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Friday, 12 February 2016

Painting of the Month (59): Feb 2016, Michelangelo

God Creating Adam, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, painted 1508-1512
Pope Julius II had persuaded Michaelangelo to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel although he initially resisted because he was primarily a sculptor. Now it would be difficult to deny that he produced one of the most iconic images ever created. The Sistine Chapel is in the Vatican Palace and is named for Pope Sixtus IV, who was responsible for it's restoration shortly before this masterpiece was made.
Michelangelo's painting is without precedent and changed the course of Western Art for ever; his technical genius was outstanding. The painting is a fresco (literally fresh in Italian) because the artist applies water-colour paints directly to freshly laid plaster so that the paint soaks into the plaster as it dries and the painting becomes an integral part of the wall.
It is interesting to compare this mural with Leonardo's Last Supper which was not a fresco and the paint of which began to peel after about sixty years and is now in a desperately poor condition. When God Creating Adam was cleaned a few years ago there were some who refused to believe it was the same painting because the colours were so vibrant!
God Creating Adam is one of six ceiling panels in the chapel which is constantly packed solid with crowds wanting to see the work. When I saw it some years ago a group of priests were ushering people through so one only got about five minutes viewing time!
What is remarkable about Michelangelo's depiction of God is that he is shown in a very human form, not aloof or wearing fine robes but, instead, with a muscular body and wearing a light tunic. He is seen in an intimate and accessible 
way which becomes moving and full of meaning. God and the angels are depicted inside a human brain (I bet you didn't notice that before!). The implication is that God is not only creating the physical form of Adam but imbuing him with intellect at the same time. The position of Adam's hand is relaxed and limp - he appears to not yet have been given life, whereas Gods hand is alert and active. We are witnessing the critical moment. 
Listening to British folk-singer Kathryn Williams covering a couple of sad songs. Firstly, Velvet Underground's Candy Says
followed by Jackson Browne's These Days. 

16 comments:

klahanie said...

Ah, bazza, old chap,

Gotta' love a bit of Michelangelo. I heard a rumour that you posed for the painting. Not sure which one is you, however. Good day to you and nice to see a post from your esteemed self.

Gary

bazza said...

Hi Gary. I haven't been around the Blogosphere for a while but I am pleased to be back. One tries not to compare oneself with God - that would be a bit much!. As for Adam - he has a splendid physique but you wouldn't call him 'big all over' would you?

John said...

Hi Bazza! I could have seen this painting in the flesh, so to speak when visiting Rome a few years ago, but the queue to get in was far too long. I did manage to queue for Michelangelo's 'David' when in Florence though and that was truly amazing!
J
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Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

It is nice to see you back on Blogger with your always interesting posts. I always learn something.

bazza said...

Hi John. The queues are always amazing there! I was determined to see it when I went and was glad I did. There were no queues for David (and there's a copy in one of the squares in Florence.)

bazza said...

Hello Arleen. Funnily enough my wife and I retired in December and have been rather busy since then!. I was helping a friend out at a Confectionery Trade show in Cologne Germany for a week and then staying with a friend in France. Where did I get the time to work?

walk2write said...

I hopped on over here from Ms. HIlary's blog. It's fascinating to see and understand the artwork from your perspective. I think I need to read THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY again.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - glad to see this work here ... and I hadn't noted the brain element or thought about the picture much ... but it is interesting what art has survived, what mediums were used etc., and what happens when the work is able to be cleaned up ... showing us its true colours.

I did a talk on Leonardo .. but he covered so many artistic and creative subjects ... and on Monday I am talking about Rembrandt - I live and learn! Fascinating to come here and see the art you decide to let us know about ...

It's good to see you back .. but also good to know you've retired and have been 'gainfully employed eating sweets or drinking wine ever since!!' ... cheers Hilary

bazza said...

Hello 'walk2write', thanks for visiting, I will pay you a visit soon! The Agony and the Ecstacy is a classic work of it's kind but a bit heavy going. I never saw the film because I just can't for the life of me see big, butch Charlton Heston as Michelangelo! (But I think Kirk Douglas did well as Van Gogh in the same author's Lust For Life).

bazza said...

Hi Hilary. I might be running a U3A course on Art History; it's a subject I love and have a degree in (also Psychology but I prefer Art History). I think you have exposed the real meaning of 'true colours', no pun intended.
After one day at the World's Biggest Confectionery Trade Fair I felt a bit queasy - it turns out that one can have too much of a good thing!

Bob said...

From God creating Adam to the World's biggest Confectionery Trade Fair......this post reflects the rich fresco of life very well!

bazza said...

Hi Bob. It's 2001: A Space Odyssey, first some apes discovered a plinth and before you knew it we were on the moon!

loverofwords said...

I saw this in the Vatican years ago before it was cleaned, but even in its brown-tone state, the ceiling was beautiful to look at.

bazza said...

Hi Natasha. Yes, I saw it pre-cleaning too. I think the emotional event of actually seeing it clouds one's judgement a bit!

Sherry Ellis said...

You are right. I had never noticed the human brain. It's always so fascinating to read your posts about famous paintings. I look at them differently after reading the information you provide.

bazza said...

Hi Sherry. Glad to be of service! I really enjoy researching the subject which makes it more enjoyable for me to do.