On November 1, All Saints Day, 1512, the Sistine chapel ceiling as painted by Michelangelo was first opened to the public, so today we celebrate that great Renaissance artist.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, was born in the small village of Caprese in 1475. The son of a government administrator, he grew up in Florence, a center of the early Renaissance movement, and became an artist’s apprentice at age 13. A great sculpture, he created such works as the Pieta (see an image here) and David (view image here) Both of these are magnificent works, especially when seen in person. I was only 19 when I saw these, and I can still remember how they made me feel.

But it is his fresco painting of the Sistine chapel that we emphasize today. Here’s a link to the entire ceiling, though it’s nearly impossible to take in the entire thing. Even better, you can take a 3D tour here. Painting the ceiling took four years, between 1508 and 1512; the ceiling eventually comprised some three hundred figures. It was painted at the commission of Pope Julius II. Central to the ceiling decoration are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis of which The Creation of Adam is the best known, and is the illustration I have chosen to feature as part of this blog.


Quotes by Michelangelo

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.

It is well with me only when I have a chisel in my hand.

There is no greater harm than that of time wasted.

I am a poor man and of little worth, who is laboring in that art that God has given me in order to extend my life as long as possible.

The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.

Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture.

What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?

Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.

The best artist has that thought alone Which is contained within the marble shell; The sculptor’s hand can only break the spell To free the figures slumbering in the stone.

A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.

If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.

The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has.

What do you despise? By this you are truly known.

Genius is eternal patience.

A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it.

Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.

Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.

It is necessary to keep one’s compass in one’s eyes and not in the hand, for the hands execute, but the eye judges.

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