Tag Archives: sistine chapel

The Ceiling Painter


      WE lay too much stress on formal education. When we want to show how much we know we think it is important to list our degrees and the great universities that gave us those degrees. But is that real knowledge. Doesnt real knowledge just need one thing :” a LOVE for learning”. Isnt this love a necessary and sufficient condition for a life devoted to search for knowledge:

      all thoughts, all passions, all delights

      whatever stirs this mortal frame

      all are but ministers of love

      that feed his sacred flame

      In today’s VERITAS we will go back in history to get inspiration from a man who was so learned that transformed how man thought about expression in art. This man had no formal education. His name is Michelangelo Buonarroti.

      He was born in Caprese, a small village in italy in 1475. Since his childhood he wanted to be an artist and sculptor. He went against his father’s wishes and became an appretice at LOrenzo di Medici’s school. AT the age of 15 he realized that knowledge from books and from other people was not enough. He gave up his training and decided to search for true knowledge on his own.

      The most beautiful thing for Michelangelo was the human form. He wanted to capture this beauty with the intensity of thought and movement in his paintings and statues. He decided to study the human form in detail before capturing it in his art. He studied the ancient sculptors who knew how to represent the beautiful human body in motion,with all its muscles and sinews. However, he was not content with learning the laws of anatomy secondhand. He wanted to hold the parts of the human body in his own hands. He wanted to examine every muscle, every bone,every tissue and understand how these organs contribute to the shape of the body. He decided to cut open bodies for his studies. We must remember that dissection of bodies was considered against the law and religion in those days. He bribed the caretaker of the city cemetery and dug up bodies for study. When ths city slept he would go to the cemetery and cut open bodies. He would carefully draw every part. He would go deeper and deeper till a particular body was completely discovered. By the morning he would be filled with blood and stink. He would come back night after night to gain knowledge of the body that he considered was the supreme work of God. His knowledge of anatomy shows in his art. Never was the human body captured in painting and statues in so much intensity before.

      One of his most famous works is the ceiling of Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.The pope Julius II convinced him to do this work. The frescos that Michaelanglo painted on the ceiling are his interpretation of various scenes from the Old Testament. Lying on his back on scaffolding high above the chapel floor, Michelangelo painted some of the finest images of all time. This work took him four years to complete( 1508 to 1512). The ceiling of the church is 100 feet above the floor. Imagine…. for four years he would go to work every morning… he would be climb 100 feet above the ground( the height of a 10 floor building), he would be suspended on a wooden platform. He would paint holding his brush and raising his arm above his head. Try and hold your arm in the air above your head for 5 minutes. You would get tired. Michaelanglo painted in that position for 4 years. Modern artists would paint in their studios and then place the paintings after they are done. Not Michaelanglo! He wanted to paint directly on the ceiling.

      After 4 years of work he got very sick. He got so used to the position of work that if he was given a piece of paper to read, he could not read it at eye level. He would have to raise it above his head and look up to read it properly.

      See the attached picture. This is one of the many paintings that Michaelanglo painted on the ceiling. THis painting is known as the “Creation of Adam”. It shows God touching the hand of Adam to give him life. The small images next to God portray various angels. Now see the background on which God is placed. Some experts think that that depicts the mid-sagittal outline of the brain. mid-sagittal image of the brain is what you will see if you cut up the brain through its middle in a vertical plane. What Michaelanglo thought while choosing that particular background is something that we will never know. But it shows us how influenced he was by human anatomy.




  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;