(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

View of the Chapel

Cappella Paolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

Between 1537 and 1540, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger built the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican, as Pope's (Paul III) private chapel. In 1541 Michelangelo was asked to decorate the central parts of the two longer walls with two frescoes. The first, The Conversion of Saint Paul, was begun in 1542; the second, the Martyrdom of St Peter, was painted between 1546 and 1550. Before this, no one had ever attempted to place these two themes next to each other. Michelangelo portrays what is by this time his plan of life: death for the faith must follow conversion and be its confirmation. To Paul, who has fallen and has been forced to shut his eyes because of the brilliance of divine light, he gives his own face and makes Peter, nailed to the cross, in the supreme tension of the last moment of life, forcefully look at the spectator.