Posts Tagged ‘Sistine Ceiling’

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

11/12/20

 

 

 

Blackpaint 439 – Michelangelo, the Saints and the Black Snake Moan

March 27, 2014

Last Week in Rome…

..to which “all roads lead”, according to the 20th Rome Marathon T shirt and day sac which I earned with my sweat and stiff legs – along with a heavy, rather Futurist/Fascist style medal, pictured below.

001

Before and after the run, we queued and filed past/through all the compulsory tourist sites, starting with the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo

I’ve written many times about Michelangelo in this blog, notably my theory that Shakespeare was his reincarnation (conclusive proof in Blackpaint 217) and, perhaps less controversial, the fact that “Michelangelo doesn’t do trees” (Blackpaint 112).  The tree in the pic below is pretty much the sole exception.  The ceiling, lower than I expected, was, of course, fabulous; but it was amusing to see the two opportunities for censorship that had been missed by the various popes and officials down through the ages – especially since some loincloths were added to male figures:

Briefly, there is the famous proximity of Eve’s face to Adam’s penis in the Temptation panel-

eve sistine

And the snake sucking – or eating -Minos’ penis in the bottom right of the altar piece (shades of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan”).  Minos was a portrait of Biagio, the Papal master of ceremonies, who had been rude about the “lascivious” paintings, so the snake was Mick’s revenge.

penis sistine

 

While I was pointing these features out to my companions, a grey-suited official continually repeated, in an irritated, but defeated tone, “No Talking!! No Photo!! SHH! SHH!”, occasionally lunging forward to try to block some miscreant taking a photo on his mobile phone.

Bought a 10 Euro poster of the Delphic Sybil and noted again the decisively male musculature of those arms, which in no way detracts from the beauty of the face:

sybil sistine

St.Peter’s

Apart from the Michelangelo Pieta, which is now behind glass, there is some great statuary that I was unable to find much about on web:

There is a standing saint, pointing a finger in the manner of a Parmagianino painting, with that crook in the middle and the long neck – it’s St.Elijah, by one Agostino Cornacchini

st elijah

There is a fantastic St.Andrew, bearing a rough old saltire on his muscular back, by Francois Duquesnoy

st andrew

St. Bruno, not filling his pipe, but recoiling inexplicably from a child reaching up towards him; it’s by Michelangelo Slodtz (?)

st bruno

 

A tableau from which the figure of Time, a skeleton with an hourglass, emerges – or rather, is slipping out from under a sheet.  Couldn’t find this one.

OK, enough from Rome for now; more next blog.

The Great War in Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Free exhibition, about 30 – 40 minutes worth; several good paintings, among them this Sickert

sickert

 

which has a coruscating surface, impossible to see in the above – and the well-known yellow Kirchner, with the imaginary severed hand.  There is that great Isaac Rosenberg self-portrait

rosenberg

and a drawing by Max Beckmann, very much in the Grosz street mode.  Some fascinating photographs too.

Coming Up for Air

I can’t read enough Orwell at the moment, having plunged in with Burmese Days a few weeks ago; I’ve read everything he wrote and everything about him (apart from the Taylor biog), some of it three or four times, but I’m still getting the odd surprise.  I’d forgotten, for example, that “Air” contains a dry run for the Two Minute Hate in “1984”; Orwell’s protagonist George Bowling is attending an talk by a well-known “anti – fascist”, as the speaker is introduced.  Interesting that the tirade of hate-filled cliches is being delivered by an ANTI -fascist, given Orwell’s politics…

Italian TV

We could do with the “Singing and Dancing” channels over here, to dilute the endless flow of high level intellectual and cultural output we are subject to in the UK; I blame the BBC.  Also, we need more shopping channels and spy films from the 60s.  There was one British film, in which Peter Sellers starred as a priest who went up in a rocket ship – I think he hijacked it – must look it up.

No proper paintings done in last few weeks, so a couple of life studies to compare with the Michelangelos above:

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Blackpaint

27.03.14