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This week in history: The Sistine Chapel

November 5, 2019
Photo by Antoine Taveneaux, reproduced with permission under the Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license

This week in 1512, the Vatican revealed the newly-painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, for the first time. Renaissance master Michelangelo had begun the work in 1508, under commission from Pope Julius II (often called the warrior pope). The master had actually resisted the project at first. The scale of the job intimidated him (with good reason). And – amazingly from the viewpoint of history – Michelangelo considered himself more a sculptor than a painter. He also thought that his enemies had arranged the commission, assuming he would fail. But Pope Julius was relentless.

To most of us today, the Sistine Chapel ceiling is a dignified work of art, painted in dark hues. But many art historians believe that, before the centuries dimmed the paint, the masterpiece glowed with bright colors, like a holy comic book.

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