Sistine Chapel, Rome, ItalyMay 18, 2017 in Vatican City ⋅ ⛅ 77 °F
Monday, May 29, 2017
In the spring of 1509, just two years after a mapmaker coined the word “America” in honor of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, a fellow Florentine named Buonarotti was beginning to work on one of the defining masterpieces of Western Civilization. His first name—Michelangelo—would also reverberate through the ages. And, like many of the early transatlantic voyages of discovery, his ceiling frescoes in Rome’s Sistine Chapel had gotten off to a terrible start.
“He was working on the largest multi-figure compositions of the entire ceiling when the actual fresco plaster itself became infected by a kind of lime mold, which is like a great bloom of fungus,” says Andrew Graham-Dixon, chief art critic for London’s Sunday Telegraph. “So he had to chip the whole thing back to zero and start again. Eventually he sped up. He got better.”
However difficult the conditions—and even the challenge of painting at a height of 65 feet required considerable ingenuity, with scaffolds and platforms slotted into specially fashioned wall openings—by the time Michelangelo unveiled the work in 1512, he had succeeded in creating a transcendent work of genius, one which continues to inspire millions of pilgrims and tourists in Vatican City each year. The Sistine Chapel holds a central place in Christendom as the private chapel of the pope and the site of the papal enclave, where the College of Cardinals gathers to elect new popes.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-measure-of-genius-michelangelos-sistine-chapel-at-500-123313873/#K8LHvMvpQsjVL7lB.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on TwitterRead more