National Geographic : 1957 Apr
Michelangelo's Heroic Frescoes Swirl Across the Sistine Ceiling Page 465: The private chapel of the Popes takes its name, Sistine, from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned it in the 15th century. A relatively plain building without, it contains unparalleled masterpieces of Renaissance art. Most notable are the ceiling frescoes that Michelangelo painted at the demand of Pope Julius II. The Florentine gen ius spent more than four years on the project, working alone. Lying on scaffolding or sitting in painfully cramped positions, he painted with feverish speed to apply his pigments to each section of wet plaster before it dried. Despite misery, ill ness, and rivals' intrigues, he covered some 10,000 square feet with what many experts consider man's greatest single handed work of art. Nine central panels tell the stories of Genesis from the Creation to the Flood. Three panels here shown in color depict the creation of woman (below), Adam and Eve's temptation and expulsion from the Garden, and Noah's sacri fice after the Flood. Altogether, the masterpiece is peopled by 343 figures, many of them titanic creations of the imagination. No two are alike. Some of the nudes are deemed the finest portrayals of the human figure-evidence of Michelangelo's consummate knowledge of anatomy. + Twenty-three years after finishing the ceiling, Michel angelo returned to paint 200 figures of The Last Judgment on the chapel's altar wall. At each Pope's death, the College of Cardinals meets in this chapel to elect a successor. o National Geographic Society 464 the latest in modern influence. With each they were changing Rome to their taste-the stay I discovered more neon signs, snack bars, Germans, the French. They came but we and Dixieland jazz bands. Certain young conquered. We took a bit from each, when Romans go about in blue jeans, trying to we wished it, and that was all. Come back look like Marlon Brando. again in 25 years and you'll see that Rome is Such sights make the older generation shake still herself." their heads. But a white-haired contessa Against a background of ancient glory and appeared undismayed. glossy modernism, I relearned the mixture "You'll find a lot of things that weren't of routine and spontaneity, of strict rules and here a few years ago," she told me. "Don't easy nonchalance which characterizes Roman be fooled. A great many people thought daily life.