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

Salmon - Boaz - Obed

1511-12
Fresco, 215 x 430 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

"Nahshon begat Salmon. Salmon begat Boaz by Rahab. Boaz begat Obed by Ruth. Obed begat Jesse," (Matthew 1:4-5)

On the basis of somewhat flimsy arguments, the figure on the right is usually held to be Boaz; his old age was, according to the Bible, gladdened by the birth of Obed, who is, therefore, depicted on the left with his mother, Ruth. The woman is represented with her eyes closed, as she tenderly cuddles the sleeping infant she has just finished nursing. A breast still protrudes from her clothing; in the past it was hidden beneath repainting, but the recent restoration has revealed it once again. She is wearing a long rose tunic with whitish highlights formed by the folds and orange shadows. A violet-rose mantle envelops her knees, while her head is covered with a cloth falling onto her shoulders. The green of this is duller in tone than that of the shawl wrapping the infant.

The serenity and sweetness of the woman, seen frontally and slightly turned toward the center of the lunette, contrasts sharply - also due to the dominant colours - with the old man depicted in profile on the right. He is sitting with his right arm placed on the seat, perhaps because he is restraining himself. Hunched up, his lips parted, his long beard jutting out in front of him, he glares angrily at the staff he is holding in his outstretched hand. The top of the staff is carved in the shape of a small bearded head, with a fierce expression; bearing a strange resemblance to the man, it seems mock him. The harsh greenish-yellow of his short tunic, girt round the waist with a red sash, clashes violently with the rose of his hose. On his head he is wearing a cap with earflaps, while a white broad brimmed hat hang down his back. Together with the water-bottle dangling from his waist and the staff, this seems to suggest he is a pilgrim.