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

Hezekiah - Manasseh - Amon

Fresco, 215 x 430 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

"Ahaz begat Hezekiah. Hezekiah begat Manasseh. Manasseh begat Amon." (Matthew 1:9-10)

The two main figures, seated and seen in profile, have their backs to each other. The solitary man seated on the right, slumped forward with his face in the shadow - apparently sleeping, but, in reality, probably immersed in anguished meditation - is usually considered to be Manasseh, filled with terrible remorse for having favoured idolatrous cults and persecuted the faithful followers of Yahweh. The young woman on the left is thought to be Meshullemeth, the mother of Amon: her lips half closed, an expression of infinite tenderness on her face, she is totally absorbed in the baby she is holding in her arms, while her feet rock the wooden and wickerwork cradle where another child sleeps. Hezekiah as a child is believed to be depicted in the spandrel above, together with his mother and his father, Ahaz.

Although the two figures appear to be remote from each other, there is a complementary relationship due to the emotional contrast. Thus, the attitude of desolate self abandon of Manasseh is countered by the grace, vitality, and tenderness of the woman.

The delicate range of colours in the clothes of the two figures tone with different scales, but there are precise links: the reddish-rose mantle that envelops the woman below her shoulders, modeled with very light brushstrokes in the parts in the light, is matched, with a slightly paler tonality, by the man's tunic, which is open at the sides.

There is, moreover, greater contrast in the pattern of light and shade in the yellow of the skirt covering the woman's legs and the green of her shirt compared to the colours - which are, however, deeper - of the man's clothes and stockings. On the other hand, the penitential violet-gray cloth that covers the bowed head of Manasseh, falling over the curve of his back, appears to be more delicate in tone than the blue-gray ribbon that is intertwined with a white one in Meshullemeth's elaborate hairstyle.