Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Between May 1508 and November 1, 1512, with one break of 11 months, Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475/1564) was commissioned by Julius II Della Rovere (1503/13) to repaint the ceiling depicting gold stars on a blue sky by Piermatteo Lauro di Manfredo aka Piermatteo d'Amelia (1446-48/about 1506)

800 m² (8611 square feet) including lunettes and pendentives.

In the FOURTEEN LUNETTES (originally sixteen) and in the EIGHT PENDENTIVES above the lunettes on the long sides “Ancestors of Christ”

There were forty ancestors, according to the listing of the Gospel of Matthew, and the figures are ninety-one of which only twenty-eight adults, so twelve out of thirty-six children must be ancestors


“Four miraculous episodes of the salvation of Israel”

The two on the altar wall were painted first:

“Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes” with self-portrait of Michelangelo as Holofernes

“The abnormal form of the pendentives and their concave surface demanded Michelangelo to give his best talent. In Judith and Holofernes, for example, the wall separating Judith and her maid from the room where Holofernes, lies naked beheaded on the bed, leans sideways into the pictorial space. The direction of the wall, therefore, is opposed to the concave curvature of the pendentive” (Frank Zöllner)

On the entrance wall:

In the Bible Amam dies hanged, but Michelangelo was inspired by Dante who in his Purgatory describes Amam as crucified

The Brazen Serpent represents the liberation of the people of Israel and salvation obtained through the sacrifice of Christ

“In the Punishment of Amman Michelangelo pushes to the far end the bold painterly artifice of foreshortening, and it is possible to trace the cause of this choice in the genesis of the assignment itself. As reported by Piero Rosselli in a letter of 1506, Bramante had expressed to the Pope his doubts about the ability of Michelangelo to paint figures of large size and foreshortened. So Michelangelo gave the rebuttal in the pendentives” (Frank Zöllner)


“Seven prophets”: Jonah, Zechariah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Joel

“Five sibyls”: Libyan, Persian, Cumana, Erythraean and Delphic

They are those who foretold the birth of Christ, each accompanied by two children who maybe represent allegorically, with the main figure memory, intellect and will

According to Heinrich W. Pfeiffer the different colors would represent different qualities and capabilities

“In his selection, the artist depict merely the major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, for their higher hierarchical level. The criterion of choice of the three other minor prophets, Joel, Zechariah and Jonah remains controversial. ( ...) It is possible however to provide a full explanation for the choice of the Sibyls. The Divinae Istitutiones by Lattanzio had handed down the names of ten ancient seers, and Michelangelo painted those mentioned first in the edition of the fifteenth century” (Frank Zöllner)

“It still gets credit the opinion, spread by Michelangelo himself, according to which the original program would have included paintings of the Twelve Apostles. (...) However, in this case, the Apostle depicted above Christ on the wall behind the altar, would have been in an untimely opposition, both from an aesthetic point of view and in symbolic terms (...). Jonah as a prophet, belongs to another era, occupies a different position in the history of Salvation, embodying also a reference to the Resurrection of Christ. (...) This was probably the real reason why the considered project of the Apostles, was quickly abandoned. (...) This idea could have been conceived only by competent theologians, responsible for developing the program and not by the artist himself” (Heinrich W. Pfeiffer)

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Wall above the main door

1570/75 “Resurrection of Christ” by the Flemish Hendrick van der Broek (1519/97) and “St. Michael protects the body of Moses” by Matteo da Lecce (about 1546/1616) to replace the paintings with the same subjects painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio and Luca Signorelli lost in the collapse of the architrave of the main door in 1522

The wall was severely damaged and a Swiss guard was killed. Pope Adrian VI (1522/23) was entering the chapel in that very moment but he was miraculously safe

The two paintings are Mannerist in style, much after the manner of Michelangelo
In ninety years art had gone from the collegiate Renaissance style of the walls of the Sistine Chapel to a style that could not disregard the solitary genius of Michelangelo so gloriously expressed in the same chapel

“While the body of Moses is brought to the grave, the body of Christ, glorified, is taken to heaven, victorious over death. (...) It can be said: the Evangelical Lex leads believers to triumph over death, the Scripta Lex cannot do that despite its merits. Thus the opposition between one Lex and the other seems to be one of the key ideas, if not the key idea of the series” (Cardinal Jorge María Mejía)

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Stories of Jesus - Right Side

“Perugino avoided violent scenes, because he certainly did not feel prepared to treat them: in fact, he handles movement so poorly that his figures that would have to walk seems to dance on tiptoe, and don't seem to keep upright. Always wary, he refrains from expressing emotions that do not suit him. (...) The air is still and silent, people has stopped sobbing; a barely imperceptible sigh, a look of resignation. These paintings, how consoling they must have appeared to be after all the turmoil, riots and massacres of Perugia, the most bloody of the Italian cities. Is it any wonder that men, women, boys, ran to admire them? But not even now when life is still not free from sordid cares and unnecessary conflicts, one can reject the balm of Perugino's art” (Bernard Berenson)

3) “The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew (foreground and left) And John and James (behind on the right)” by Domenico Ghirlandaio, who also painted the Ascension on the entrance wall destroyed, for a structural collapse in 1522

“The figure of the artist and his part in Florentine art of the second half of the fifteenth century were discussed and reviewed especially by Sabatini and Marchini, who have rightly revalued certain important aspects, against the too negative assessment given by Berenson (1961). As Sabatini already remarked, Vasari's judgment still seems the most impartial and balanced: while not denying in his art a certain indulgent superficiality, Vasari considers Ghirlandaio 'one of the main and best masters of his age': it is clear that he considers him the last representative of the glorious tradition of Tuscan mural painting” (Marco Chiarini - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Treccani)

“He aligns the main figures in the foreground, alternating solids and voids so that the scene won't be so crowded: the historical fact that in this case is also a dogmatic statement, must be clear, and not told but shown. Perugino manages to match theoretical and empirical space, mental and visual image. Between opposites he doesn't paint a synthesis, but an average. Thus art is not only dogmatic revelation, but demonstration and dissemination of the truth of faith: to contemplation corresponds practice, also in the practical life of men. His art is pragmatic, instrumental, easy” (Giulio Carlo Argan)