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.