Michelangelo in Rome: The Pietà and the Sistine Chapel
The tourists who visit Rome and spend just a day or two in the Eternal City are forced to choose what to visit and what not. Rome has in fact so many monuments, museums, churches and works of art that it would take months to visit a fair amount, though still minimal compared to the total. If we were to make a suggestion, apart from the ancient Rome that has its symbol in the Coliseum, we are saying that it is impossible not to see the two most famous works by Michelangelo Buonarroti in Rome, ie the statue of the Pietà and the Sistine Chapel.
Obviously time is critical, so the question is if this is possible in just one day. The answer is affirmative if you decide to book a private chauffeured driven car service like the one Tiber Limousine Service in Rome offers. The advantage of using a private limousine service in Rome is not wasting time moving from one place to another and not getting tired. Our cars and minivans are also allowed to circulate in the lanes reserved for buses, thus avoiding the chaotic traffic of the eternal city, thereby reducing the time required for transfer in Rome, thus ensuring our customers to spend most of the their tour in Rome inside monuments and churches and not in the traffic. We therefore recommend the private Rome Tours by Tiber Limousine Service. In particular the best one we offer that include a visit to the Vatican is the Full Day Tour of Rome and Vatican. The entire morning will be devoted to the visit of ancient Rome (Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine in the first place ) and then of Renaissance and Baroque Rome (Spanish Steps , Trevi Fountain and may other attractions). Tiber Limousine Service driver will then take you for lunch to a typical restaurant in the city center, a good choice to taste the local food and a good glass of wine and after lunch the afternoon will be focused on the visit of City of Vatican.
It frequently happens of tourists contact our customer service because they want to visit the Sistine Chapel but are not interested in the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. Unfortunately if you want to visit the Sistine Chapel you have to enter the Vatican Museums, there is no shortcut, but it is possible to skip the visit to St. Peter’s Basilica if you are not interested in the statue of the Pietà.
At the age of 24, a young Michelangelo sculpted the statue of the Pietà that today millions of tourists can admire in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Buonarroti was already quite famous for the Bacchus statue, now in the Bargello Museum in Florence, but he still needed some recommendations to find new jobs, and for this work it was the banker Jacopo Galli, who wrote: ” I guarantee that Michelangelo will make the most beautiful work of art that we’ve ever seen in Rome.”
This fervent recommendation, the first in a long series by Jacopo Gallo during the life of Michelangelo, was directed to Jean de Bileheres, Cardinal of Santa Sabina and ambassador of the King of France to the Pope, who probably commissioned it for his tomb in the church of Santa Petronilla, where in fact the statue was placed after its realization. A few years later, however, the statue was moved inside the Basilica of St. Peter when the church of Santa Petronilla was destroyed following the work of expansion of St. Peter’s Basilica.
This statue aroused great wonder in contemporary and was celebrated by Vasari as a perfect balance of artifice and grace, the grace understood in the sixteenth century as the true beauty of the soul, and in this statue by Michelangelo the two characteristics are balanced perfectly, a true miracle of human intelligence. In his Lives Vasari wrote: “It’s a miracle that a stone without any shape at first arrives to that perfection that nature rarely attains in human body”
Michelangelo in his long career as a sculptor, he died when he was 88 years old, never signed any work except for one, the Pietà. Many have wondered why Michelangelo, who sculpted at least some sixty statues and marble groups, signed just this one in particular. It is a mystery even today and is probably destined to remain so forever.
But we want to tell you a story that tries to explain the reason for this exception. It is said that one day Michelangelo was hiding behind the statue to listen what were the reactions of the people while they were admiring the Pietà. The comments were all positive, and everybody who looked at it could not help but appreciate the grace of form and brightness of the Carrara marble with which it was made. Michelangelo was extremely pleased with these highly positive comments until he heard some critics who, after having considered it a masterpiece, were wondering who he was the author of such a perfect work of art. The Buonarroti was horrified when he heard that his statue was attributed to some famous sculptors of the time! So at night Michelangelo went agaim to the church of Santa Petronilla and carved his signature on the belt of the Virgin Mary. The inscription is in Latin and translated the meaning is: “Sculpted by Michelangelo Buonarroti in Florence”
The skill of Michelangelo was such that naturally aroused the envy of contemporaries. Many people could not bear that an artist so young could had made such a masterpiece and were trying to find faults in it. Someone then said that it was certainly wrong that the Madonna looked so young, she seemed even younger than her son Jesus who is lying in her arms, a clear mistake made by Michelangelo that strongly diminished the importance of the statue. But Michelangelo quickly responded to this criticism by saying that he made Mary so young on purpose and not by mistake. In the 33rd canto of the Divine Comedy Dante writes, “Virgin Mother, daughter of your son … ” . That’s why the Virgin Mary is depicted so young. She is the daughter of Jesus, forever young, immune from the sin.
In 1508 Julius II sends for Michelangelo, at that time 33 years old. The uncle of Julius II, Pope Sixtus ,about 30 years before had made part of the Sistine Chapel painted by the most famous painters of the time: geniuses like Perugino, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Pinturicchio. These great artists realized the fifteenth-century decoration of the Sistine Chapel. Julius II decided then to complete the work of his uncle and bring to an end the cycle of frescoes.
The relations between Pope Julius II and Michelangelo have always been turbulent over the years, because of their temper. We remember the countless problems related to the realization of the tomb of Pope Julius II.
Julius II wanted to build his tomb in the Basilica of St. Peter, a colossal marble group with more than 60 statues.
In May of 1508, therefore, Michelangelo is in a dilemma whether to accept the request of Pope Julius II to paint the Sistine Chapel. In fact, he is essentially a sculptor and not skilled in the art of fresco. In the end he decided to accept a challenge with himself and signed the contract.
From that moment and for four years Michelangelo will work continuously to complete the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, already partly decorated by works of the fifteenth century, completed in two years between 1481 and 1483, such as the “Delivery of the Keys to St. Peter ” by Perugino, which takes place in a Renaissance square with St. Peter kneeling at the feet of Christ. The Sistine Chapel was in fact meant to represent the legitimacy of the primacy of the Pope of Rome and this work is therefore highly significant.
Michelangelo had to deal with a titanic undertaking. He, great sculptor, not skilled in the fresco technique, is supposed to paint about 1080 square meters of fresco with more than 300 figures. A huge task for one man but Michelangelo had a bad temper and didn’t want any help.
At first Michelangelo had many problems and also made some errors. For example he started painting a lot of figures but these were too small and insignificant seen from afar and was forced to revise his plans. He also brought some friends from Florence to help him but then, because of his character, he sent them away.
From 1508 to 1512 he was alone, in a sort of duel with the Sistine Chapel painting, lying on his back with his body aching with the effort and the colors falling on his face until on 31 October 1512 Pope Julius II celebrated the Vespers on the eve of All Saints in the Sistine Chapel for the opening ceremony.
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