The Sistine Chapel: The Building and the Artwork

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The Sistine Chapel

Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving. (Johann Wolfgang Goethe in 1787 in Rome)
The Sistine Chapel, originally constructed in the late 1400’s underwent multiple periods of construction and reconstruction, with both the building and the artwork. It was designed to be the primary site of all papal ceremonies. (Lewine) Though the exterior is merely a rectangle, it is the artwork within that is the main attraction. In the next several paragraphs, the reader will gain a general understanding of the layout of the Chapel, with particular emphasis into the role Michelangelo Buonarroti played.

The Sistine Chapel was built between 1475 and 1483, in the time of Pope Sixtus IVdella Rovere, to whom it owes its name. The original decoration of the walls included the Stories of Moses and of Christ, and the portraits of the Popes. A starry sky was detailed on the ceiling, but was replaced when it became damaged. (Esaak) An interesting fact about the Chapel is that the frescoes alternate walls because Moses is thought to prefigure Christ, and “reading” them in pairs helps to better see the meaning. (Lewine) The painting crew, members of the High Renaissance, included Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Rosselli. (Kren and Marx) It was not until 1508 that Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned to paint the ceiling and the lunettes located on the upper part of the walls. (Van Cleave) He was actually called away from his work on the Pope’s tomb and was upset about the disruption, as Michelangelo believed himself to be a sculptor, and not a painter. His characters are so well depicted that no one but a sculptor could have detailed them so perfectly. Ironically, the work he had originally hated so much became his most exquisite and best-known. (Kren and Marx)

The North Wall series depicts the Stories of Christ. It originally featured...
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