Wednesday, April 15, 2015



“Ignudi” (Nudes)

Their symbolic meaning remains mysterious and, among the interpretations, there is the one that believes them representatives of the pagan world unaware of the events of Genesis behind them or the one that considers them as spiritual powers and angels, as opposed to the fallen angels and demons in bronze color framed above the pendentives


 “Ten medallions in faux bronze” with Old Testament stories inspired by the woodcuts of the then famous Bible of Nicholas Malermi of 1490 (the first vernacular translation of the Bible and the only one for 200 years), connected to the adjacent scenes:

“Mattathias destroys the altar in Modein”, “Elijah's ascent to heaven”, “Sacrifice of Abraham”, maybe “Elisha cures Naaman of leprosy” (almost disappeared), “Death of Absalom”, “Death of Nicanor”, “Alexander the Great before the high priest in Jerusalem”, “Expulsion of Heliodorus”, “Antiochus Epiphanes falls from the chariot” and “Death of Razis”

NINE EPISODES FROM THE BOOK OF GENESIS divided into three groups:

Creation of the Universe, Creation and Fall of Man, Stories of Noah

“For Charles de Tolnay, who interprets the work in a Neoplatonic way, to begin with the drunkenness of Noah is even necessary, since the stories of Noah on the one hand and the divine act of creation on the other mark the start and end points of the 'deificatio' i.e. the bodily ascent to the spiritual essence” (Frank Zöllner)


God is the only protagonist:

“Separation of Light from Darkness” where God has both the impetus of youth and the wisdom of old age, both manly vigor and female fertility, as his chest would seem to suggest

“Michelangelo must have seen a similar, explicit composition played on the same contrast in the Bible of Nicholas Malermi in 1490, when the creator, however, does not fly, but stands between a light and a dark surface” (Frank Zöllner)

“Creation of the sun, moon and plants” where the sun could symbolize Christ, and the moon the Virgin Mary

“Separation of Waters” cryptic episode but that could be representing the theme of fertility of water related to the generating power of Baptism

“The development of the monumentality of the figures are also known in many mostly male nudes (...). Nudes For example, next to the depiction of the separation of light from the darkness are significantly larger than those near the scene Drunkenness of Noah” (Frank Zöllner)


“Creation of Adam” in which God infuses the soul to Adam, uniting spirit to matter, the woman and the baby under God's left arm may represent, respectively, Eva, forerunner of the Virgin, and the Child Jesus

It took Michelangelo sixteen days to complete the fresco
It is an unusual representation of God that has given rise to various interpretations
Some even wanted to recognize in the image of God the right section of a human brain, which was certainly not unknown to Michelangelo and perhaps alludes to Neoplatonic thought
The one who found this out was the neurologist Frank Lynn Meshberger, of St. John's Medical Center in Anderson, Indiana (USA)
In an article published by the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association he described in great detail the amazing correspondences

According to Neo-Platonic thought, man is no longer seen as something casual or fortuitous, but, on the contrary, striving for a purpose, and aimed at achieving unity with the rest of matter through the intellect, the last step before the Divinity
Man thus acquires a certain dignity, precisely because he is not passive and supine to Nature: the more he is active the more he tends to perfection

“Creation of Eve” as the centerpiece of the overall scheme of the ceiling, at the precise center. She is the symbol of the foundation of the church that comes from the side wound of Christ
The church itself is symbolized by the Virgin Mary - Mary typus Ecclesiae - the new Eve, to whom the entire Sistine Chape is devoted
Adam leaning against a tree evokes the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, from whose side blood and water flowed alluding both to baptism and Eucharist

“Original sin and expulsion from the Garden of Eden” where Adam on the left has a similar pose to that of Hercules who captures an apple in the garden of the Hesperides in a classical relief: perhaps they are metaphors of Jesus and Heaven
Adam grabbing the tree maybe alludes to the crucifixion and the promise of salvation

“Unlike most artists of 1400s, Michelangelo summarizes the two episodes in one scene and equips the snake not only with a human head, but also with an anthropomorphic body” (Frank Zöllner)

Third group, NOAH'S STORIES:

“Sacrifice of Noah” with ark with that in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was considered a symbol of the church and for its wooden structure and also a symbol of the cross of Christ
This scene therefore prefigures the Holy Mass and highlights, with the gesture of Noah, the contrast between the acceptable and unacceptable offers
Moreover the ox and the ass, present at birth, represent the Gentiles that recognized the Messiah, the horse is another symbol of the church, while the elephant is a symbol of wisdom and of Christ himself

“Deluge” the first to be painted, and the only fresco full of figures and fine details not discernible from a distance
Above the roof of the ark the white dove mentioned in the Book of Genesis is visible

“Drunkenness of Noah”. Traditionally Noah's sin was interpreted as a second original sin, while the vine plant that he plants in the background on the left foreshadows the incarnation, the vat is a symbol of Christ's sacrifice and the pitcher and cup remind us of the Eucharist

“The frescoes of the ceiling which, thanks to the figures of the Ancestors of Christ, form a large and complex iconographic program, not only illustrate various aspects of the history of redemption, but also a genealogical continuity from the creation to the time of Julius II (...). The theme of the continuity of the papacy with the early history of Christianity was undoubtedly linked to a personal need of the patron that could be described as evident on a genealogical level: Julius II was the nephew of Sixtus IV, the pope who had built the Sistine Chapel. (...) Thus, the history of the family becomes part of the history of the popes and the work of redemption and the iconographic program culminates in the golden age of Julius II” (Frank Zöllner)

“Michelangelo rejects the perspective concept of space of the Renaissance, and with an unusual choice he doesn't foreshorten figures from below according to an illusionistic unified vision. It's all about the basic unit of classical sculpture, the single figure, if anything, associated with elements of architecture. The motion of the dramatic twists and plastic reliefs of the masses of giant bodies enhance the isolation of the figures, whose image is subjected to an act of idealization that gives them a great spiritual universal meaning: they were raised to the level of symbols of primeval forces of nature and of the fate of man who struggles between these forces, yearning for the elevation of his spirit” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)

An explosion occurred in 1797 in the Castel Sant'Angelo gunpowder depot brought down part of the sky where, as shown by sixteenth-century prints, there was a lightning strike

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