Mary's Imaginary

‘Learning to Observe Trivia’

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (detail), 1508-1512, fresco
40 m x 13 m (131 ft. x 43 ft.)
The Vatican, Rome, Italy

1. Why did Michelangelo paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Answer:
More than twenty years after the completion of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the front wall of the chapel with a scene depicting The Last Judgment. Again he chose the technique of “fresco,” to paint this artwork.

Beside painting, and sculpting, Michelangelo also worked extensively as an architect. His most famous architectural work is the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy, which was completed after his death.

Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy
220 m long x 150 m wide x 138 m tall (730 ft. long x 500 feet wide x 452 ft. tall)

2. How big do you think the ceiling is?

Answer: 40 meters (131 feet) long by 13 meters (43 feet) wide.

3. What type of painting is this?

Answer: A narrative, or historical fresco.

4. What is an historical painting?

Answer: A painting that tells us a story of the past. "The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel," portray scenes from the Book of Genesis, from the Creation to just after Noah's flood, in the center.

5. Who do you think are the people to each side of the center?

Answer: Portraits of prophets and forecasters who predicted the arriving of the Messiah.

6. As a Sculptor? Why did he choose to paint?

Answer: Michelangelo referred to himself as a sculptor. He preferred to work with marble than to paint. Prior to the ceiling frescoes, he only painted as a student in Ghirlandaio's workshop. Pope Julius the second, insisted that Michelangelo and no other artist should paint the Chapel's ceiling. Michelangelo also received a high commission to sculpt 40 massive figures for Julius tomb.

7. How long do you predict, it took Michelangelo to Paint the ‘Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel’?

Answer: A little over four years. starting from July of 1508, completed on October of 1512.

8. Did Michelangelo Paint Lying on His Back?

Answer: Not exactly flat on his back. He built a support system that was strong enough tohold workers and materials and initiated high up the walls of the chapel. The scaffolding curved at its top, copying the curving of the ceiling's arch. Michelangelo often had to bend towards the rear and paint over his head. The position was probably uncomfortable and made his neck and backache. Michelangelo, complained that his arms burn painfully and destroyed his vision.


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