Sunday, 11 March 2012


“Only after disaster can we be resurrected.” - Chuck Palahniuk
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475 – 1564), known simply as Michelangelo, may be arguably the greatest artist and sculptor who has ever lived. His ground-breaking paintings and sculptures changed the meaning of art forever. Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, in a town near Florence. His mother died by the time Michelangelo was six years old, leaving him to live with his father, a nobleman. He began to show interest in art and drawing by the age of ten, and became an apprentice by age 12. When Michelangelo was 13 he knew that he had to be an artist. He became a pupil of the great sculptor, Donatello. As he grew older, Michelangelo became interested in the male nude. Most of his paintings included images of nude males, though sometimes just in the background. Many of his sculptures are also a celebration of this theme.  Michelangelo lived to the age of 89, and died in 1564.

Michelangelo was a great leader in the Italian Renaissance. His greatest work, painting the Sistine Chapel, began in 1508, and was completed in 1512. In the beginning, Michelangelo was to paint twelve pictures of the apostles around the outside of the ceiling. Instead of doing so, Michelangelo made another suggestion, which was to cover the entire ceiling with the stories of the Old Testament. It included over 300 figures. Beginning in 1491, Michelangelo carved Madonna of the Stairs. It took him one year to complete it. Next was the Pietá. It was started in 1498 and finished in 1500. He began Doni Tondo in 1503, and it took him two years to complete the painting. In 1534, twenty-three years after the Sistine Chapel was completed, Michelangelo began to paint The Last Judgment, located over the altar of the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo is famed for his use of colour, light, tone design, and draughtsmanship. He excelled in architecture, sculpture and his knowledge of anatomy that helped him in his art. Michelangelo set standards for sculpting, painting, poetry, and architecture. When sculpting, he always carved from front to back as shown on his unfinished pieces. His paintings were all equally proportioned, with very good perspective. All of his pictures had a 3D effect to make his figures stand out from the background. Michelangelo was also a poet and architect, but painting and sculpting were his preferred artistic pursuits.

The devastating floods in parts of Victoria and NSW, presently are causing a lot of heartache, loss of human life and property. It is difficult not to become involved when one sees the images of the widespread damage to so many towns and the evacuation of thousands of people. It is a timely reminder that when Mother Nature becomes destructive, there is little we can do in terms of our technology and advanced resources. The flood waters come, sweep everything in their path, inundate properties, carry off and drown animals, sometimes people, and we wait until the fury of the elements abates to rebuild and go back to our daily routine.

Similar devastation was wrought by the terrible tornadoes in the USA. The videos and photos of the awful aftermath makes one realise how powerless we humans are in these extremes of weather. We may have sent men to the moon, but when it comes to protecting ourselves and our property from wild weather, we really can do nothing.

“The Deluge”, above is part of Michelangelo’s stunning mural decoration for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. This massive work is awe-inspiring and it is amazing to behold. I have visited the Sistine Chapel three times and each time I was more impressed than the previous one. It is truly one of the greatest monuments to human creativity and artistic achievement. “The Deluge” illustrates the biblical story of the flood of Noah in the Old Testament, and Michelangelo chose to illustrate the point just before total inundation, where a few wretches are searching out the high ground in order to survive the rising waters. The vignettes of human tragedy in the face of adversity are well illustrated and Michelangelo’s masterful evocation of man vs nature (as a manifestation of God’s will) is meant to curb our pride and prevent hubris…

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