Michelangelo

Michelangelo

Creation of Adam - Our fresco reproduction )
Creation of Adam
Above: Our reproduction (In picture) of the creation of Adam by Michelangelo

Creation of Adam Left : the creation of Adam ( the original) by Michelangelo Buonarroti - Sistine Chapel - Rome - Italy

Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, with its vast artistic wealth, was the starting point for the genius of Michelangelo. In this city the young Michelangelo was first influenced by the works of the old masters, such as the frescoes of Masaccio and Giotto, of which he did copies as a basis for developing his skills. After the interruption of his studies, and contrary to the wishes of his father, Michelangelo entered as an apprentice in the studio of Ghirlandaio, a painter of frescoes. However, after one year he abandoned this master in order to concentrate on sculpture. In the Medici gardens he studied the ancient sculptures that were located on the grounds. Soon, Lorenzo de’ Medici became aware of his immense talent and brought Michelangelo into his home ' like a son'.

sistine chapel fresco On the right: Our reproduction (By Sergio Bonometti)

Following the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici in 1402, his son Piero succeeded him. Piero was unable to contain the increasing influence of the monk Girolamo Savonarola and his followers that were strongly adverse, among other matters, to the prevailing art forms. Piero was also unable to halt the invasion of the French troops of Charles VIII in 1494, and he was eventually deposed by a popular uprising. During this period of uncertainty, Michelangelo who was barely nineteen years of age, left Florence traveling first to Bologna and then to Rome where he spent most of his life.

Rome was full of treasures of the ancient world, and it was an ideally place of study for Michelangelo who initially concentrated on sculptures. His first two works, the Bacco ebbro (drunken Baccus) and a moving Pieta (Deposition) were a tribute to the dual cultural identity of Rome, that which was ancient and pagan and that which was Christian. Because of its form, composition and emotional content, to this day the Pieta, commissioned in 1498, is considered the most beautiful marble sculpture of Rome.

sistine chapel fresco - On the left: Our reproduction

In 1508 Michelangelo, considering himself mostly a sculptor, reluctantly signed the contract offered by Pope Giulio II to fresco the vault of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo launched into the project, which he essentially undertook alone, and actually expanded the project beyond the representation of the 12 apostles originally envisaged to more than 300 figures.

Michelangelo learned the fresco techniques with his first master, il Ghirlandaio, in Florence, and the first restoration of the Sistine Chapel, undertaken between 1990 and 1994, demonstrated how he carried this art form to the greatest heights of perfection. The fresco technique requires that the artist paint a freshly plastered wall which is still sufficiently humid to allow the paint to bond chemically so that when the plaster dries, the paint is completely a part of the wall. In order to paint the plaster which dries very quickly, the artist must have a very rapid and precise techniques of painting. He must clearly know how much he can paint during the course of the day ('giornata'). It is possible to identify the extent of the various daily paintings from the plaster on the borders of the frescoes. From these it is clear that Michelangelo painted at a remarkably high speed. He completed this immense monumental work of art in only four years between 1508 and 1512.

The most recent restoration of Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel became necessary because of the amounts of dust and other polluting agents that had covered the paintings in the course of the centuries. The causes of the degradation were not only the use of candles and petroleum lamps for lighting but also the effects of the fumes from the heavy Rome automobile traffic. Moreover, the frescoes had been covered during the XVIII century by a thick layer of protective substance that however collected other impurities in the air rendering the frescoes opaque and dull. After the intervention to clean the frescoes, their original vivid and clear colors emerged, and it was again possible to view the magnificence and splendor that Michelangelo had been able to give the Sistine Chapel through his work. To protect the Sistine Chapel, an air conditioning system has been installed which assures the change of air each hour, filtering and purifying all pollution coming from external sources.