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Michelangelo: Renaissance Man?


In the distance, you see St. Peter's. We hit the Vatican and we hit it hard. The guy that really caught my eye was Michelangelo. Not only was he a master at painting the human form, but, more impressively, he could cram about 300 human forms into a single ceiling. This is what blew away the competition. More bodies: lots more bodies.

Painter, sculptor, architect, all-around artistic dude, he could hit for average and hit for power -- this is why, at the risk of going out on a limb, I'm saying that Michelangelo was something of a Renaissance Man.


G-8 protesters, upset about something in Italian.


Pantheon in suspiciously good shape except for unfortunate hole in ceiling.


Galleria Borghese. Someone's house, once. If I lived here, I'd definitely play indoor wiffle ball (taking care not to knock over a Bernini!).

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 10, 2009; 5:10 AM ET
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Beautiful pictures Joel, looks like a small tame protest for the G-8?


I see our wonderful Prime Minister finally made it to the front page of WaPo - I was raised Catholic and cannot believe the fuss over this issue.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 10, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: dmd3 | July 10, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Lucky guy Joel!!! I have always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel... I bought a book at the ROM about the careful renovations of his paintings... incredible photographs of before and after. I've heard the line ups to get in are horrendous though

Posted by: MissToronto | July 10, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

I went to the Sistine chapel 30 years ago. Still have a sore neck.

Have funzies, JA

Posted by: Braguine | July 10, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. Nice porching spot that Galleria Borghese.

Reposting as well on this all-Canadian morning.

Harper is such a twerp. He's evangelical yet he can't even go to church without goofing off.
However, I don't know why the hoopla either dmd. Eeven the priest who gave the host to Stevo says there is nothing to see, keep on walking.

Today's leg of Tour de France starts in Spain and ends in the principality of Andorra. And so I call it a Tour des Pyrénées today. I'm tired just looking at the profile of the race. The boys will climb over 3000m today, the final climb being almost 2000m.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 10, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Gut mornincks, Boodle. The comments thinggie been acting weird, but appears to be ok at the moment.

While Joel is doing his palazo and ruins thing, I've been doing my own culture-worming.

Went to a free opera performance and was rewarded by a complimentary glass of wine in the lobby. santiago is a cultural freeloader's paradise.

Haff a good weekend, everyone.

Posted by: Braguine | July 10, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

For many years, because of the pernicious effects of cinema, whenever I thought of Michelangelo I couldn't help but envision Charlton Heston. (Look, it could be worse. My son thinks of a Mutant Turtle.) Yet, after reading "Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling" by Ross King, I now understand that the fellow was not nearly that photogenic.

But more to the point, the interesting thing to me about the painting of the ceiling, outside of the swirling melodrama of intrigue and papal politics that surrounded it, is that this was something of a side gig. Michelangelo considered himself much more about sculptures, like the one of that nekkid David guy. (See, that Florence place is really just a hotbed of porn.)

Michelangelo is also described as something of a misogynistic slob with anger issues who didn’t exactly wow people at parties. But he also, clearly, had a sense of humor. For hidden within some of the crowd scenes on the ceiling, and difficult to see from the floor, are said to be images of people making rude gestures. This was, I guess, the sixteenth century equivalent of sneaking naughty frames into animated cartoons.

Yet all of this book larning just makes me feel like a way dumbed-down version of Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting,” who knows a lot about that ceiling but has never actually seen it. So, of course, I have great envy for Joel for doing so.

Joel, I hope you and your family get to see much more of Italy. But remember, you’ve been warned about the statues.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 10, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Great pictures, Joel. Have you run across Barack or Michelle yet?

That Michelangelo guy does pretty good with that marble as well. Here is The Pieta:

They keep it behind glass after some nutball attacked it.

And the Sistine Chapel is one of those places like the Alamo that is smaller than you expect. It is a chapel afterall.

The trick to getting pictures in there is to go on a very crowded day when the guards can't pay attention to everybody. Turn the flash on your camera off and hold it horizontally about waist level. Wander around and just take as many shots as your camera will hold. At home crop and straighten and you could end up with this:

or this:

Again, great photos and keep us updated.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 10, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

I hereby make you an honorary Canadian Brag.
Good weekend to you as well.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 10, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

But did Michelangelo have a blog?

I think I've made my case.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 10, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Dang, Yello, you did great with the pictures.

Looks like you're having a great time, Joel! We're enjoying your photos, too.

The Geekdottir and I will go to Italy one day. I'm not taking Mr. T or Elderdottir, they have no appreciation for art.

Posted by: slyness | July 10, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

The Peita picture was my wife's. And I was far from the only one snapping shots in the usually off-limits Sistine. Here's a link to all my Vatican pictures:

Posted by: yellojkt | July 10, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

As far as Renaissance Man goes, Michelangelo was only a painter, sculptor, and architect. Leonardo (another of the Turtles) was also an inventor and scientist. We need some sort of Renaissance Idol competition to determine who deserves that title.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 10, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Joel and yello, you both are making me jealous. When we were went to the Vatican last October, St. Mark's was closed for some reason. Oh well, a reason to go back.

Off to write employee evals.

Posted by: Raysmom | July 10, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

A few years ago, I visited a friend who was living at The Vatican. Not only is the chapel a nice way to spend a few hours, but the bowling alley and movie theatre are pretty cool too.

A Monday BPH? I think I can swing that! Same bat time, same bat station?

Posted by: LostInThought | July 10, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

New kit.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 10, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Professor Martin would be proud.

Posted by: JordanBeck | July 10, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

@RD_Padouk: St Bartholomew's flayed skin in The Last Judgement is a self-portrait of Michaelangelo. And that's a painting the man /hated/ having to do.

Posted by: tidalwv | July 10, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

......Jez becoz you appear to have got so intrested in murals. Pl do a google search for Ajanta Caves, (India,) before you put Michelangelo too high over these anonymous people who had reached a far greater sophistication and finess in their art, using premitive tools, a good fifteen hundred years, before he was born.

Posted by: ksmanojkumar2001 | July 10, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Something about painting such great bodies on wet plaster qualifies Michelangelo as a Grand Master.

It's somehow disturbing that Italy's mini-cities with populations of a few tens of thousands could run an extensive empire (Venice), build the world's biggest dome (Florence), or keep ahead of ambitious popes' need-to-build.

If I ever make it to Rome, Michelangelo's design of the Capitoline Hill needs to be checked out. Another of his improvisations to fit an awkward site or avoid demolishing existing structures. He seems to have been better at making imperfect settings shine than at starting from scratch. Wasn't even the "David" block of marble ill-shaped, so that other sculptors had rejected it"

Great that the Achenherd got to do the Pantheon. It was a unique building when erected (all that low-strength concrete) and is unique in having survived in such excellent condition. At least it is by European standards. Certainly by Japanese standards, where nearly everything seems to have been burned in the turmoil before the Tokugawa Shogunate took control and rebuilt everything, seemingly all at once.

Thinking of Japan, the Tokugawa built their capital, Edo, over a 50-year period, complete with the grandest castle ever built in Japan. The city caught fire, including that castle, which was stuffed with gunpowder. Upon rebuilding, the castle was deleted. Not needed, too expensive.

That's just not the sort of scenario you'd expect of Rome. No Lutheran army to flatten the newly-erected St. Peters. Not even Ostrogoths energetic enough to ruin the Pantheon.

Godzilla just isn't Italian, at least until Vesuvius blows again.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 10, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Cool beans!

I am an honorary Canookistani!

Thank you, Shriek

Posted by: Braguine | July 10, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Great pix and commentary, as usual. Thanks for taking us along, so-to-speak on your trip. Keep 'em coming! I miss your regular Kits, but these'll have to do until you return.

Posted by: jlessl | July 11, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

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