A man who affects marble and from inert stone makes it immortal in the history of mankind: where does he find his strength and his genius?
It is easy to understand how skill and dedication are virtues that will be always rewarded in life and the success of Michelangelo Buonarroti in the history of art must also be seen from this point of view as well as for what he left.
Pursuing an important goal and ennobling it means putting your skills in a position to be appreciated at the right time, but to do so you need to be ready, you need to nurture your talent.
Michelangelo Buonarroti meets his fortune in the richest and most powerful lord of the moment in Florence; he finds his very beginning with Lorenzo De Medici, Lorenzo the Magnificent.
Michelangelo stayed in Lorenzo il Magnifico’s “sculpture garden”, as Vasari tells us, which was a school that brought up artists from all over the world, and here he is noticed for his skill and dexterity, so much so that he was preferred and hosted in Lorenzo’s home, wherehe grew up with his children.
This tells us that Michelangelo was not there by chance, he was at that court because his skill had rewarded him at the workshop of his teacher Ghirlandaio, and once he entered a world of excellence he was able to show his talents.
Here comes to mind a reflection; what is it that allows the genius to express himself, is just talent enough? Maybe not, since the dawn of timw power and wealth go hand in hand with excellence!
Who would Michelangelo have been without the Medici court? That same court that he will abjure in times to come in favour of his rediscovered spirit of freedom!
Was it so normal for a man who loved money, but did not use it for himself and who set aside to leave a patrimony for his nephew, to express his genius in his tormented soul?
Michelangelo is therefore an artist who developes an inclination towards torment, an impetuous feeling that he expresses through his search for truth. A celestial truth and linked to the Platonic essence that is also alive in the feeling of love, the Supreme is a liberation is the highest moment for humanity. Contemplation is hope, it is the expectation that makes a feeling alive, a dimension that he himself experiences towards a woman he is longing for, Vittoria Colonna.
Michelangelo is tormented by perfection and finds moments of incomparable artistic tension in the continuous search for the study of bodies, even by the means of corpses, he excels in drawing, in sculpture he goes beyond the ancients, in painting he endeavours.
A grumpy man, a lonely man, here we meditate on what is the manifestation of art, it is a perennial dialogue with spirituality, from the conflict in fact arise the greatest works, the greatest examples.
It is the power of the continuous struggle between good and evil, Michelangelo is flesh, he is pure expressive force, he is touched concretely in all his works and in the various phases of his long working period.
It is his personal suffering that bears the vital force of Michelangelo’s most important works, a lonely man who is not very sociable, produces a strong art; in some ways we can compare him to another bad personality, that of Caravaggio who will appear only a century later: it is as if in these two great artists we can see a tormented spiritual matrix that leads to different conclusions.
Michelangelo was a genius and always will be because he is recognizable in his greatness, that greatness of always being different but always the same in its fundamental matrices, in its essence.
Michelangelo, subjugated by history, by the men of his day who made history, constrained not to be truly free, will always show the power of man’s greatness, that of always believing in oneself and in one’s weaknesses in order to recognize and overcome them.
Michelangelo was the one who, from a dead, destroyed statue, drew the example of strength, the example of beauty, the courage of a civilization, the example of justice: the David of Piazza della Signoria in Florence.
His works have traced a furrow in the history of beauty so much so that the later artists always considered him as a landmark. there are so many examples of emulation or attempts to pay homage to the technique, design, forms to date even in contemporary art.
Michelangelo has remained in the history of humanity as an immortal, as a fundamental element, as a piece of the DNA of universal culture, we can simply say that life as we conceive it in its aesthetic meaning has in the “Florentine stonemason” a founding axiom, an absolute, a metaphysical assonance, an otherworldly conception.An individualistic man, proud, aware of his own value and of the representation of himself in history, bought his marble blocks even before the works were commissioned because he believed in his talent, he believed he could create his own artwork and sell it later.
The most important work, probably, of our great artist is to this day the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
A work that in its magnificence is known in its smallest details, a theological palimpsest, the most important manifesto of the Catholic Church as the bride of Christ..
Michelangelo grew up in a cultured environment where he learned the Neoplatonic ideas from Marsilio Ficino and where his soul, which was aimed at searching for the greatest mysteries of existence, was also imbued with esoteric notions.
Also, Michelangelo had been very impressed by Girolamo Savonarola’s sermons desecrating a corrupt Church.
His cultural education, his soul, his sensitivity were forged in a tumultuous environment of passions and power, of wealth and fear, of faith and reason.
Michelangelo was for art the intermediary genius between good and evil, between the Divine and humanity, he was the prime minister of doubt, of torment for creation and of how man had to respect it.
He was a genius because he was able to maintain, sometimes veiled, his ideals, his pure convictions, along with all those doctrines for which lords and popes asked him to do his work.
His material art is the conception that it becomes evident by subtraction, ideas creep into matter and become evident releasing all their energy at the expense of any superfluous matter, is the exaltation of a philosophy of the negative in favour of the spirit.
Michelangelo sought the divine immersed in earthly things, the love that God reveals to man in his wanderings between vices and virtues.
He was therefore a highly educated man, a poet who in any case could not work alone in front of the Sistine Chapel, but supported by a group of theologians for the complex apparatus required to be frescoed.
Our great artist would have preferred not to paint the Sistine Chapel, first because he felt more being a sculptor and not a painter, and second because until then it was him who decided on the intrinsic characteristics of his commissions, now instead he was faced with a more complex content with the support of a plethora of theologians with whom to deal.
The comparison that goes from an objective material reality made of full plasticity to another two-dimensional phenomenal reality such as painting with a more complex relational drafting compared to the more intuitive statuary, was not a simple thing for Michelangelo.
The material from Michelangelo came to life in marble, while with painting he had to explain a message that the Church dictated to him. An inverse process, a new conception of his art.
The iconographic program that Michelangelo elaborates for the vault of the Sistine Chapel is linked to a theological apparatus that sees both the Church as the bride of Christ, and as a representation of the Trinitarian concept, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
The cornerstones of the most important representation of the Catholic Church are better studied and related to theological testimonies already known in clerical circles.
There is a new and very interesting reading by Heinrich W. Pfeiffer in his essay “The Sistine Chapel: a new vision”, in which he writes: “Through the comparison between scenes from the Old and New Testaments to be related to each other, the observer is made aware of the mysterious and profound sense of Revelation: what Christ did and said becomes fully understandable in the fulfilment of the events of the Old Testament. And the latter can only be read if they are related to the words and actions carried out by Christ” and also “the iconographic programme carried out on the walls of the Sistine Chapel … ultimately dates back to a sermon that Pope Julius II’s uncle, Francesco della Rovere, wrote in 1448 for the bishop of Padua, Fantino Dandolo”.
That sermon was “The Prayer of the Immaculate” in which are cited many characters frescoed in the vault but the most important key of reading, as Pfeiffer, wrote it: “This bridegroom-bride relationship (Church-Christ) can be itself, for modern man, somewhat surprising. In fact, it was Joachim of Fiore who, just before 1200, asked the question in his work Concordia Novi ac Veteris Testamenti. And again: “…one of the integrative principles applied in the structuring of the program…a determined influence that Joachim of Fiore exercised…with his work”.
Abbot Joachim’s writing was not among the Orthodox books of Catholic theology, but from here it is perhaps even more interesting the interpretation made by Michelangelo who was able to give a strong hand to his freedom of expression by reconciling it with a general clerical line.
In the vault Michelangelo hides a whole series of messages that reveal the critical nuances he had towards the Church and the Pope, an intellectual basis that he could also reconcile with the quotations on Joachim of Fiore that he had heard before when Savonarola was in Florence.
Since the splendour of the last restoration, 1980-1994, considered the most important of the twentieth century, have come out wonderful colours and new interpretative keys to the work expressed by Michelangelo.
The last restoration in any case has raised great criticism even pointing out that the interventions had been too radical so as to change the colours and therefore the interpretative key given by Michelangelo. Fundamental was the debate about whether Michelangelo had worked “true fresco” or “fresco secco”.
The restorers, Gianluigi Colalucci, Maurizio Rossi, Piergiorgio Bonetti, and Bruno Baratti, preferred to consider the first hypothesis, namely that the author had not intervened afterwards on the dry plaster with tempera interventions for details except in small portions, certainly not in the lunettes.
Michelangelo frescoed the Stories of the Old Testament, the vault is conceived as an architecture, a series of triumphal arches under which the popes made their way to the altar, the Via della Salvezza.
STORIES OF THE GENESIS
25.Creation of Eve (Genesis 2.18-25)
21.Original sin and expulsion from Paradise (Genesis 3,1-13.22-24) 17.Noah’s sacrifice (Genesis 8,15-20)
13. Universal Flood (Genesis 6,5-8,20)
9. Noah’s Drunkenness (Genesis 9.20-27)
Ancestors of Christ
1. Eleazar and Mattan
2. Jacob and Joseph
3. Achim and Eliud
7. Azor and Sadoc
11. Zorobabel, Abiud and Eliacim
15. Josiah, Ieconia and Salatiel
23. Ezekias, Manasseh and Amon
19. Otia, Ioatam and Acaz
31. Asaf, Giosafat and Ioram
27. Roboam and Abia
39. Jesse, David and Solomon
35. Salmón, Booz, and Obed
44. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judas (lost)
45. Fares, Esrom and Aram (lost)
14. Sailing over Zorobabel, Abiud and Eliacim
12. Sailing over Josiah, Ieconia and Salatiel
22. Sails over Otia, Ioatam and Acaz
20. Sailing over Ezekija, Manasse and Amon
30. Sailing over Roboamo and Abia
28. Sailing over Asaf, Giosafat and Ioram
38. Sailing over Salmón, Booz and Obed
36. Sailing over Jesse, David and Solomon
Old Testament Stories
4. Judith and Holofernes (Judith 13,1-10)
6. David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17.1-54)
46. Aman’s Punishment (Esther 7,1-10)
44. Bronze snake (Numbers 21,1-9)