A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles
by Justin Calanoso

Posts Tagged ‘Michelangelo’

Michelangelo and the Sistine’s secrets

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

sistine creation
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday: “Never mind the Da Vinci Code — what about Michelangelo’s secret messages? On the 500th anniversary of the artist’s first climb up the ladder in 1508 to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, a new book claims he embedded subversive messages in his spectacular frescoes — not only Jewish, Kabbalistic and pagan symbols but also insults directed at Pope Julius II, who commissioned the work, and references to his own sexuality.”

A fascinating story (here), and one that’s entirely plausible. The work of Michelangelo has captivated me for more than two decades — ever since standing at foot of the magnificent David, craning my neck for hours staring at the Sistine ceiling and reading multiple volumes about his life and works. He was a tortured genius, a man whose peerless talent was matched only by his otherwise joyless existence. Given his choice, the 3.5 years he spent painting the Sistine ceiling he gladly would’ve spent carving marble — the greatest passion of his artistic life before he was 30. But he had no choice. The tyrannical Pope Julius II made the artist a virtual indentured slave in demanding he paint the Sistine ceiling. Michelangelo’s early panels on the ceiling farthest from the altar wall are actually mediocre — the figures too small, the scenes too crowded. He never truly enjoyed fresco painting, but he soon mastered the extraordinarily difficult medium to produce one of the greatest works of art of all time.

Bernini: Rome’s baroque genius

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

The spector of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the great 17th-century Italian sculptor and painter, is evident all over Rome — on bridges, buildings, piazzas and in the city’s finest museums. Perhaps nowhere is his artistic genius more evident than in St. Pater’s Square, where he designed the arching collonade, which defines the world’s most glorious public space, and is topped with 144 saints carved in travertine (St. Gaetano Catanoso is not up there, but his sainted Calabrian predecessor, St. Francis of Paola, is!). All this emphasis on gathering huge crowds overlooked by a communion of saints is entirely fitting: that is the primary place where canonizations are held — and where saints are named.

I’ve seen many, many Bernini masterpieces during my visits to Rome, including the incomparable “Ecstacy of St. Teresa” in a tiny church near the Piazza Repubblica (shown above). I really wish I could visit the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where a traveling exhibit of Bernini’s gorgeous marble busts are making their only American appearance. The story is here.

An excerpt: “The cloth ripples. You would swear it does. Call this the ultimate form of illusionism: making marble look as soft as cloth or as delicate as lace. The hair, the skin and the lips on Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s portrait busts are just as logic-defying.”