Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Michaelangelo's Masterpiece (One of them anyway!)

On this day in 1512 the Roman public got its first glance at the completed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Chapel itself is named after Pope Sixtus IV (Pope 1471-1484) and is best known, apart from its paintings, as the setting for recent papal elections (all those since the election of Pope Leo XIII in 1878).

Initially the vault was painted blue and decorated with golden stars. The walls received much better treatment, being covered in works by such luminaries as Perugino, Botticelli and Ghirlandaio. Then, in 1508, Pope Julius II - a nephew of the aforementioned Pope Sixtus IV (and buried with him in St Peter's Basilica)- commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling. The task took four years and at its completion the ceiling was populated by over 300 figures illustrating such seminal events as the Creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Great Flood.

It's almost impossible to get to see the Sistine Chapel without a heaving mass pressing around you and without the distraction of attendants constantly clapping for silence. Received wisdom states that the best way to get a bit of peace and quiet is to be at the start of the queue for the Vatican Museums and, once inside, to ignore everything else and head straight for the Chapel!

No comments: