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)

No comments:

Post a Comment