Posts Tagged ‘Michelangelo’

The Renaissance Popes, Gerard Noel

Pope Julius II has rightly gained fame as the patron of Michelangelo;  but hereby hangs a tale. He persuaded the young sculptor to abandon his stonemason’s craft and mercilessly goaded him into painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Julius had a keen appreciation of artistic genius – or, as he put it, ‘the humours of such men of genius.’ This did not prevent him from working Michelangelo like a dog, and starving him of funds. When Michelangelo quit Rome in a rage, swearing he would leave his work uncompleted, a horrified Florentine official admonished him: “You have behaved towards the Pope in a way the King of France himself would not have ventured upon. There must be an end of this. We are not going to be dragged into a war and risk the whole state for you. Go back to Rome.”

When a surly Michelangelo finally reappeared in Rome, a prelate tried to save him from the Pope’s wrath by pleading “Your Holiness should not be so hard on this Michelangelo; he is a man who has never been taught good manners, these artists do not know how to behave, they understand nothing but their art.” Julius rounded on the prelate in fury, declaring that it was he who had no manners. From then on the arguments between Julius and Michelangelo were no less vehement, yet characterised by mutual respect. Julius would abandon all papal dignity to clamber up dusty ladders and crawl over grimy scaffolding so that he could confer with Michelangelo at the ‘coal face.’ The pair of them would stand together for hours, critically inspecting the frescoes that this ‘man of genius’ was creating. Five hundred years later, we owe a huge debt to both of them.

Five hundred years later, the Vatican has created a digital tour of the Sistine Chapel so you can see the magnitude of this debt for yourselves:

Sistine Chapel

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Agnolo Bronzino - Head of a smiling young woman

The Metropolitan Museum of Art displays the following words at the start of its exhibition by Italian Mannerist painter Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572):

“I say to you briefly that by drawing, I mean that all those things that can be formed with the value, or force, of simple lines.”

These words could not be more appropriate as Bronzino uses just paper and chalk, and incredibly elegant lines, to create drawings that are just as powerful and moving as the Michelangelo‘s statues which were painstakingly carved out of blocks of marble.

Bronzino was the court artist to Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici so it is surprising there has never been an exhibition solely dedicated to his work. However The Met has made amends by pulling together a stunning collection of approximately 60 drawings, which are being shown until April 18.

Other reviews:

The New Yorker describes Bronzino as a “new old art star” and argues the modern world is ready for Mannerism :

“The movie “Avatar” strikes me as Mannerist through and through, generating terrific sensations of originality from a hodgepodge of worn-thin narrative and pictorial tropes.”

The New York Times says Bronzino :

“was the hand to hire for a power portrait in mid-16th-century Florence. He could turn toddlers into potentates and make new-money Medicis look like decent people. His painting shaped late Mannerism, the profane, twisty, prosthetic style that erupted, like a repressed libido, between the humanist sanctities of the Renaissance and the smells and bells of the Counter-Reformation.”

and my favourite by Jerry Saltz in New York magazine:

Bronzino and his contemporaries were the punks and New Wavers of their time. Bronzino’s Italy (like punk’s New York) was a mess: The Plague had struck, and on May 5, 1527, Rome was sacked. Thousands of civilians were killed, churches destroyed, the pope jailed. What were artists to do? Bronzino performed a vivisection on the vocabulary of painting, particularly when it came to portraying overbred, high-strung aristocrats.”

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