Michelangelo painted frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and made a sculptor of David. Both the painting and the sculptor point to the great deal knowledge Michelangelo has of the Bible. On the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling he painted scenes from the book of Genesis, and David the person comes from the first Book of Samuel. Michelangelo has background with the Christian Church and did many sculptures and painting for the church. The religious influence of the church could not be avoid by Michelangelo. He had been introduced to it very early in his life.
Sistine Chapel’s ceiling was a very religious painting job done by Michelangelo. The Sistine’s ceiling shows Michelangelo’s knowledge of Bible events. It has Prophets and Sibyls painted on it, which are very religious figures. It shows the beginning of time to the Flood with Noah’s Great Ark.
The sculpture of David was done for Saint Peters Cathedral. It gave new meaning to life for the people of Florence. David was not only thought of as a Messiah by the Old Testament Prophets, but also by the people of Florence. He brought hope as a person and a statue.
Michelangelo not only showed that religion was important to him through his works, but also immortalized part of the Bible.
Michelangelo showing his religion
The Sistine Chapel is one of the most visited places in the world, and the Colossal David is one of the most well-known sculptors in the world. These two great works of art affect whatever people look at them. Without knowing it people get a brush of religion. Michelangelo shows his view of religion to people even after he has died.
Michelangelo lived a life of art. From the day he was born to the day he died he lived art. Michelangelo was one of, if not the best sculptor and painter ever to touch foot on this earth. He any painter made a “shining” in religious art it was Michelangelo.
The Sistine Chapel is located in the Vatican City. This is where Saint Peter’s Basilica was built. The Sistine Chapel was a private room for the Pope. Pope Julius II asked Michelangelo to paint on the ceiling. He almost turned it down because he thought of himself as a sculptor not a painter. He took the painting job on to prove to people that he could paint even though he did not like to do it.
Through the works of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling and the statue David, Michelangelo immortalized his Christian religion.
Michelangelo (Figure 1) was born on March 6, 1475 in a town called Caprese, a region of Tuscany, near Florence. Michelangelo’s father was Lodovico Buonarroti Simon, and his mother Francesca Miniato del Sera. Michelangelo’s mother decided to send the baby Michelangelo away to be looked after for a while by a stonecutters wife, because his dad didn’t have a job and his family life was difficult. “Michelangelo said his love for stone came from the milk of stonecutters wife who nursed him as a baby”(Richmond pg. 24). Michelangelo wanted to be an artist but his father did not agree. When Michelangelo was seven he was sent to a basic school, he was always sneaking off and drawing something. After many long arguments with his father, Michelangelo finally convinced him that sculpturing and block carving are different.
Michelangelo was then allowed to study the arts. Michelangelo’s father put him in the workshop of the painter Domenico Girlandaio. After two years Michelangelo studied at a sculpture school in the Medici gardens. He wanted to join a bottega, which is a workshop where young men could learn art with masters. At age 13 he was allowed to join, and shortly thereafter was invited into the household of Loreczo de’ Medici, the Magnificent. Because Michelangelo was so good at sculpting, a fellow student, Pietro Torrigiano, got jealous and punched Michelangelo in the nose , giving him a prize fighters nose that makes him so recognizable in his portraits.
When Michelangelo’s talent became known, he no longer paid for the lessons, instead he was paid. “Michelangelo produced at least two relief sculptures by the time he was sixteen years old, the battle of the features and the Madonna of the stairs”(Gilbert pg.68). This showed that Michelangelo had achieved a personal style at a very early age. Most sculptors have not finished learning about style, let alone have their own style by the age of sixteen. Michelangelo died on February 18, 1564 at almost 90 years old, he was hard at work on a statue.
Background: Sistine Chapel Ceiling
In 1508 Michelangelo took on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Figure 2) after Julius offered it to him. Michelangelo was annoyed, since he was a sculptor primarily. One reason it was annoying was “… ceilings in churches and chapels are minor compared to the walls, which in this instance had been frescoed thirty years before by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and other distinguished painters”(Gilbert) Ceiling normally did not show scenes, but only a single feature or ornament. To make his work more eloquent Michelangelo got permission to paint scenes on the ceiling as well as single figures. Of course they are awkward to see, but the power and success of the work was so great that for centuries this unreasonable scheme of painting scenes on the ceiling was followed in other buildings without special thought. He had to unmanageably stand on the scaffolding with his head thrown back on his shoulders.
“Michelangelo divided up the area with a very original framing system in order to organize the large scenes, the large single figures retained from the first proposals, and a host of smaller representations.”(Gilbert pg. 90) He choose nine scenes from the Book of Genesis- three of the creation of the world, three of Adam and Eve, and three of Noah-“… they were inevitable choices, because scenes of Moses had been painted on the walls, and the natural narrative sequence is downward.” The twelve large figures are prophets and sibyls- sibyls being women appearing in various pagan mythologies, such as the Delphis Oracle. Michelangelo started painting at the end of his narrative, with the Noah stories, and the adjacent prophets and sibyls, then moving with both scenes and figures toward the other end.
It is surprisingly little noticed that the first seven prophets and sibyls were painted in one size and the last five in a larger size. All fit nicely into their painted frames, and the inconspicuousness of the change in size is a token of the subtlety of the frames. The change itself has a good artistic reason, which is that the scenes first painted, of Noah and Eve, contain quite a few figures, while those painted later, of god creating the world and man, contain only one or two, they needed to be larger in order to fill the space which was given to him from the framing system. “The point where the scale of the figures changes is also a point where, it seems, he took a rest for several months”(Levy pg.74). The break did not affect the splendid painting on the ceiling.
Religion on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling
The religion aspect of the Sistine chapel is overwhelming. It pours out of every crack, from painted over frescoes to sculptures. On the ceiling ,as mentioned above, is painted three scenes of the creation of the world, three scenes of Adam and Eve, and three scenes of Noah and the Flood, along with scared sibyls and prophets. The sibyls and prophets come from the pagan religion which Michelangelo was introduced to by one of his early teachers. The sibyls were interpreted as having made prophesies similar to those of the Old Testament prophets.
The scenes on the ceiling come from the book of Genesis, which comes from the Bible. Michelangelo was chosen to paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling but he got to pick what he painted, with the approval of the Pope of course. He chose scenes from both the Pagan religion and the Bible, which makes a religious influence evident. Michelangelo was knowlegdable of the Bible, without having knowledge of the bible how could he have known about the specific happenings.
David (Figure 3) was born in 1040 B.C. and became King of Israel. He first distinguished himself by slaying Goliath. Goliath was a giant born in Gath who Challenged the army of Israel. He was Six cobils and a span tall, which is about 11 feet. David was taken into Saul’s household, the king of Israel. There he became too popular for his own good and had to flee from Saul’s jealously. After the death of Saul’s he was elected king of Judah and reigned for seven and one half years in Hebien. When Ishbosheth, the king after Saul, died, David was chosen by all Israel as king. He conquered Jerusalem and made it the political and religious center of his kingdom. To the Old Testament prophets David became a type of Messiah.
The story of David and Goliath comes from the Bible from Book one of Samuel Chapter 17. In verse 46 of that Book David said to Goliath:
This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine land; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fouls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that their is a God in Israel.
The Cathedral asked Michelangelo to sculpted a Colossal David . Michelangelo accepted the offer and guaranteed to complete a Colossal David for the Cathedral in 2 years. Around the chunk of marble he obtained for this feat he built a shed, which was locked at all times. “He did not launch immediately into the stone as legend had it, making chips fly off violently as he struggled to set free the image he saw within”(Tolnay pg. 41). For many weeks he examined and measured his material to see what pose it could accommodate.
He made sketches of possible positions, and carefully detailed drawings from models for the parts of the figure. He tested out his image in wax on a small scale. “Then, and only then did he pick up a point and a mallet to make the first rough spilters fly clattering to the floor”(Tolnay pg. 42). Although it occupied him nearly three years to complete, it was worth the wait for the people living in Florence. “Michelangelo phrased his first titan in terms of a civic guardian, symbol of righteousness. None of his later masterpieces so profoundly affected his fellow citizens”(Gilbert pg.82). The author Gilbert writes:
In the precision of its anatomy one can recognize the scientific spirit of investigation of the Florentines; in the forms, which are full of strength, and in the noble, proud face, one finds the heroic concept of man as a creature who is free and master of his own destiny(page 85).
Technically this statue marked a change in Michelangelo’s development. In a single work he achieved the difficult transition from normal scale to the colossal without a flaw, setting back the chin slightly so that it would not cut off too much of the other features from the spectator’s view, building out the nose and forehead.
Religion in David
David comes straight from the Bible. In the following lines, from Book one of Samuel, Chapter 17, verses 49 through 51, it tells how David came to slay the giant Goliath:
49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.
51 Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath therefor, and slew him, and out off his head therewith . And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.
Religion in David is undeniable. He is a part of the Bible therefore a part of religion. A religion which Michelangelo learned about since he was an infant with the stonecutter’s family. David was sculpted having the look of fear, as if the sculptor knew what David was going through at that exact point in the battle with Goliath. The religion Michelangelo shows through David is immense.
Both the painting of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and the sculptor of David reflect the knowledge that Michelangelo has of Pagan religion, but mostly of the Bible.
Clifton Harby Levy writes:
Religion was the supreme interest of the leaders in human thought during this century, when the Church played so large a part in the destiny of nations, and very naturally any and every artist who felt the pulse of his time was impelled to prove his power by the skill with which he presented sacred subjects. Art was religious because the people were religious…(page xi).
In other words, art could make or break a nation. Michelangelo was trying to make Italy, by giving them the best religious art you could find. In a way the art helped the people survive, fight, and showed them what they could believe in to get away from the agony of living a life of torment. These works illustrated points from the Bible in such a magnificent manner, that they have changed life from the day they were put on display to the present. Religion was, is, and always will be a powerful thing.
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