Italy:

Where is the famous mural and who was the artist?

The Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo (include on a city tour of Rome) is one of the most famous painted interior spaces in the world, and virtually all of this fame comes from the breath-taking painting of its ceiling from about 1508-1512.  The chapel was built in 1479 under the direction of Pope Sixtus IV, who gave it his name (“Sistine” derives from “Sixtus”). 

The location of the building is very close to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Belvedere Courtyard in the Vatican.  One of the functions of the space was to serve as the gathering place for cardinals of the Catholic Church to gather in order to elect a new pope.  Even today, it is used for this purpose, including in the recent election of Pope Francis in March 2013.

Michelangelo began painting in 1508 and he continued until 1512.  He started out by painting the Noah fresco but once he completed this scene he removed the scaffolding and took in what he had completed.  Realizing that the figures were too small to serve their purpose on the ceiling, he decided to adopt larger figures in his subsequent frescoed scenes.  Thus, as the paintings moved toward the altar side of the chapel, the figures are larger as well as more expressive of movement.  Two of the most important scenes on the ceiling are his frescoes of the Creation of Adam and the Fall of Adam and Eve/Expulsion from the Garden.

It has been said that when Michelangelo painted, he was essentially painting sculpture on his surfaces.  This is clearly the case in the Sistine Chapel ceiling, where he painted monumental figures that embody both strength and beauty.

 

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