Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling was authored by Ross King and published in 2003. The author’s purpose in this book is to inform the readers of the challenges that Michelangelo had to endure to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The medium of painting was demanding and the artist’s client was none other than the Pope. This means that there was a lot of expectation about Michelangelo’s wok.
Main arguments in the book
The first argument that King points out is that Michelangelo was assisted in working on some parts of the ceiling. However, Michelangelo painted many parts of the ceiling himself. This discounts some of the narratives that have been told about the painting that it was painted by Michelangelo alone. King asserts that even though Michelangelo had to paint in a very uncomfortable position with him standing on a platform and his head bent back facing up the vault. The other main argument that is brought out in the book is that Pope Julius II’s military campaign affected Michelangelo’s work. Apart from this, King also provides details of Michelangelo’s family problems in order to compound the challenges that he was experiencing while painting.
The other argument is the story of human elements that is vividly brought out in the book. King is able to bring to fore the disappointment that Michelangelo experienced when a project he was eagerly waiting for (construction of the Pope’s tomb) had been cancelled. Michelangelo did not have much experience with fresco painting and was therefore reluctant to take up this task.
The book is placed in the context of Renaissance; this was a period that was characterized with bloodshed and intrigue and also extraordinary art achievements that was influenced by different characters including Cesare Borgia among others. King examines one of the virtues that was held by Michelangelo, that is he never displayed his art piece until he had completed it.
The author concludes that the process of painting the fresco was a very difficult one for Michelangelo. However, he managed to surmount the challenges of the painting. The author manages to integrate many complex issues into a single book which makes it an interesting read. King managed to bring the different characters into the book. Each of the characters was given a distinct personality and this helped in making the book unique. For instance, Pope is manipulating and is a glutton, Michelangelo is self-defeating even though he is seen to be hard working and Raphael is a smooth talking individual even though his actions may at time be dangerous. This was enabled mainly by the research that was conducted by the author and his writing style. King uses a simple writing style making the book easy to comprehend and understand.
Opinion of the book
While reading the book I liked the manner in which Michelangelo described the painting. King was able to make it clear that Michelangelo was laying on his back while painting the ceiling. I always loved the manner in which King helps the readers understand that the painting was broken down into different segments and each segment worked on different days. I believe that King is right in this case. The reason for this is that fresco dries quickly meaning that the artist could only work in small sections. In addition, if a mistake was discovered after a whole days work, then the whole painting would be chipped off and the work redone. This means that Michelangelo and his team had to be cautious in their approach in order to prevent time wastages. The readers are also able to learn about the different family and financial problems that Michelangelo experienced during this time.
Reactions to the book
The book by King is well written and provides a good account of what happened during the time of painting of the Pope’s ceiling. One of the takeaways of the book is the chapters that dwell on the character of Raphael. The book was about Michelangelo and the content on Raphael did not contribute much to the development of the story. This is because the content focused more on the people that Raphael was sleeping with, a theme that is not in any way directly related to topic of discussion in the book. There is a feeling that King ran into this content and found it interesting to include it as part of the content that described the painting.
The book by King describes how Michelangelo was tricked into painting the chapel. As has been mentioned, he felt that he did not have experience in fresco painting. However, after accepting to do the painting, the author shows Michelangelo’s dedication throughout the process. Michelangelo was the breadwinner of his family and he had to show a great deal of discipline in order to continue providing for his family.
I find it difficult to believe that Michelangelo was given the latitude to determine how he paint the ceiling. The reason for this is that the iconology of church paintings was influenced by church leaders. Michelangelo may have had his way on the design of the painting but he could not have had his way on the painting itself.
According to King, Michelangelo played an important role in the painting. He was assisted by a few people and took quite some time to finish the work. The author also finds out that the work has withstood the test of time.