Art during the Renaissance Period – Part 4 (Michelangelo Buonarroti ‚Äď Statue of Moses)


Statue of Moses


                   The Statue of Moses is a part of the tomb of Pope Julius II. It was originally intended to be for the upper portion of a massive three storey monument which was to hold more than 40 statues. The project was later scaled down step-by-step until it the plan had become a simple wall tomb with less than one third of the intended number of statues. This was a cause of much personal frustration to him, as an artist who was primarily a sculptor. He considered the Statue of Moses as his most important and most life-like of all his creations.

                  Moses shows a seated figure, not in any dynamic action, yet somehow managing to exude restless energy and  anger. This is at the point in the story where Moses returns from the Mount Sinai with the two tablets of testimony with the intent to deliver the Ten Commandments to his people but instead breaks them in his terrible anger when he sees them worshipping the Golden Calf. His left leg is pulled back, so the hips are turned towards the left, with the torso turned a little towards the right, the face is again turned towards the left and he pulls his beard to the right side. This creates an interesting and dynamic composition. The figure looks disproportionate, with a long torso, because the statue was meant to be on the upper storey and he had proportioned it to look right when viewed from below.

Art during the Renaissance Period – Part 4 (Michelangelo Buonarroti ‚Äď Sistine Chapel ceiling)


                  The central panel of the Sistine Chapel is decorated with the nine scenes from the Book of Genesis: (from left to right on the image below) First Day of Creation, Creation of the Sun and Moon, Dividing Water from Heavens, Creation of Adam, Creation of Eve, Temptation and Banishment, Sacrifice of Noah, The Great Flood and Noah`s Drunkenness. Above and below these scenes are 12 figures of prophets and sibyls who prophesied the coming of the Messiah.  Furthermore, the crescent-shaped lunettes are decorated with the ancestors of Christ, the triangular-shaped spandrels with figures not yet identified and the four, large corner pendentives with a biblical story.   

Sistine Chapel ceiling

Dividing Water from Heaven

First Day of Creation

Delphic Sibyl


                   The Last Judgement can be seen on the on the sanctuary wall (at the far end) which he had painted in his later years:  

Sistine Chapel

The above image is licensed by its author, Patrick Landy (FSU Guy (talk)) under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Michelangelo used the technique called cangiante (derived from the Italian word cangiare, meaning ‘to change’) often in his paintings.¬† Cangiante is the technique of changing from the local¬†hue¬†to a different hue in highlight areas or in shadow areas. This is done when the local hue (when it is dark)¬†cannot be made light enough¬†for highlight areas or when the local hue (when it is light) cannot be made dark enough for shadow areas without the resulting color¬†getting muddied or dull. This might have come about¬†because the¬†pigments available at that time were¬†severely limited (and many artists even made their own paints); but it is still an interesting technique used even now.¬†In ‘Prophet Jeremiah’, the yellow of the tunic is changed to red in the shadows. In the image below this, the white sleeve has gold shadows in it.

Prophet Jeremiah



                  He had worked in extremely uncomfortable conditions standing on a scaffolding with his head tilted backwards, here`s a humorous sonnet he had written describing his condition along with an illustration:

I’ve grown a goitre by dwelling in this den‚Äď
As cats from stagnant streams in Lombardy,
Or in what other land they hap to be‚Äď
Which drives the belly close beneath the chin:
My beard turns up to heaven; my nape falls in,
Fixed on my spine: my breast-bone visibly
Grows like a harp: a rich embroidery
Bedews my face from brush-drops thick and thin.
My loins into my paunch like levers grind:
My buttock like a crupper bears my weight;
My feet unguided wander to and fro;
In front my skin grows loose and long; behind,
By bending it becomes more taut and strait;
Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow:
Whence false and quaint, I know,
Must be the fruit of squinting brain and eye;
For ill can aim the gun that bends awry.
Come then, Giovanni, try
To succour my dead pictures and my fame;
Since foul I fare and painting is my shame.

Michelangelo's illustration to his sonnet



Art during the Renaissance Period – Part 4 (Michelangelo Buonarroti ‚Äď Sistine Chapel ceiling(Creation of Adam))


Creation of Adam (Before Restoration)

                In 1505, Michelangelo was commisioned by Pope Julius II to build his papal tomb. It was to be a massive project , he had designed a three-story monument which would have contained over 40 marble  sculptures. But due to mounting money shortages, he was constantly interrupted to work on other tasks, and as a result the tomb took over 40 years to complete and even than not to his satisfaction. During this time, from 1508 to 1512, he worked on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, though he had a dislike for painting. He was commissioned to paint the 12 apostles, but he expanded the vision to include almost 300 figures, covering over 5000 square feet in frescos, in the end omitting the apostles altogether, saying it would have been a waste of space! It is a monumental work, much more than any artist could single handedly, accomplish in one lifetime. The frescos depict scenes from the Book of Genesis in the centre panel, and on either side of these are figures of prophets and sibyls who foretold the coming of the Messiah, also are scattered smaller figures of cherubs and ignudi.

              The Creation of Adam must be the most famous of these frescoes, with the hands of God and Man having an iconic status. It is the fourth or the sixth (depending on which side you count from) of the frescoes in the central panel, depicting the scene where God breathes life into Adam, the first man. Adam is in a reclining position on top of a hill stretching his left hand , somewhat passively, towards God. The right hand is masterfully foreshortened, as Adam rests on it, head shown sunk  in his shoulders.  God is shown a bearded man, arriving in swirling robes along with angels. His right hand is stretched towards Adam, with more purpose and energy. His left hand is around (what is thought of as) the yet-to-be-born Eve. This gap between the hands that Michelangelo had left, the fingers about to touch but yet not have made the contact, its a stroke of his genius. It generates so much tension and anticipation in the viewer, that it is a favourite with many critics to describe this scene as God imparting the spark of life to the first man. ( similar to how a huge electric charge can be transmitted through the thinnest of cables)    

Creation of Adam

Hands of God and Adam


                 Dr. Frank Lynn Meshberger, from Indiana, was the first person to notice that the part of the painting containing God and the angels appeared to be an anatomically accurate picture of the human brain, including the frontal lobe, optic chiasm, brain stem, pituitary gland and the major sulci of the cerebrum. In 1990, he published his theory in the Journal of the American Medical Association where he argues that there appears to be communication present despite the gap between the depicted Adam and God, just as neurons transmit biochemical information across synaptic clefts.

cross section of the Human Brain




                    If  we compare the above two images, we can see that the back of the angel (below God) lies on the Pons, and his hip and leg on the spinal cord.  The other angel below God, has a bifid (divided into two) foot, like the two lobed pituitary. His other leg is flexed at the knee, the thigh along the optic nerve, knee  the optic chiasm and  leg on the optic tract. Its clearer if you compare God`s image to the image of the lateral cross section of the brain here at this link: 

                  Looking at these images, I struck me all of a sudden, of the Mother`s (Mirra Alfassa) explanation of the Creation of  Man according to the Bible. She had said that it is a story (put in a child-like manner) not of the physical creation of man, but of the  coming down of the mind onto earth. If we look at the painting, we can see that Adam is already alive, with eyes open, reaching out to God; so it cannot be that Michelangelo was showing that God was giving life (breath) to man, he is showing  the scene where God is bestowing the intellect or intelligence to Man. (so the story is not such a departure from Darvin`s theory of evolution, after all!) It seems amazing that not only had Michelangelo dvelved into such matters so deeply, but had also used those insights in his works.


Continued in my next post….


Art during the Renaissance Period – Part 4 (Michelangelo Buonarroti ‚Äď David)


Michelangelo`s David -detail of face


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Michelangelo began work on another famous work of his at the age of 26 in Florence. The statue of David is a marble sculpture of the Biblical hero, David; it¬† stands at the imposing height of 17 feet in the Accademia di Belli Arti, Florence, Italy. This statue is also portrayed differently from the way it had been done before. Donatello had portrayed David (as an adolesecent) at the moment after his combat with Goliath, appearing victorious over a foe much larger and stronger than him. Michelangelo`s David has much more force, he is a youth into adulthood, and is depicted before the combat, at the moment when he has just decided to take up the challenge. This is an important moment because this moment in particular, shows his courage in deciding to fight someone who is armed and stronger than he, with only a slingshot at his disposal.¬† His strength comes from the inner conviction of being in the right. His body is still relaxed in the contrapposto pose, but that he¬†has made the decision to fight, we can see from his furrowed brows, intense (but slightly uncertain) gaze, taut tendons in the neck and¬†the nerves standing out on¬†his right¬†hand as he clutches the stone. He strikes Goliath with the stone in between his eyebrows, fells him down and slays his head with his sword. He succeeds in his task through his spiritual strength, intelligence and skill rather than through brute force. In his writings, Michelangelo describes his warrior-hero: “Eyes watchful…the neck of a bull…hands of a killer…the body, a reservoir of energy. He stands poised to strike.”

Michelangelo`s David

Marble sculpture, 17 feet tall,  housed  in the Accademia di Belli Arti, Florence, Italy

Michelangelo`s David


The above image is licenced by David Gaya  under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.

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aktuell 17:05, 30. Apr. 2005 Duumnagelbild f√∂r Version vun‚Äôn 17:05, 30. Apr. 2005 1.200√ó1.600 (173 KB) David (Michelangelo’s David Author: David Gaya License: {{GFDL}} Category:Michelangelo)


Donatello`s David

Bronze statue, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, h.158 cm

Donatello`s David


This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license by by Patrick A. Rodgers

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current 15:38, 12 January 2010 Thumbnail for version as of 15:38, 12 January 2010 1,066√ó1,719 (697 KB) Tetraktys (== {{int:filedesc}} == {{Information |Description = David |Source = [] |Date = 1430 – 1432 |Author = original file by {{#if:12152206@N03|[ Patr)


Continued in my next post….

Art during the Renaissance Period – Part 4 (Michelangelo Buonarroti – Piet√†)


               Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonrroti Simoni is a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, after Leonardo da Vinci who is universally regarded as so. A Renaissance man is someone who has gained knowledge in and has achieved proficiency in a great variety of subject areas, including those in physical development, social accomplishments and in the arts.

                Besides being a master sculptor, the art of which he loved the most; he was also a great painter, architect, poet, engineer and a deeply religious man, well versed in scriptures. Michelangelo was also an exponent for the principle of disegno in art.The term Disegno in Italian translated literally means simply drawing or design but it has more complex layers of meaning to it. Apart from drawing skills and the ability to establish tonal relationships, the term also encompasses the intellectual ability to create or conceive of an idea or vision and the imaginative and inventive skills (Michelangelo invented and drew all the human poses from his head without the need for models) necessary to execute it in an original and novel way. This is what justifies the elevation of art from a craft to a fine art, on par with other arts such as literature and poetry. And this is what gave the greatest of the artists their almost Divine stature even in their own times. To put it in another way, true art is something much more than that which is beautiful to look at, it is that which has the living force of a lofty and pure idea behind it.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Born on 6th March, 1475 in Caprese, Tuscany, Central Italy, he was sent to live in the town of Settignano, where his father owned a marble quarry and a small farm, with a stonecutter and his family. This was when he was at the tender age of six, after the death of his mother. Giorgio Vasari, himself an artist, but more famous for his biographies of great artists in and before his time quoted Michelangelo (who was his friend) as saying “If there is some good in me, it is because I was born in the subtle atmosphere of your country of Arezzo. Along with the milk of my nurse, I received the knack of handling chisel and hammer, with which I make my figures.” He enjoyed copying figures from paintings and reliefs in¬†churches and after persuading his father, he started to work, at the age of 13, as an apprentice to painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. He¬†later studied sculpture under Bertoldo di Giovanni while attending the Humanist academy which the Medici had founded along Neo Platonic lines. His art and thinking came to be influenced by the prominent philosophers of the day. During this time, he sculpted the reliefs Madonna of the steps and Battle of the Centaurs. He then¬†returned to his father`s town where he was permitted to make anatomical studies on corpses from the Church`s hospital.

               A few years and sculptures later, at the age of 22, and in Rome, he received a commission for his most famous work of Pietà. I have had the good fortune to see quite a few of his masterworks, it is always quite an experience, breathtaking to say the least, to see masterpieces in the original, but this is true specially of sculptures as they are meant to be seen in the three dimensions. In his highly original Pietà, (housed in St. Peter`s Basilica in the Vatican city) he has solved the compositional difficulty of placing the grown up figure of the Christ on his mother`s lap without it looking awkward, a problem which had not been satisfactorily solved in other artists` versions of Pietà and Lamentation of Christ. He did this by forming a pyramidal composition and making the figure of Mother Mary bigger than that of the Christ. It is not immediately noticeable that she is larger because it is such a stable and harmonious composition. The  beautifully arranged folds of the drapery lead the eye upward towards the lifeless body of the Christ which offers no resistance as his Mother holds him in her lap, leaning backwards a little in order to balance his weight, but with head turned towards him. We can see how he had already, at such a young age, perfected his knowledge in the human anatomy, from his life like depiction of the muscles, nerves and bones on the body of the Christ; the fold of flesh of his upper arm, underneath Mary`s right hand really makes it look like this scene is coming alive before us. Michelangelo has chosen to portray this poignant moment from a spiritual perspective. He does not show us the grief stricken Virgin and the Christ with the wounds of the Passion, like it had been done before. Rather, he shows us the Virgin`s majestic acceptance of her immense Sorrow, the Son is also shown as having peacefully accepted his fate. The scene looks even more poignant to us because of her calm forbearance. His  Pietà also differs from others` in that the Virgin is shown to be very young, around 20, as opposed to the 50 or so years that she must have been at the time of Christ`s death. He argued with his critics that age could not mar the features of such a Blessed One. The purity of this image leaves the viewer with strength and courage to face his own battles in life.     


Michelangelo`s  Pietà                                

(Carved in Marble, 6 feet tall and housed in the Basilica of St Peter in the Vatican city)

   Michelangelo's Pieta


   The above image is licenced by Stanislav Traykov under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.

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current 07:31, 19 December 2005 Thumbnail for version as of 07:31, 19 December 2005 1,584√ó1,660 (636 KB) Glimz (talk¬†| contribs) (Michelangelo’s Piet√†, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican. (Cropped and cleaned version of Image:Michelangelo’s Pieta 5450.jpg) {{Creator:Michelangelo Buonarroti}} Photo: Stanislav Traykov Category:Piet√† [[Category:Michelangelo)


Continued in my next post…..¬†