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Sisteen Chapel Ceiling Essay

1103 words - 5 pages

The Sistine Chapel Ceiling The Sistine Chapel ceiling is perhaps the most amazing painting of all time. It was finished by Michealangelo Buonarroti in 1512.(he started it in 1508.) He worked on the painting every day in the four year period. It was grueling work. He would have to climb a scaffolding and lay flat on his back 65 feet above the floor with paint dripping down on him. All of the scenes were based on stories of The Bible. The centerpiece, "The Creation Of Adam" shows God infusing life into Adam, the first man. The triangular areas along the two long sides of the ceiling are called spandrels. The moldings which outline them are the only aspects of the architectural design of the ...view middle of the document...

The sequence of the Old Testament and New Testament scenes were arranged to emphasize the authority of the Pope. Between the windows above are painted images pre-Constantian sainted Popes. To left and right of the alter wall were the findings of Moses and the birth of Christ. Above them, on the level of the Popes was the beginning of the Papal series and in the center, possibly an image of Christ flanked by Peter and Paul. Michelangelo was first commissioned to paint the twelve apostles on the twelve pendentive-like2 areas. In place of the twelve Apostles who followed Christ, Michelangelo painted the Hebrew Prophets and pagan Sibyls who foresaw the coming of a Messiah. Here, for the first time in the Chapel, Greco-Roman culture is joined to the Hebrew world. These Prophets and Sibyls inhabit the curved lower part of the vault, sitting on thrones. By this method Michelangelo created an imaginary architecture: the bands across the vault are united by the cornice above with its projecting segments. The Prophets and Sibyls are clearly to be understood as sitting in front of the Ancestors of Christ, painted in the spandrels and lunettes3. These are pictorial versions of the mere list of names that begins the Gospel of Matthew, the generations linking Christ with the tribe of David, as was necessary according the Old Testament prophecy. Thus the Hebrew and pagan seers who foretold the coming of the Messiah alternate with representations of Christ's own ancestors. This part of the vault is closely connected with the scenes below that show Christ's life and work on earth as the counterpart and fulfillment of the prophetic example of Moses. Some of the scenes of Genesis are obviously related to Christian events, others are less obviously relevant. Michelangelo's decoration of the Sistine ceiling is the most pictorial ensemble in all of Western art, and for that reason it has to be approached from different points of view. Michelangelo began painting in the winter of 1508-9, not the earliest scenes of creation over the sanctuary, but the Noah episodes over the entrance. At first he...

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