do you ever think about how little Michelangelo cared
All right, everyone, grab a chair and sit back because I’m going to share with you what I learned about Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel in my Art History Class.
The man NEVER wanted to paint the damn thing. But the pope at the time “forced him to” According to my teacher. Michelangelo hated this man, I MEAN REALLY HATED HIM. So did a majority of people. The pope’s nickname translated literally means “Terrible pope”.
And the working conditions were awful. He had to work on his back with all that paint, which is filled with some toxic shit that gave Michelangelo a limp for the rest of his life.
(Also, our teacher made us get on our backs and try drawing with both hands JUST to prove how bad and uncomfortable it is.)
At the time, the ceiling was so high, you could barely see it. You need binoculars to get a good look at what’s up there, by the time people could see the paintings, there was a lot of weird symbolism that Michelangelo hid up there.
This one? The creation of the sun and moon? God is mooning you. And the pope and all others after him prayed under that without knowing.
This one? At the time, dissecting was sacrilegious and everyone found out how behind God was what looked like half a brain. blah blah, science, science, that pissed everyone off.
And also, ALLLLLLL the men and women in the Sistine Chapel are all on fucking steroids. My teacher described the women’s bodies as "Men bodies with boobs slapped on."
And then there is this:
Now this is the back wall. Michelangelo actually wanted to paint this one after he finished the ceiling. (and there was a different pope too, I believe.) However, originally, EVERYONE in that painting was naked. And they didn’t like it. Adam and Eve naked? That’s cool. But Jesus? Now you crossed the line. So the pope at the time hired someone else to censor it and give the important figures clothes. He worked on it for 6 or 9 months before he died.
And then the symbolism in this one is great. Somewhere in the right, there are homosexuals in heaven. (No matter what, the Vatican will say “Those straight men are happy” I’ll get to that in a second), Michelangelo painted himself near Jesus, and the terrible pope is in hell with a snake biting his balls.
And if you were to point ANY of this out to the Vatican, they will deny all of it and claim Michelangelo was a catholic hero. In fact, when they discovered the symbolism around the 60s or 70s, the guy who told the Vatican was kicked out of the Vatican for life.
TL;DR: Michelangelo hated the pope and made the best “fuck you” of all time.
Oho. OH-HO. Now we’re cooking with gas.
Michelangelo was a Catholic hero alright. As well as a hero of the art world.
He slipped into the Sistine Chapel a figure flipping off Pope Julius II. You know. In a church. The Catholic Church and the Vatican at that where thousands of devotees might see it. Not the standard raised middle finger mind you, but the thumb between the middle and ring fingers.
Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to constantly sculpt, build, plan, paint, and basically sweat blood and break his back for him. Michelangelo tried telling the Pope over and over and over again, insisting as politely as he could, he’s not a fucking painter. He can do it, he’s trained to do it, but sculpting is his forte. Pope Julius II pretty much didn’t bat an eye and didn’t pay him any heed.
The conditions were horrendous just as described. He likely had assistants, and he somehow got the ceiling done in about four years. That whole fucking ceiling in four years. One section is said to have been done in a day. Not to mention the conditions were causing him to FUCKING GO BLIND. Masses were still being held in that building, the Pope didn’t care. Churches back then weren’t exactly built to have windows that could open so soot, smoke, and crap were still rising up to the ceiling, where Michelangelo and his assistants were breathing it in and trying to blink it out of their eyes. Did I mention Michelangelo developed gout too?
(I recommend looking into the modern-day restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It’s a rather fascinating discovery because by the time the ceiling was about to be cleaned it so covered in soot and dirt and other garbage people really weren’t 100% sure what they were going to see underneath it all.)
Eventually the Pope decided, “Nah, painting’s not enough. I’m going to make him sculpt everything.” It’s disgusting how much Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to do. He had been demanding a massive tomb(s) over the years, almost causing Michelangelo to go grey with the flighty amounts of times the Pope wanted him to work on it on top of the other shit, and Michelangelo was barely a fraction into the full project by the time the Pope died. Envoys for the Pope came to see what Michelangelo had sculpted and were floored. Meanwhile the news of the Pope’s death was both a relief and a near-heart attack’s worth of panic for Michelangelo - basically, “Oh my God, I’m not even half-way done, how is this ever going to be accepted, oh Jesus Christ…” The representatives were bug-eyed and were like, “UM. NOPE. THIS WILL DO. HOLY SHIT. HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE BY HUMAN HANDS.” You know his sculpture Moses, the huge one with the horns? That’s not even half what he planned for the tomb. You’ve probably picked up by now Michelangelo was a man of grand scale vision. But you can also see why he had painted himself as a flayed skin in The Last Judgement.
Michelangelo lived to be chief architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica at age 74 while he was working on The Last Judgement and lived even longer to 80-freaking-8, just three weeks shy of his 89th birthday. For the Renaissance that’s only kind of unheard of.
I strongly recommend watching the 1965 film The Agony and the Ecstasy starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II (yeah, that guy from My Fair Lady. Perfect casting). Honest to goodness even without watching the movie, the life story of how Pope Julius II nearly drove Michelangelo into the ground is one of the most fascinating tales in art history and even just the Renaissance period. Charlton Heston even looks a lot like the way the figure said to be Michelangelo in Raphael’s famous School of Athens looks - besides all kinds of internally troubled, stressed, and deeply panicked underneath his heavy brows.