, as the book's bulging bibliography will attest to.
Purists may be put off by the fact that this book is so entertaining, that it can't possibly be serious scholarship. I say let them stick to Jacob Burckhardt, I'll take Ross King, any day. This is a masterly book, and King is an excellent story teller, marshalling his facts and arraying them in taut, controlled prose. His is an excellent overview of the full panoply of figures and events that made late 15th, early 14th c. Italy such an extraordinary place and era. Michelangelo lived in a time that teemed with larger than life figures. The Borgias were still wielding influence in Florence and Rome. Amongst Michelangelo's contemporaries that put in an appearance in the book are the firebrand priest, Girolamo Savonarola, Martin Luther, Machiavelli, and two of the other greatest artists of the Rennaissance, Leonardo and Raphael. The rivalry between Michelangelo and Raphael is one of the keynotes of the book. Raphael and his team of artisans were frescoing the pope's private rooms in the Vatican at the same time Michelangelo was frescoing the massive vault of the Sistine Chapel. Raphael is depicted as an expansive, open-minded, hedonist, good looking and attractive to all. Michelangelo is a "jug-eared, flat-nosed, and rather squat, somewhat miserly loner, who also happened to possess an unparalleled artistic genius.
King is particularly adept at conveying exactly how delicate and painstaking the art frescoing actually was. The artist would have only a brief window of time to apply the precious pigments before the plaster dried. Michelangelo started the project knowing very little about the involved techniques necessary to perform under such a timetable. As the months and years went by, he became so adept that he could paint ever larger sections at breakneck speed. He had to learn his craft on the fly, however, under incredibly difficult conditions.
King dispels a couple myths that have come down to us, primarily via Irving Stone and from the movie version of his novel, THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY. It is highly unlikely that Michelangelo had to paint any sections of the ceiling on his back. He did however, have to assume some rather uncomfortable craning postures for hours at a time. It's also evident that the artist didn't work alone on the project. He would hire assistants as the need arose. He definitely didn't mix his own pigments, for instance, a time consuming, exact and laborious task in itself. This in no way diminishes just how Herculean an effort he exerted, however. The sheer physical toll the painting exacted on his body was quite real. His spirit was drained by the enterprise. It was, after all, not a project he was eager to pursue. Had it not been for the overbearing will of Julius II, he would have turned the opportunity down and concentrated instead on sculpture, his first love.
This is a book I recommend without reservation and it goes to the top of my current list of reading suggestions. It's relatively brief at just over 200 pages and will keep anyone with even the slightest appreciation of art and of genius riveted.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Misanthrope And The Warrior Pope 27. Januar 2003
Von Bruce Loveitt - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Ahhh.....remember Charlton Heston as Michelangelo- all alone, on his back- painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Well, in this very informative and enjoyable book, Ross King quickly clears up those two major misconceptions. Michelangelo was not on his back: the scaffolding was placed 7 feet below the ceiling. Michelangelo painted while standing, reaching overhead, with his back arched. And, he had plenty of help in his glorious enterprise. Michelangelo took on the project with a great deal of reluctance. What he had really been excited to do was the job Pope Julius II had originally had in mind: the sculpting of the Pope's burial tomb. For Michelangelo considered himself to be a sculptor rather than a painter. Though originally trained, in his early teens, as a painter, he had devoted himself almost entirely to sculpting in the nearly 20 year period which had elapsed between his training and receiving the summons from Pope Julius II to begin work on the Sistine Chapel. Additionally, Michelangelo had never before painted a fresco, which is a very tricky process involving painting on wet plaster. (He had once started preparatory work on a fresco project where he was supposed to go "head to head" with Leonardo. Alas, that project never came to pass!) So, Michelangelo did what any sensible person would do...he hired as assistants artists who had prior experience doing frescoes. Thus begins the fascinating tale of the four year project. Along the way we learn of Renaissance rivalries- Michelangelo had once taunted Leonardo da Vinci in public for having failed in his attempt to cast a giant bronze equestrian statue in Milan. Leonardo gave as good as he got: "He claimed that sculptors, covered in marble dust, looked like bakers, and that their homes were both noisy and filthy, in contrast to the more elegant abodes of painters." There was also the rivalry between Raphael and Michelangelo. The two artists couldn't have been more different- Raphael, handsome, charming, well-mannered and sociable (and a notorious connoisseur of beautiful women); Michelangelo- squat nosed and surly, pathologically suspicious, seemingly uninterested in anything unrelated to his art. Raphael was at work on a fresco in the Pope's library, in another section of the Vatican, at the same time Michelangelo was working on the Sistine Chapel. One of the most interesting parts of the book occurs when the ceiling is halfway completed. All the scaffolding was removed so that the Pope could examine the work to date. This was also the first time that Michelangelo could get an idea of how the ceiling would look from the floor of the chapel. He is said to have been shocked at how small his figures looked, and when he started work on the second half of the ceiling he decreased the number of figures portrayed but increased their size by an average of four feet. It is also said that at this time Raphael, realizing how much more public and prestigious the Sistine Chapel project was than his own assignment in the Pope's library, lobbied to be allowed to do the second half of the ceiling. Of course, that never came to pass. Mr. King manages to incorporate an amazing amount of material into such a relatively small book: We learn about the complexities of fresco painting, especially on a concave surface; what materials the pigments were made of and the processes involved in making them; Michelangelo's lack of interest in adding realistic landscapes to the backgrounds of his compositions (he considered landscape painting to be an inferior form of art); his sense of humor- in one of the tableaus he has a character "making the fig" at another character (an Italian equivalent of giving someone the finger). The author also shows us the difficult relationships Michelangelo had with his father and brothers (they were always hitting him up for money or trying to get him to use his influence to get them jobs, etc.). And, as a change-of-pace, punctuating the entire book we have Pope Julius II going out on various military campaigns to punish wayward Italian city-states (and dragging along his reluctant cardinals)! Somehow, Mr. King manages to weave all this together into a seamless, smoothly flowing narrative. This is an excellent book, both educational and entertaining!
42 von 44 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Superb author as engaging tour guide 6. Februar 2003
Von Amazon Customer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Have you ever visited a landmark and had a tour guide who brought history to life - an engaging and entertaining person who had all the facts at his (or her) fingertips, but who delved beneath the facts to bring the participants to life? If so, you will understand the appeal of Ross King's "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling," for Mr. King is that kind of a tour guide. He takes us into the Sistine Chapel and fully explicates Michelangelo's masterpiece as a work of art, including everything from the technique of fresco to the kinds and colors of paint (and their origins) to the various challenges in the technique known as foreshortening. Although he liberally sprinkles the text with Italian and art terms, he explains each as he goes along.
Along the way, he also drops in interesting bits of information, such as, which panels in the painting, Michelangelo first saw from the floor of the chapel and what stylistic and color changes he incorporated in the panels after that, or which poses must have been difficult for the models (and who some of the models may have been) or why the medallions are disproportionately small to the rest of the work. Mixed in with art history and art appreciation are relevant pieces of contemporary history: the debauched and demanding Pope Julius II and the state of the papacy during his reign, the wars and diseases that afflicted the various participants and hindered work on the chapel, and numerous other small details that enliven the narrative.
King compares and contrasts Michelanglo with great rival, Raphael, who was painting the pope's private apartments at the same time Michelanglo was painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Raphael, who died relatively young, was more attractive, more popular, more adept at fresco (at least more adept than Michelangelo was when he began the ceiling) and generally a more sympathetic character than Michelangelo who lived to be almost ninety, had disgusting personal habits, was really not much to look at, and who really wanted to sculpt, not paint. While Raphael had the characteristic Italians call sprezziatura (making the difficult look easy), Michelangelo seemed to find everything difficult, or make it so.
King also debunks some of the more popular myths, particularly that Michelanglo painted the entire ceiling by himself, lying on his back. He had a host of helpers, some of whom also served as his teachers because he had minimal fresco experience when he began the chapel, and, while the scaffold was positioned so that neither he nor his assistants had to lie on their backs, the half squatting and bent-backward positions they did assume were equally uncomfortable, if not more so.
Though longer than "Bruneleschi's Dome," "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling" moves just as quickly. King is never slow, dry or pedantic. He is, however, unfailingly informative. Should you be fortunate enough to visit the Vatican, this is obligatory preparatory reading. If you do not have that opportunity, King's tour of the Sistine Chapel is the next best thing to seeing it in person.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Fascinating slice of history 19. Mai 2003
Von J. Marren - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Ross King's story of the "Pope's ceiling" is much more than the history of the painitng of the Sistine Chapel, as fascinating as that is. Spanning only four years, this book is art history, military history, church history and more all in one. Michelangelo was a renowned sculptor, who at the beginning of the 16th century was commissioned by Julius II to create the grandest tomb the world had known. But Julius, the feared and volatile ruler of part of Italy as well as the Pope, changed his mind before Michelangelo started, and directed him to paint the chapel instead. Unskilled in the complicated fresco process, and bitterly disappointed, Michelangelo nevertheless has no choice and begins the project. King details the challenging job of preparing the walls, transferring the design to the plaster, quickly painting before the walls dry. The author debunks many of the stories that have grown up over the years--Michelangelo did not work alone but with a changing crew of assistants; he did not lie on his back but painted in a much more uncomfortable position--standing, looking up.
King also offers an intriguing look at the corrupt church of the time, as we recall that the chapel is being painted on the eve of the Protestant reformation. The pope is hardly a spiritual leader, but one prince among many, with the extra power of condemning his enemies to hell or granting forgiveness and absolution for sins. Julius spends more time warring with rival kingdoms than worrying about salvation, and one cannot help thinking of the many lives lost during these useless escapades. Julius fancies himself as the successor not only of the first pope Peter but of Christ himself, and his triumphant entry into conquered cities in a fashion reminiscent of Palm Sunday are colorfully described. The clergy are uneducated, poor and hardly living a life of holiness--the vow of chastity simply means one cannot marry, and as a result Rome is overrun with prostitutes. In a wonderful aside, King quotes from the writings of the young Martin Luther--overjoyed at the prospect of visiting Rome's holy shrines, he quickly sees the filth and corruption in the city, which no doubt deeply influenced his subsequent break with Rome.
King does a wonderful job describing the fresco itself, explaining the origins of the designs in history, the classics, and earlier art works. We also learn quite a bit about Raphael, a young likeable man about town compared to the grumpy Michelangelo. Raphael was painting the pope's apartments at the same time as Michelangelo was working on the ceiling, and King does a great job explaining the differences between these two great masters. Leonardo da Vinci, the older, acknowledged master, was also working at this time, and King refers to his works throughout.
Whatever one might say about Julius and the corruption of the time, the popes did much to nuture the flowering of the Renaissance, and they certainly knew their art! This book is highly recommended--the audio version is also very well done.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Things are Looking Up 3. Januar 2003
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Continuing in the tradition of his earlier book, "Brunelleschi's Dome," Ross King explores the genesis of Michelangelo's masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel ceiling. King eloquently discusses not only Michelangelo's technique and composition, but also the contemporaneous rivalry with Raphael, who at the time was engaged in frescoing several of Pope Julius II's apartments. Written for the general reader, "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling" is must reading for anyone visiting the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel for the first time--and indeed for the repeat visitor. What one misses, though, are more comprehensive illustrations of the various sections of the ceiling itself, which would assist in following King's descriptions and analysis. Still, by the end of the book, one realizes that the hand of God in the "Creation of Adam" is really the hand of Michelangelo, and we are all blessed by his divine inspiration.
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