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

The ceiling

1508-12
Fresco
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

In the scheme of divisions, the key elements are the thrones of the seers flanked by plinths and colonnettes decorated with pairs of putti supporting the cornice running above the crowns of the spandrels, at about a third of the way across the curve of the vault. Beyond the cornice, the vertical frames flanking the thrones are prolonged as the arches crossing the vault. They divide it into nine compartments in which the stories of Genesis - from the Separation of Light from Darkness to the Drunkenness of Noah - are represented as if they were seen above the space of the chapel, beyond and through the imposing structure of the painted architecture.

In the five compartments above the thrones, the field of the narrative scenes is limited in size by the presence of four figures of ignudi, sitting on plinths and bearing garlands of oak leaves and acorns, and of two medallions painted to resemble bronze, with episodes drawn from the books of Genesis, Samuel, Kings, and Maccabees.

Lastly, under the cornice and the thrones, in the spandrels and the lunettes at the tops of the walls, are depicted the forty generations of the Ancestors of Christ, from Abraham to Joseph, while the corner pendentives contain representations of biblical scenes associated with the theme of the divine protection of the Jews: Judith and Holofernes, David and Goliath, the Brazen Serpent, and the Punishment of Haman.




© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.