Imagine dedicating 10 years of your life to creating one of the most iconic artworks of all time. Imagine living and sleeping in the same room you’re working in. 500 years ago, a great Renaissance artist created the project that would define his career. Now, nearly 20,000 people see this glorious chapel every single day. This artist can be credited with the creation of several pieces of art, including the David and the Pietà. So, who is it? Who painted the Sistine Chapel?
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What is the Sistine Chapel?
The Sistine Chapel is the in the official residence of the Pope, the Apostolic Palace. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel’s “new” name came from Pope Sixtus IV. Pope Sixtus IV committed to restoring the chapel between 1477 and 1480. Today, the Sistine Chapel serves as a private chapel of the pope. It also serves as the meeting place for cardinals around the world to come together and elect a new pope.
The Sistine Chapel is often considered one of the most famous landmarks in the world. People flock from all over the world to experience the piousness of this holy chapel. Additionally, people most closely associate the beauty of the Sistine Chapel with its floor to ceiling frescoes. Many of Italy’s most celebrated Renaissance artists contributed to the beautiful artwork we see today in the Sistine Chapel.
So, the answer to the age-old question: Many artists help paint the Sistine Chapel. Early Renaissance artists such as Ghirlandaio, Botticelli and Perugino painted frescoes within the chapel. However, it was Michelangelo who painted the chapel’s ceiling, arguably the most famous part of the chapel.
Who was Michelangelo?
Michelangelo grew up just outside of Arezzo. After noticing that Michelangelo much preferred sketching churches to doing academic work, Michelangelo’s father set him up with an art apprenticeship. At age 13, Michelangelo began to work with prominent Renaissance artist Domenico Ghirlandaio.
In just a few years, Lorenzo de’ Medici asked Ghirlandaio to send him his two greatest students. Luckily, Michelangelo made the cut. From there, Michelangelo had the opportunity to study art from an academy founded by the Medici family. There, he was able to hone his craft in the presence of the greatest minds in Italy. Mixing with nobles would also benefit him in the future, as they would go on to have the means to commission him for projects.
Why was Michelangelo Chosen to Paint the Sistine Chapel?
Painting the Sistine Chapel was definitely not Michelangelo’s first rodeo. Before painting the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo sculpted his famous statue of David and La Pieta.
Michelangelo in a way was blackmailed into painting the Sistine Chapel. In 1505, Michelangelo was in Rome working on a tomb for Pope Julius II. Many art historians believe that Bramante was upset that Michelangelo was chosen for this task. In hopes to set up Michelangelo’s downfall, Bramante asked the pope to commission Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. Bramante knew this task would be painstakingly difficult, so he believed it would pave the way to Michelangelo’s failure. He believed that as a result, Michelangelo would shamefully be sent back to Florence. Little did he know, Michelangelo’s project would actually lead to profound success.
Sistine Chapel Facts
-The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel bring in about $90 million dollars annually from ticket sales.
-The English word “nepotism” derives from the Italian word “nipote” meaning “nephew.” This etymology dates back to the 16th century, when Pope Sixtus IV’s nephew Julius also became a pope based off of the principle of favoring familial relations.
-Did Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel on his back? Contrary to popular belief, no. Michelangelo actually constructed a platform that allowed him to stand upright while painting the ceiling.
-Michelangelo depicted many of the male nudes on the ceiling with acorns. This hints at Julius II’s family name, Rovere, which means “oak.”
-Michelangelo decided to save his depiction of God until last, so he could hone his craft before having to paint the most difficult image on the entire ceiling.
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