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Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

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9781620408407

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The riveting story of how Michelangelo, against all odds, created the masterpiece that has ever since adorned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

From the acclaimed author of Brunelleschi's Dome and Leonardo and the Last Supper, the riveting story of how Michelangelo, against all odds, created the masterpiece that has ever since adorned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel in Rome. Despite having completed his masterful statue David four years earlier, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with challenging curved surfaces such as the Sistine ceiling's vaults. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant: He stormed away from Rome, incurring Julius's wrath, before he was eventually persuaded to begin.

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the fascinating story of the four extraordinary years he spent laboring over the twelve thousand square feet of the vast ceiling, while war and the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. A panorama of illustrious figures intersected during this time-the brilliant young painter Raphael, with whom Michelangelo formed a rivalry; the fiery preacher Girolamo Savonarola and the great Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus; a youthful Martin Luther, who made his only trip to Rome at this time and was disgusted by the corruption all around him.

Ross King blends these figures into a magnificent tapestry of day-to-day life on the ingenious Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early-sixteenth-century Italy, while also offering uncommon insight into the connection between art and history.

Specifications

Publisher
Bloomsbury USA
Book Format
Paperback
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
384
Author
Ross King
ISBN-13
9781620408407
Publication Date
October, 2014
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.24 x 6.13 x 1.01 Inches
ISBN-10
1620408406

Customer Reviews

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1-5 of 14 reviews

Now THIS is how its d...

Now THIS is how it's done! In addition to a close view of Michelangelo at work, we get fascinating profiles of a cast of characters including ferocious Pope Julius II and man-about-town Raphael, as well as accounts of the violent events that were occurring while the Sistine Chapel was being painted. I can't wait for the release of Ross King's upcoming "Leonardo and the Last Supper."

A great telling of the...

A great telling of the story of the Sistine chapel. I wish I had read it before seeing the ceiling. At least I have pictures. I have a much better and hopefully more accurate understanding of Michelangelo the man. It also depends my understanding of his artistic influence.

I think Ross King has ...

I think Ross King has got it just about right. He tells the story of how and why Michelangelo painted the frescoes on the Sistine chapel in the Vatican city and he also tells us why they are a masterpiece of Renaissance art. The book would appeal to the more casual reader, but still holds plenty of interest for readers more widely read on the Italian Renaissance. The story is told in linear fashion and so we witness the struggles of Michelangelo as he spends four years of his life working and figuring on a scaffold just below the Sistine chapel ceiling. His story is placed in context of a master craftsman working to earn his living in the city states of the IIalian renaissance. For a proven artist as Michelangelo was when Pope Julius II awarded him the contract it was still a risk to undertake such a venture. A work of such magnitude presented it's own problems and Michelangelo had to solve them as he went along, always aware that competition among the elite artists was fierce and there was no room for failure. Ross KIng manages to bring his characters to life and at the same time sketch in the historical events around them. His view of life in Renaissance Italy has enough substance to make this reader feel like he has created the right atmosphere and explains why the characters acted in ways that might be puzzling to modern readers. For example even an artist as well known as Michelangelo was forced to work and live in cramped and dirty conditions being forced to share his bed with two of his fellow artists. Ross King is an art historian and so he understands the techniques involved in frescoing a renaissance ceiling, and in this book he is able to make this subject an integral part of the story without sounding dry and over scholarly. As a reader I could appreciate the problems and marvel at the way an artist of the calibre of Michelangelo was able to solve them. Life gets in the way of art and Pope Julius' war mongering with the French and the Venetians was always likely to derail Michelangelo's work as were problems within his own family, but Michelangelo was something of a workaholic as well as being proud and stubborn and so although at times tested to his limits we could understand how he succeeded. While Michelangelo was employed in the Sistine chapel, Raphael another great artist of the period was frescoing the walls of Pope Julius' Library and Ross King uses these two very different character to point up the differences between them, so much so that the book becomes a story of both of these artists with King able to compare and contrast their different painting style as well as their life styles. Raphael was young, good looking, charming to all those around him. Michelangelo was not. King sums up the differences in their painting styles like this: " One way to understand the differing styles of the two artists is through a pair of aesthetic categories developed two and a half centuries later by the Irish statesman and writer Edmund Burke......... For Burke those things we call beautiful have the properties of smoothness, delicacy, softness of colour and elegance of movement. The sublime, on the other hand comprehends the vast, the obscure, the powerful, the rugged, the difficult attributes which produce in the spectator a kind of astonished wonder and even terror. For the people of Rome in 1511, Raphael was beautiful but Michelangelo was sublime. Of course King dispels the popular myths about Michelangelo and the Sistine chapel: he did not paint it single handedly (he had a whole team of painters working with him) and he didn't paint it lying on his back on the scaffold. King for the most part uses secondary sources; of which there are many, but he uses the material to bring the story into the reach of many more people. Not an original history or an imaginative historical novel, but a solid piece of writing that will inform and entertain many readers who give it their attention and so for me A four star read.

I think Ross King has ...

I think Ross King has got it just about right. He tells the story of how and why Michelangelo painted the frescoes on the Sistine chapel in the Vatican city and he also tells us why they are a masterpiece of Renaissance art. The book would appeal to the more casual reader, but still holds plenty of interest for readers more widely read on the Italian Renaissance. The story is told in linear fashion and so we witness the struggles of Michelangelo as he spends four years of his life working and figuring on a scaffold just below the Sistine chapel ceiling. His story is placed in context of a master craftsman working to earn his living in the city states of the IIalian renaissance. For a proven artist as Michelangelo was when Pope Julius II awarded him the contract it was still a risk to undertake such a venture. A work of such magnitude presented it's own problems and Michelangelo had to solve them as he went along, always aware that competition among the elite artists was fierce and there was no room for failure. Ross KIng manages to bring his characters to life and at the same time sketch in the historical events around them. His view of life in Renaissance Italy has enough substance to make this reader feel like he has created the right atmosphere and explains why the characters acted in ways that might be puzzling to modern readers. For example even an artist as well known as Michelangelo was forced to work and live in cramped and dirty conditions being forced to share his bed with two of his fellow artists. Ross King is an art historian and so he understands the techniques involved in frescoing a renaissance ceiling, and in this book he is able to make this subject an integral part of the story without sounding dry and over scholarly. As a reader I could appreciate the problems and marvel at the way an artist of the calibre of Michelangelo was able to solve them. Life gets in the way of art and Pope Julius' war mongering with the French and the Venetians was always likely to derail Michelangelo's work as were problems within his own family, but Michelangelo was something of a workaholic as well as being proud and stubborn and so although at times tested to his limits we could understand how he succeeded. While Michelangelo was employed in the Sistine chapel, Raphael another great artist of the period was frescoing the walls of Pope Julius' Library and Ross King uses these two very different character to point up the differences between them, so much so that the book becomes a story of both of these artists with King able to compare and contrast their different painting style as well as their life styles. Raphael was young, good looking, charming to all those around him. Michelangelo was not. King sums up the differences in their painting styles like this: " One way to understand the differing styles of the two artists is through a pair of aesthetic categories developed two and a half centuries later by the Irish statesman and writer Edmund Burke......... For Burke those things we call beautiful have the properties of smoothness, delicacy, softness of colour and elegance of movement. The sublime, on the other hand comprehends the vast, the obscure, the powerful, the rugged, the difficult attributes which produce in the spectator a kind of astonished wonder and even terror. For the people of Rome in 1511, Raphael was beautiful but Michelangelo was sublime. Of course King dispels the popular myths about Michelangelo and the Sistine chapel: he did not paint it single handedly (he had a whole team of painters working with him) and he didn't paint it lying on his back on the scaffold. King for the most part uses secondary sources; of which there are many, but he uses the material to bring the story into the reach of many more people. Not an original history or an imaginative historical novel, but a solid piece of writing that will inform and entertain many readers who give it their attention and so for me A four star read.

I enjoy Ross Kings wr...

I enjoy Ross King's writing on topics of art history. He presents the facts in an entertaining way that does not read like a text book and, he is a welcome addition to my library of Canadian born authors. This book told the story of the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I read this book in anticipation of going to a lecture presented by the authors of THE SISTINE SECRETS. Having read Mr. King's book, I think I will be saving my money and not purchasing THE SISTINE SECRETS. I would like to read one of Ross King's fictional books, so maybe I'll invest the savings there.

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