March 15, 2021 • Richard Rooker
The British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport in Rome was 2:40 minutes, non-stop, and uneventful. After recovering my luggage and waiting about 10 minutes in the taxi stand line, I was driven to my hotel Casa Mia Vaticano. I had read at the taxi stand at the airport where the various expected fares were posted and being a little handicapped due to my poor knowledge of Italian (which is pretty much limited to “Ciao”), I was fairly confident I was not being over charged for the ride. When your outward appearance screams “American Tourist”, you always just know to inflate your taxi budget.
So here I was for the very first time in my life; Vatican City. It was here that I would find my next stop in my traveling art adventure and some of the most renown works of the artistic mind and perhaps the greatest artist the world has ever known. I speak of Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti, or more commonly and simply known as Michelangelo.
It would be hard to do this great artist justice in the limited space we have here, but maybe I can give you enough that you might want to do your own research.
I am standing just outside the Sistine Chapel, home of some of the, if not THE most famous work of Michelangelo.
The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope. Originally known as the Cappella Magna ('Great Chapel'), the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1473 and 1481. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today, it is the site of the papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the frescos that decorate the interior, most particularly the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment, both by Michelangelo. The Last Judgment covers the entire altar wall and measures a daunting 45 feet x 40 feet. The ceiling fresco covers the entire ceiling and took four years to complete between the years of 1508 and 1512.
Above we see a closeup of the Last Judgement and the ceiling of the chapel below.
Below, we see a detail of the Prophet Ezekial as depicted on the chapel ceiling. Evidence of the aging of the fresco and restoration work can be seen.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born the 6th of March 1475 and died the 18th of February 1564. He was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance born in the Republic of Florence, who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. His artistic versatility was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his rival, the fellow Florentine, Leonardo da Vinci. Several scholars have described Michelangelo as the greatest artist of his age and even as the greatest artist of all time.
A number of Michelangelo's works of painting, sculpture and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. His output in these fields was prodigious; given the sheer volume of surviving correspondence, sketches and reminiscences, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century. He sculpted two of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, before the age of thirty. Despite holding a low opinion of painting, he also created two of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall. His design of the Laurentian Library pioneered Mannerist architecture. At the age of 74, he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter's Basilica. He transformed the plan so that the western end was finished to his design, as was the dome, with some modification, after his death.
Michelangelo was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive. In fact, two biographies were published during his lifetime. One of them, by Giorgio Vasari, proposed that Michelangelo's work transcended that of any artist living or dead, and was "supreme in not one art alone but in all three".
Want to know something even more amazing about Michelangelo? You can see some of his works, albeit drawings only, as part of the permanent collection at the Chicago Art Institute, on Chicago’s magnificent mile. As some of you know, one of the fun things I like to do is introduce young (and old) art enthusiasts to the Chicago Art Institute, where one can indulge themselves for hours into the works of the great masters as well as lesser known artists. An hour and a half train ride to downtown Chicago from Milwaukee’s Inter-modal station and a 15 minute walk from Union Station to the Institute, I am your official escort on a day trip to experience the wonders of the Art Institute of Chicago. Give me a call or email if you have an interest!