joy magnetism: The agony and the ecstasy

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The agony and the ecstasy

Magnet #737 - Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

One of the greatest works of art in the world is the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, painted by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni in the early 1500s. It spans about 5,000 square feet (!!!!), was painted during the course of four years, and mostly tells the story of the Book of Genesis.

This magnet that I picked up at the Seattle Art Museum a few months ago - it's the Creation of Adam, a small part of the many, many, many paintings on the chapel's ceiling. It depicts God on the wings of angels, giving the breath of life to Adam, through their outstretched fingers. A powerful subject, with exquisite detail. In my estimation, it's kind of a shame that it's on a ceiling, where you can't see it up close...or spend hours on your back examining the piece.

The Vatican Museums put together a pretty good virtual tour of the chapel, though, and it's quite amazing the amount of work that's gone into this chapel. The chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who was pope in the late 1400s and founded this chapel and brought together great artists of the time.

I haven't been, but the frescoes alone should be enough to visit. I do have a dim memory of when I was little and being forced by my dad to watch The Agony and the Ecstasy, yet another Charlton Heston movie, this time as Michelangelo and the story behind creating one of his most definitive works. Oh! And there's this Eyewitness to History account of someone who spent time with him, and eventually wrote his biography in the 1500s.

Michelangelo didn't really want the commission for a few reasons, but one was because he didn't really consider himself a painter. He considered himself primarily a sculptor. I've been lucky enough to see some of those other great works. Our trip to Italy saw to that - don't worry, there's a magnet for that. I just love that not even two weeks later, I was in Seattle, getting to see a dozen original Michelangelo sketches and other papers on exhibit.

Fantastic exhibit, that was. The deal is that in the whole U.S., there's not even a dozen of Michelangelo's original works. But in Seattle, for the Michelangelo: Public and Private exhibition, they had a whole dozen, borrowed from Casa Buonarroti. Amazing. (Even though we totally should have hit up that museum while we were in Florence. Ack!)

They had what was supposedly the last letter he ever wrote, plus several sketches from his work on David and the Sistine Chapel. The deal with him was that he regularly destroyed his own sketches, because he didn't like for the public to see him as human, that is, that he would need to practice before his great genius was put into practice. But, his family managed to collect these drawings and studies and preserve them.

Despite all that - the glimpse into the man behind the genius - the studies he made, the original sketches he tried - I have to say, my absolute favorite part of the exhibit? They had a shopping list that Michelangelo put together for his servant. Except, because servants were generally illiterate, he had to draw the list. How fabulous is that?

So there's the list with the Italian word, and then little illustration. On the list was a cute little chicken, a cute little fish, a cute little loaf of bread. Can't you just see it?

Here's the list, just grab what you can at the ShopRite!

Except, you Italian. So...

Ecco l'elenco, basta afferrare ciò che si può al ShopRite!
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