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


Fresco, 355 x 380 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

In Joel the state of inspiration, expressed by the light scrolls unfurled like a pennon and the flaming hair, has taken the place of acquired knowledge. The book is under the Prophet's feet, half hidden by the steep folds of his garment. The genii flanking the magnificent head re-enact the process: while one of them closes his book and raptly gazes across the Prophet's shoulder, the other brings his folio and acts as the devil's advocate and the spokesman of mere intellectual learning. Joel's shock is emphasized by a shifting of his body axis to the left. We find this grandiose diagonal movement again in the other giants: in Ezekiel, Daniel, and even more pronounced in Jonah. Joel in particular foresaw the coming of the Holy Ghost, and it is as though he shrank back before the consuming flame by which he none the less longs to be devoured. The lineal treatment of the Roman head - giving it the air of the mighty poet whom the High Renaissance failed to produce - carries to new heights the art form used by Signorelli.