Michelangelo’s Art Through Michelangelo’s Eyes
in 3 Parts
Michelangelo thought he was divine. His contemporaries called him Il Divino and he was modest enough (depending on your outlook) to recognize that he alone could not create his works but that God guided his hand. He was proficient in sculpture, painting and poetry and, like Leonardo, was an expert anatomist, dissecting numerous bodies in an age when the human interior was largely unexplored. As for his painting, the frescoes in the Sistine chapel have been studied by every subsequent great artist either in the original or through one of many reproductive engravings. Yet what Michelangelo saw in his work was quite different from what the Pope and his contemporaries saw, or from what art scholars see today. His visual perception, not surprisingly, was special. Most experts assume, naturally enough, that Michelangelo's Last Judgment depicts the Last Judgment though it is known that a Resurrection was the original commission. Yet there was no precedent in a scene of the Last Judgment for including fictional characters from Dante's Comedy nor a Christ who is blond and smooth-shaven, nor, far more improbably, angels without wings. A strangely passive Mary is most unusual while a saint holding his own flayed skin looks nothing like himself. Then there is the Old Testament character who, though hung in the Bible, is crucified by Michelangelo without any holes for the nails. This cannot be error because great masters do not make mistakes in their masterpieces.
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