Tag Archives: Sistine Chapel

Saving the gift of Michelangelo

Creation of man from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican Museums chief warned that dust and polluting agents brought into the Sistine Chapel by thousands of tourists every day risk one day endangering its priceless artworks.

Antonio Paolucci told the newspaper La Repubblica in comments published Thursday that in order to preserve Michelangelo’s Last Judgment and the other treasures in the Sistine Chapel, new tools to control temperature and humidity must be studied and implemented.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people a day, or over 4 million a year, visit the chapel where popes get elected, to admire its frescoes, floor mosaics and paintings.

“In this chapel people often invoke the Holy Spirit. But the people who fill this room every day aren’t pure spirits,” Paolucci told the newspaper.

“Such a crowd … emanates sweat, breath, carbon dioxide, all sorts of dust,” he said. “This deadly combination is moved around by winds and ends up on the walls, meaning on the artwork.”

Paolucci said better tools were necessary to avoid “serious damage” to the chapel.

Visitors who want to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” in Milan must go through a filtration system to help reduce the work’s exposure to dust and pollutants. This has made seeing da Vinci’s masterpiece more difficult: 25 visitors are admitted every 15 minutes.

The Sistine Chapel, featuring works by Michelangelo, Botticelli and Perugino, underwent a massive restoration that ended in the late 1990s. The restoration was controversial because some critics said the refurbishing made the colors brighter than originally intended.


Michelangelo was so famous during his own lifetime that 2 authors published biographies about him. And painting the Sistine Chapel was really not a labor of love for him.  In fact, I think I can say that he really hated doing it.

He was discovered at the age of 13 by Lorenzo Medici, Lorenzo the Magnificant of Florence, while he was carving a satyr from a block of marble. Lorenzo saw what would become a breathtaking talent in Michelangelo and brought him into his home. He was raised and tutored alongside the Medici children.

Lorenzo was first and foremost a scholar and he frequently entertained great writers and artists in his palace. Bottecilli was one of Lorenzos favored artist/friends.Michelangelo listened, constantly, to the dialogs of great men of the Renaissance.

Birth of Venus/Bottecilli

This was part of the atmosphere that Michelangelo grew up in. The other part is that of violence and conspiracy. There were many in Florence who wanted to remove the Medici family, the biggest banking family in Europe, from all power. They were known as the financiers of the Vatican. A rival family who had strong connections with the Pope, conspired to kill Lorenzo and his brother. They were successful with Giliano and only wounded Lorenzo. There were many struggles for power all around the Medicis.

After Lorenzos death, 2 Medici cousins raised as brothers eventually moved into positions of control of Florence and the Vatican.

In the meantime, Michelangelo was carving out of a 30 foot block of marble, the most famous of his statues. He worked day and night, often not eating and rarely changing his clothes. He rigged a shower system that kept him cool while at the same time kept the marble dust down.

On the 25th of January, 1504, Michelangelo unveiled his David. It was originally commissioned to be put on top of a cathedral but it turned out to be too beautiful to be put so far out of view. David was a statement by Michelangelo and it became a symbol of Florence.

David by Michelangelo

Leo X, previously known as Giovanni de Medici, was elected pope and his cousin became the Cardinal of Florence. Nothing like a little nepotism, is there? And Pope Leo was not very godly, either. It was under Leo’s corrupt reign as pope that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety Five Theses to the church door and thus began the Reformation.

Michelangelo was commissioned by the Pope de Medici to paint the 1000 square meter  ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and it took him 4 years to complete. This was no easy task on its face but to paint it in fresco (on wet plaster) was horribly difficult and he painted 300 figures on that ceiling. He did not feel comfortable as an artist (he saw himself as a sculptor) and especially painting in fresco, a medium that requires quick work. Michelangelo felt as though this commission was a set up for failure.

As one last Medici commission, Michelangelo painted the Last Judgment over the altar of the Sistine Chapel. Experts say that this painting is a reflection of the feelings of the time, as well as those of the artist, himself: frustration, fear and uncertainty.

His Last Judgment was full of nudes and the Church officials weren’t going to have any part of that. They hired another artist to paint over the nude sinners private parts with flowing cloths.

Without knowing the Medicis, it’s hard to know Michelangelo. His life was so entwined with theirs and his art reflects his conflicted feelings about a family that on one hand was corrupt and ruthless and on the other, the nurturers and first family of the Renaissance.

Destroying the Kaaba in 2012? Director says “I kinda left it out.”

Speaking in an interview about the movie 2012, director Roland Emmerich said that he originally wanted to show the destruction of the Kaaba (the sacred black cube that is the center of the Muslim haj in Mecca) in addition to “the destruction of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as the fall of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro, the White House….”

But we are not shown the destruction of any Islamic sites  in his new movie. “In fact, the only reference to Muslims is a scene showing them praying at the Kaaba for the earth to be saved (as well as a keffiyeh-encrusted and presumably Muslim Arab king who buys his family tickets to their “salvation”).”

“Well, I wanted to do that [show the destruction of the Kaaba], I have to admit,” Emmerich says. “But my co-writer Harald said I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie. And he was right. … We have to all … in the Western world … think about this. You can actually … let … Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have … a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it’s just something which I kind of didn’t [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out.” Debbie Schlussel.com

It does “sound a little bit like what the state of this world is.” It’s okay for Hollywood to attack and marginalize Christians – they order no beheadings or fatwas against anyone but instead turn the other cheek. You know, it’s the Christian thing to do.



Coming soon: Shepard Fairey’s Tole Painting Class

As a one time art major (until I figured out that I could not make the kind of living that I wanted to make) I can explain something about pop art and how truly bogus *most* of  it is.

And this is how easy it is for you to do at home:

Take a photo of Campbell’s tomato soup, for instance. No, really.  Take a photo of it. Put it in a projector/enlarger that reflects on a canvas or watercolor paper or wall. Pencil the photo onto the canvas or wall. Then, start painting or coloring it in.

That’s how easy it is. That’s what Warhol basically could do with a soup can or a photo of Marilyn Monroe or any number of famous people. That’s how I painted a mural, in high school, of Minnie Mouse on a hallway at my alma mater. (Now to be clear, this is not exactly how Warhol did it. He silk screened the image of Marilyn onto canvas.)

Called Gold Marilyn Monroe this is Warhols portrait that hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Called "Gold Marilyn Monroe" this is Warhol's portrait that hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Photoshop and other web sites online will also allow you to take a photo (maybe of yourself) and add effects that make it look like a cartoon or a painting. (And considering that Fairey admits to deleting computer files, I have to wonder how much Photoshop or similar software was used in his Obama poster.)

With these “techniques” anyone can be an artist. Kinda like dummy-ing down art or maybe “Art for Idiots” or to be less offensive, “Art for the Paint Brush Challenged.”

So, this brings me to Shepard Fairey and his now infamous portrait of Obama.

From the beginning, this guy was a thief. He stole an idea, an image and modeled it with “technique.” That’s all he did. Technique cannot be confused with talent. Anyone can learn a technique, but not everyone has a talent or a gift.

Fairey is a street graffiti artist; in street vernacular, he is a tagger. He is nothing more than that. And now with his latest admission that he lied to his attorneys (in addition to the court and everyone else) that he used another photo rather than the one that the AP claims he used and his admission that he deleted computer files to cover up his lies, he will never be anything more than that. And any art piece he does from this point on will be viewed as suspect.

Anyone can learn the iambic pentameter of a sonnet and write one. But not just anyone can be William Shakespeare or write anything like he did. Anyone can learn the technique of painting on wet plaster (fresco) but not just anyone can do Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

Look familiar? Its my avatar: the finger of God and at the creation of Adam.

Look familiar? It's my avatar: the finger of God at the creation of Adam. From the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.

Anyone can learn Photoshop software and do this:

You guess it: that's my face, imposed over a Chaplin photo.

You guessed it: that's my face, imposed over a Chaplin photo.

But not just anyone can be Charlie Chaplin.

From this point on, Shepard Fairey will be nothing more than a man who learned some techniques and arrived at *almost* the right historical place at the right historical time.

Warhol pulled it off. Fairey never will.

The AP photo and the Fairey rip-off.

The AP photo and the Fairey rip-off.

More at BigHollywood.com.

Older but interesting perspective from the LA Times.