Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

by Ross King

This was a fascinating book. Frankly, I'm surprised by how well I enjoyed it since non-fiction is not my usual literature of choice.

The book offers wonderful details on the incredible chore of painting such a huge expanse of vaulted ceiling. It also debunks a number of common myths. For example, Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling while lying on his back. There was about a 6 foot clearance between the floor of the scaffolding and the painting surface. Admittedly, this would not be a very comfortable position to work for the four years Michelangelo labored, but it certainly doesn't have him crawling around on his back to get from one spot to another.

Despite the title, this book is about much more than Michelangelo and his experiences painting the Sistine Chapel. It includes a detailed accounting of not only Michelangelo and his relationship with the pope, but also tales of the popes ambitions and military conquests as well as the information on Michelangelo's contemporary rivals in the art world: Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, etc.

This is definitely a book worth reading. I highly recommend it to anybody who has ever even had the slightest hope of seeing the Sistine Chapel is person or who has ever admired the "Creation of Adam" which has become the iconical representation of the entire work in our modern times.

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