Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design


The Grudging Masterpiece

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

This is the 500th year of the unveiling of Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel, an unequivocal masterpiece of Renaissance, but strangely not a willing creation by Michelangelo, more known for his marble sculpture pieces.

Sistine Chapel ceiling via Wikipedia
Forced (or convinced strongly) by the Pope, he eventually undertook the task of painting the ceiling, but not before protesting, "painting is not my art." With the help of a dozen painters and craftsmen, Michaelangelo took up the task, "hauling water up 65 feet of treacherous ladders, slaking lime for plaster, grinding and mixing pigments, pricking and transferring preparatory drawings, and painting miles of architecture and ornament."

He did the work with complaint, specifically a sonnet which still survives today. He writes, "My beard to heaven. My chest bent like a harp. The dripping brush making a rich pavement of my face. My loins have been shoved into my guts, my butt is ballast." At the bottom of the sheet, Michelangelo complained: "I'm not in a good place, nor a painter."

Michelangelo's sketch illustrating a sonnet describing the arduous position painting of the Sistine Chapel via Wikipedia
Complaints and all, he still produced a gorgeous work that's still admired by millions today. I suppose willingness is always an ideal component of a project, but it seems like it is not a necessity. A good reminder when I'm restless and wanting to leave my station while mired in a writing project. Even unwilling, a masterpiece can happen. I suppose one just has to be present to the moment.

h/t WSJ


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