Posts Tagged ‘Minos’

Blackpaint 683 – Michelangelo: Animals, Trees, Colours and Tits

December 11, 2020

Modern English

Forgot this one last blog – “At this moment in time…”

Why not “Now”?


Michelangelo’s Animals

“I’m an admirer of Michelangelo’s representations of animals, none more than the mighty fish flanking Jonah on the Sistine Ceiling.”: (Martin Gayford, the RA Magazine, winter 2020).

I’m an admirer of Martin Gayford’s writing on art, especially his great book “Modernists and Mavericks”, second only, in my view,  to “The Dream Colony”, the book of Walter Hopps interviews.  Gayford’s book is really interesting in its examination of the links between London artists of the 60s.  Brilliant book, marred  by the omission of Albert Irvin, surely a very important London painter.

I find this remark about Michelangelo’s animals puzzling, however.  Offhand, I couldn’t think of any animals M had actually done, apart from the odd snake.  A few years back, I did several blogs on the theme  “Michelangelo doesn’t do trees”(see Blackpaint 112)  This was in response to a report that someone, a German expert I think, was proposing a” Sermon on the Mount” as a previously unacknowledged Michelangelo.  The painting portrayed a heavily wooded mountain top; I showed, I believe, that M never painted trees, and if this was by M, it was the only one he’d ever done that included trees (apart from a couple of dead ones and the tree of knowledge in Garden of Eden – see below).

Just for fun, then, I’ve researched Michelangelo’s animals to see what Gayford means, and if his portrayals are anything special.  Results below:


Here’s the image that Gayford cites above.  It’s like a big trout, sucking at Jonah’s left thigh.  Sort of colourless; reminds me of those Billy Bass talking fish.


Here’s Paul on Malta(?), struggling with a serpent.



Here’s another serpent, this time handing Eve the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Not really an animal, is it?  More of a woman, really.  As for the tree, this is about as complete and leafy a tree as Michelangelo ever painted.  It looks as if the serpent has interrupted Eve in some activity…


Here’s Minos, with yet another snake attacking his penis.  Michelangelo gave Minos the face of Biagio, an old enemy.  He doesn’t look too bothered. does he?


Here’s Noah and his sons, sacrificing rams in thanks to God for the survival of the Ark  There’s a touch of Wallis and Gromit about the cow’s face; I think it’s the eyes.  I’ve noticed that in some medieval paintings, usually horses.


Tityan attacked by an eagle.  feathers and neck are rather odd..


Ganymede being abducted by the same bird, by the looks of it.


Looks like a Barn Owl on a tomb.  Face looks accurate; not sure about the legs.



Two versions of Phaeton tumbling from his chariot as it falls; contortions of the horses are great.


Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  Horse is OK but not stunning…


Couple more mounts at the crucifixion of Peter (off picture to the right).  Again, OK but stiff and nothing special.


A very pithy critique offered by Alan Bennett, through the words of a character in “The History Boys” (I think the James Corden character):  “Michelangelo doesn’t do women, Miss – he does men with tits.”  Spot on, at least for the sculpture above.  there’s the owl again, under her/his leg.

Another great insight from Waldemar Januszczak; he talks about Michelangelo’s “Opal Fruit colours” with regard to the Sistine ceiling.  Spot on, again.

That’s pretty much it.  I don’t think Michelangelo’s animals are anything special;  His trees are almost non-existent; his landscapes are arid, rocky, desert-like, featureless.  What he is rather good at is the human body, especially the (naked) male body.

A couple of my figure drawings/paintings below, Definitely NOT offered for comparison  with those above.

Rising in the Mist


Seated in the Dream Studio






Blackpaint 148

June 8, 2010

Sistine Chapel

Yesterday, I described a sort of roughness in the close-ups of some of the Michelangelo figures on the ceiling of the Sistine, as shown in the Taschen book.  Actually, the ceiling paintings are very smooth, beautiful glowing flesh tones and superbly drawn features; only the surface cracking gives a scaly effect at close quarters which is quite pleasing.

The roughness, surprisingly, is in the wall characters, especially the demons and their agonised victims – I suppose this is appropriate (no, not that word again, as the boy in Outnumbered rightly complains).

At the bottom right is the portrayal of Minos, with his asses’ ears, and wound round the body by a large snake which is in the process of biting (off?) his penis.  This is actually a portrait of Biagio da Cesena, the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies, who had complained about the number of naked men and women in tortured and suggestive poses.  The snake is Michelangelo’s revenge.  Biagio spent the rest of his life trying to get the portrait removed.

I like to spot saints by their attributes; the following are easy – Catherine with her broken wheel; Simon with his saw; Bartholomew, carrying his flayed skin (which is a self portrait of M); Lawrence with his grill; Blaise with his sharpened combs; Peter with the keys; Sebastian with his arrows.  The Taschen identifies Dismas, the “good” thief, with the small crucifix and Simon of Cyrene with the large one. 

Saatchi’s Newspeak

Reading the reviews of this show by Sean o’ Hagan in Sunday’s Observer and Adrian Searle in yesterday’s Guardian, I was struck by one thing in particular: the manifest irritation of both reviewers at the lack of some unifying theme to the works on display.  O’ Hagan: “What we have here is a hotchpotch – of styles, approaches and strategies…”;  Searle”..the exhibition is a ragbag of sometimes good, often bad and mostly indifferent art.”  I suppose it makes a reviewer’s job much harder when one cannot “identify any shared direction, a flavour, a style or a zeitgeist “(Searle).  It means that each artwork must be discussed on its own terms, not easy in the context of a review of limited length.  They both mention the works of Jed Quinn, Goshka Macuga and Sigrid Holmwood, but do not agree on whether they are good; O’ Hahan’s review is the more favourable – he describes this as a “big, brash, if sometimes quietly surprising, exhibition.”  My review to follow soon – please try to be patient.

Moses down from Sinai by Blackpaint

Listening to Lane Hardin, California Desert Blues.

“Crossin that old desert mama, just like breaking that Hindenberg Line (*2)

If you get ditched off  that freight train, you know that will be the end of the line.”