In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel. With little experience as a painter (though famed for his sculpture David), Michelangelo was reluctant to begin the massive project. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the four ...
In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel. With little experience as a painter (though famed for his sculpture David), Michelangelo was reluctant to begin the massive project. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the four extraordinary years Michelangelo spent laboring over the vast ceiling while the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, the pope's impatience, and a bitter rivalry with the brilliant young painter Raphael, Michelangelo created scenes so beautiful that they are considered to be among the greatest masterpieces of all time. A panorama of illustrious figures converged around the creation of this magnificent work-from the great Dutch scholar Erasmus to the young Martin Luther-and Ross King skillfully weaves them through his compelling historical narrative, offering uncommon insight into the intersection of art and history. Four years earlier, at the age of twenty-nine, Michelangelo had unveiled his masterful statue of David in Florence; however, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with the curved surface of vaults, which dominated the chapel's ceiling. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant, and he stormed away from Rome, risking Julius's wrath, only to be persuaded to eventually begin. Michelangelo would spend the next four years laboring over the vast ceiling. He executed hundreds of drawings, many of which are masterpieces in their own right. Contrary to legend, he and his assistants worked standing rather than on their backs, and after his years on the scaffold, Michelangelo suffered a bizarre form of eyestrain that made it impossible for him to read letters unless he held them at arm's length. Nonetheless, he produced one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, about which Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists, wrote, 'There is no other work to compare with this for excellence, nor could there be.' Ross King's fascinating new book tells the story of those four extraordinary years. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, inadequate knowledge of the art of fresco, and the pope's impatience, Michelangelo created figures-depicting the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood-so beautiful that, when they were unveiled in 1512, they stunned his onlookers. Modern anatomy has yet to find names for some of the muscles on his nudes, they are painted in such detail. While he worked, Rome teemed around him, its politics and rivalries with other city-states and with France at fever pitch, often intruding on his work. From Michelangelo's experiments with the composition of pigment and plaster to his bitter competition with the famed painter Raphael, who was working on the neighboring Papal Apartments, Ross King presents a magnificent tapestry of day-to-day life on the ingenious Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early-sixteenth-century Rome.
New in new dust jacket. NEW, Hardcover edition as pictured. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 304 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. NEW, Hardcover edition as pictured.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-04-07 King's historical account of the four years Michelangelo Buonarroti spent frescoing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome is splendid, thorough and detailed. But its larger appeal lies in the way King (Brunelleschi's Dome) brings out the story's human elements. Listeners learn of Michelangelo's bitter disappointment when a project he was eagerly looking forward to (the construction of the Pope's tomb) was cancelled and that he had little experience with the art of fresco and was reluctant to take on the Sistine Chapel. King explains the craft of frescoing with involving details: for example, fresco dries quickly, so the artist could work only in small sections, and if a mistake was found after the paint dried, the whole day's work had to be chipped away and redone. Listeners also learn of Michelangelo's financial woes and family problems and the political upheavals of the time. Sklar's narration is perfect for the project. His lively and expressive reading add a realistic edge to a centuries-old tale. He speaks passionately and his accent on the Italian names and phrases is flawless. Simultaneous release with the Walker hardcover (Forecasts, Dec. 9, 2002). (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2002-12-09 When Pope Julius II saw Michelangelo's Piet, he determined to have his grand tomb made by the artist. Summoned from Florence to Rome in 1508, Michelangelo found himself on the losing side of a competition between architects and the victim of a plot "to force a hopeless task" upon him-frescoing the vault of the Sistine Chapel. How the sculptor met this painterly challenge is the matter of this popular account, which demythologizes and dramatizes without hectoring or debasing. Forget cinematic images of Charlton Heston flat on his back-Michelangelo's "head tipped back, his body bent like a bow, his beard and paintbrush pointing to heaven, and his face spattered with paint" is excruciating enough to sustain the legend. King (Brunelleschi's Dome) re-creates Michelangelo's day-to-day world: the assistants who worked directly on the Sistine Chapel, the continuing rivalry with Raphael and the figures who had much to do with his world if not his art (da Vinci, Savonarola, Ariosto, Machiavelli, Martin Luther, Erasmus), including the steely Julius II. King makes the familiar fresh, reminding the reader of the "novelty" of Michelangelo's image of God and how "completely unheard of in previous depictions of the ancestors of Christ" was his use of women. Technical matters (making pigments, foreshortening) are lucidly handled. The 16 color and 30 b&w illustrations were not seen by PW, but should add further specifics to a nicely grounded piece of historical dramatization. (Jan.) Forecast: Walker has been become extremely adept at spotting and packaging books in the Longitude mode-works that focus on a single significant cultural product, be it cod or a work of art. As an alternate selection of Book-of-the-Month, History and Quality Paperback Book Clubs, this should do even better than Brunelleschi's Dome, as its subject is better known in the U.S. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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