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

Ezekiel

1510
Fresco, 355 x 380 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

Ezekiel, the Prophet of the Merkabah, the divine throne and chariot of fire, the heavenly hierarchy and the four cherubim, is shown contorted by his vision. His expressive Hebrew profile faces Zechariah to the left. There is surely some meaning in the fact that this Prophet's head is wrapped in a white turban; holy dread is written on his countenance - the brightness of the vision might have blinded him. The other Prophets are bareheaded, while the Sibyls, like the young Delphica and the old Persica, closer to earth, are veiled or shrouded so as to protect them from an excess of light. The movement of the Prophet's right hand indicates three things: surprise, self surrender, and the imparting of his vision. Michelangelo thus succeeded by sheer, direct simplicity, in endowing a simple gesture with manifold meaning. The contrast of Ezekiel's sombre, heavy garment painted in brown and lilac makes his rapture all the more poignant. The wind of the spirit brushes the fringes on his shoulder. The earth-sprite behind the old man looks terrified, while the beautiful and angelic boy beside him points heavenward with a gesture reminding us of Leonardo's 'John the Baptist' and his 'Bacchus'; late works which Michelangelo may not have seen. But great men who are ahead of their time often express some new idea simultaneously.