Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel Descriptive Essay by Hartdad

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel
The paper describes Michelangelo's work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
# 115212 | 2,534 words | 4 sources | MLA | 2005 | US
Published on Jul 12, 2009 in Art (Artists) , Art (History) , Art (General)

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The paper gives a detailed explanation of the work Michelangelo did on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The paper explains his method, techniques and problems that he experienced during the four years it took to paint.The paper also explains the story of the ceiling and tells us that there are subplots that can be seen. According to the paper, this work is considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments of all time.

From the Paper:

"'A letter dated May 10, 1506 was the first evidence that Michelangelo was considered for the job. By this time, Julius had decided that Michelangelo would repaint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Bramante, Julius' chief architect, discouraged the idea that Michelangelo be considered for the job. He questioned Michelangelo's lack of experience with painting figures and designing them in foreshortening, which he felt was essential for ceiling decoration. He also questioned whether Michelangelo had "the courage" to take on such a huge task. It has been suggested that Bramante wanted Raphael of Urbino who was a fellow townsman of Bramante to paint the ceiling, but commitments in Florence prevented him from being seriously considered. After Michelangelo had received this letter and gotten word of Bramante's negative statements of his abilities and character, he dropped an important fresco commitment in Florence and took on the task of repainting the famed Sistine Chapel. This may have been where the Bramante-Michelangelo feud originated and spanned years afterwards. He had hired five assistants to aid him in painting process. All in all, Michelangelo had painted three hundred and thirty-six assorted figures on the Sistine ceiling. This was an incredible feat and in the present, three hundred thirty-five and one-half of these figures remain. Michelangelo had proved Bramante wrong and turned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to one of the greatest artistic feats of the Renaissance or any period in time. The paintings on the ceiling are done in fresco, which is an incredibly difficult and daunting process. It has been described by many artists to be the most "macho" and "manly" form of the great painting methods where only the most confident and talented artists could excel. In a way, the fresco method of painting is similar to the lore of Michelangelo, almost mythical and larger than life. The method of fresco painting is somewhat simplistic, but incredibly difficult to master. An area of wet plaster is laid down on a specifically prepared ground, and then the artist paints on it. The colors of the pigments applied to the plaster fuse together while it dries. The result is a beautiful union of colors and plaster that cannot be matched by any other method of painting. Oil paints on canvas do bring out an inner glow, but it pails to the majestic quality of fresco. Each area of the plaster that is to be painted is called a giornata, a day's work. The problems of fresco painting are somewhat obvious. The time that the artist has to apply the paint is very limited and it usually means that the artist has only one attempt to successfully accomplish their objective before the plaster dries. The artist's first brushstroke is incredibly important because of this major time constraint. The penalty of not doing so means that the giornata must be destroyed and the whole process must be repeated all over again. This happened to Michelangelo and he had to destroy one of Christ's ancestors in the Achim and Eliud lunette. Fresco is obviously not suited for the faint hearted. The advantages of fresco must be seen first hand to truly understand its beauty. Michelangelo was a master of fresco painting because of the skill and efficiency of his technique. When the ceiling is analyzed, it is obvious that Michelangelo was incredibly efficient with his limited brushstrokes. It was obvious that Michelangelo worked with great speed, which is probably the most impressive aspect of the ceiling. One reason Michelangelo was able to paint so efficiently is because he utilized the backgrounds of the plaster; for example, he left the white in Adam's eye unpainted so the white color of the plaster would provide life. The famous little penis of Adam consisted of only two brushstrokes and must have taken him no more than a couple of seconds to complete. It only took Michelangelo a couple of seconds to paint something that has been and will continue to be admired by the whole world. That idea is just so unbelievable to comprehend. The ceiling of the Chapel was painted in two parts. The first part of the ceiling took Michelangelo about three years to complete. By the end of August 1510, the first half of the ceiling was finished. The second half took about fourteen months to complete. This is quite a difference in time and a very interesting situation".

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Brandes, George. Michelangelo His Life, His Times, His Era. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1963.
  • Creighton, Gilbert. Michelangelo. New York McGraw-Hill Co., 1967.
  • Croix, Horst de la, Richard G Tansey, Diane Kirkpatrick. Art: Through the Ages. 9th ed. Chicago: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1991
  • Symonds, John A. The Life oMichelangelo Buonarroti. New York Random House, 1969.

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