Michaelangelo and the ...
Ross King
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Michaelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  11,521 ratings  ·  427 reviews
"In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel in Rome. Four years earlier, at the age of twenty-nine, Michelangelo had unveiled his masterful statue of David in Florence; however, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delic...more
Published (first published January 1st 2003)
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Russ King’s bestseller describes the painting of the Sistine Chapel under the reign of Pope Julius II, a notorious tyrant of a pope. The book details the technical challenges of the painting of the Sistine Chapel (ranging from paint issues to scaffolding issues to design issues), the life of Michelangelo leading up to the commission, the historical events during the reign of Julius and how they intersect with the chapel painting, and other such details. Overall, I had a hard time getting through...more
Linda Harkins
Having immensely enjoyed reading Brunelleschi's Dome by the same author, I knew this bestseller about Michelangelo would not disappoint. Through thorough research, Ross King exposes truths that rectify many prevailing myths, particularly those promulgated by cinema. Indeed, Michelangelo did not lie flat on his back to paint painstakingly the frescoed scenes on the curved Sistine Chapel ceiling. The artist, in fact, wrote to his father describing how he had to stand on raised scaffolding in an un...more
Jean Tessier
What a treat. This book felt like the best read I've had in a long time. This may seem unfair to some of the great books I've read recently, but this one was at the same time instructive and of very easy access. It covered everything from the technical aspects of painting frescos to the artistic concerns that went into the vault of the Sistine Chapel, to the geo-political landscape of Italy at the beginning of the 16th Century.

The books starts with Michelangelo's early career and how he landed t...more
This book is a fascinating trip through early 16th century Italy, focusing mainly on the frescoing of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I read several reviews here on Goodreads in which the reviewers felt that the author should have stuck solely to Michelangelo and his art, and that all the other information given is completely extraneous. I have to say I completely disagree with that. A work of art is not created in a vacuum. There were many events, political and religious, swirling around Mic...more
why is this book soooo boring?! I'm only on page 100-ish and it's taken me forever to get that far because it's so boring. not sure how much longer i can hang on

Can't hang on any longer! made it to like 70 pages left, figure i will pick it back up again when i get a bad case of insomnia as it is sure to cure it!
Although I enjoyed this book overall, and King does a good job dispelling some of the myths that have arisen around Michelangelo and the painting of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling, it read too much like an art major's master thesis. It felt like the author wasn't really engaged with his subject, or wasn't able to convey his enthusiasm if he was.

I was also disappointed that the picture section 1. did not show the ceiling in its entirety, and 2. did not have close-up views of the panels beyond one...more
Kathy Doll
Far from the usual dry commentary that is found most art history books, Michelangelo is portrayed as a real person living in his world with all of the problems and challenges that are familiar to us today. Family issues, living conditions, a demanding boss, technical challenges and financial problems plague him as he works on this unwanted commission from Pope Julius II.

I was surprised to learn of the simmering rivalries with his contemporaries, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci.

I especially enjoyed...more
It was a huge chore to slug my way through this tome. Perhaps if a trip to Italy were in the near future I'd have enjoyed it more. As it is, I realized that the descriptions of more than one painting or fresco were ones I'd blithely walked past with barely a glance when I was in Florence a few years ago. I did learn a lot about the Sistine Chapel and if I ever see it I'll know more than most, but that's what tour guides are for, so why did I force myself to finish it? No reason but stubbornness...more
I suppose I should give this book five stars because it has lead me on to a more extensive study of Michelangelo. It was somewhat slow going as I read the book because I kept switching to my iPad to look up pictures of various works of art mentioned in the book. Years ago I read Irving Stone's "The Agony and the Ecstasy," then saw the movie and was captivated by it. However, I learned through Ross King's book that there is much mythology in Stone's book. King has done a vast amount of research,...more
Tim Muldoon
What a great read! I'm fascinated by Michelangelo's work on the Sistine ceiling, and learning more about its production was a walk through a fascinating chapter of European and Church history.

Like many, my image is taken from "The Agony and the Ecstasy"-- Charlton Heston's Michelangelo as a solitary figure, lying on his back painting. King's book explodes that myth. He shows him rather as the head of a team of skilled laborers, with the artist still emerging as a remarkable talent revered by hi...more
I am torn between 3 and 4 stars for this book. I loved the history of the period and of the art enough for 5 stars but I just did not find the writing compelling. There is nothing wrong with it, it is all very well written, it just leaves a bit to be desired in the enjoyment category in that, for me, it was not a page-turner.
Especially interesting are the characters of Michelangelo and the Pope. There are wonderful scenes of Michelangelo showing why he was possibly the only man in Rome who could...more
King does a fine job of pulling together information about Michelangelo himself, his struggles with "il papa terribile" Julius II as well as with his family members and his rivals. There is much detailed information here about the painting of the Sistine Chapel and some can get a bit tedious. But King uses short chapters to good effect in presenting the complex history of Julius II's wars with Louis XII of France and the Duke of Ferrara. Usually I nod off at the mention of a battle. But the inte...more
At the age of 33, the sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti, was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II. Having been essentially fired from the job of sculpting the Pope's tomb, this strong willed artist defied and denied the invitation as long as he could. Since his patrons, the Medici, did not want a war over this, he reluctantly went. To finally arrive and learn that the task was a mammoth painting assignment must have been a shock. He was not a painter. He wanted to finish the tomb.

Then follows the a...more
Ross King made an enormous contribution with his previous work on Brunelleschi and the dome at Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. With extensive illustrations, he gave us a history rich in entertaining anecdotal detail, but also an in-depth understanding of the engineering challenges and the aesthetics of the city, the period, and the people involved in this project.

That book was surely a tough act to follow, but this would have been a suitable subject: Michelangelo's engagement by Pope Julius I...more
This is a biography of Michelangelo centering around his frescoing of the Sistine Chapel ceiling at the Vatican in Rome. It is a completely fascinating and well written description of the politics, artistic processes and interpersonal drama that went into the famous fresco. This book is full of art and Roman history, providing a very interesting context to Michelangelo's life and work. I was astonished by the corruption and narcissism of Pope Julius II, who commissioned the ceiling fresco and am...more
Patrick Gibson
I want to soar to the ceiling in flights of inspiration and majesty. I want to marvel at the shear audacity of creation and imagination. I want the swirling images to be like the music of Mozart. I want to know how so few humans attain the divine. I want to taste the paint in the air as angels guide his hands. I want the world to bow in homage of magnificence. I want to stand silently and weep from beauty. I want to know God smiled.

The rest is details.

And the book covers all that.
Just goes to show how much I love, and miss, Art History! I really enjoyed the sections of this book about Michelangelo himself and the details of painting, e.g. fresco technique, pigments, composition. Descriptions of the lineage of artists (Ghirlandaio being Michelangelo's teacher makes so much sense!) and Michelangelo's contemporaries (Raphael was a lothario, who knew!)were great. I was a little less excited about the sections on Julius. I'm sure King was accurate about the pope's excesses an...more
Kathy Duffy
Interesting and very different from what I expected. Realizing how difficult it was to paint anything -- the pigments, additives, etc. needed and the precise making of them and how much work, space, etc. that it took, it's a wonder we have so many gorgeous works. One of things that struck me about the author was how hard the research must have been with all those nicknames and a foreign language.

As someone who has read a great deal of medieval and renaissance history I can honestly say that I di...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Lots of suspense and character here. I felt I understood the early 16th century, and Michelangelo and his family, as well as the geopolitical atmosphere of the time, when I finished the book. Since I will be seeing the Sistine Chapel in a matter of a few months, I am glad I read this in preparation. It pumps me up for the big see!
David Lafferty
A pleasant surprise. Having visited the Sistine chapel in September I was anxious to read this book, but had some reservations that it might be a bit dry. No worries, this is a great read. History, art, and anecdotes are skillfully woven together making this a surprising page turner. On to Brunelleschi 's dome!
Very good. Very well written and easily readable, better if I knew Italian and could pronounce those names! But I did pretty good. It reads almost like a novel which made it a pleasure to read and it has great illustrations of the ceiling in the Sistene Chapel.
Mary Ellen
I enjoyed the story of Michelangelo and Julius II. I am certainly glad that I live today and not in the 1400 and 1500s. Ross King does a great job of making history readable and making the time of the Sistine Chapel painting come to life. This was a time when artists worked on commissions from wealthy patrons. It was also a time when the pope waged war, had children and ruled Italy. I learned a lot of history. My only complaint is that there were not more pictures (and more in color) and that th...more
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Debra Krajec
I learned a lot, but it wasn't a book I could read for long periods of time. I would have liked to learn a bit more about the man himself. Fantastic coverage of details about fresco painting itself. and about how Sistine Chapel was truly painted, not by Michaelangelo lying on his back alone on a scaffold, like depicted in Charleton Heston movie THE AGONY &THE ECSTASY, but standing up, with talented assistants helping him. I enjoyed reading about the process of doing a fresco. the sketches. t...more
As much as I hate to quash the romantic notion that Michelangelo single-handedly painted, lying on his back for four years, the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, it is so. Ross King takes the reader through the linear creation of each fresco, one small section at a time, just as Michelangelo and his team of artists worked across the chapel from east to west, like the setting sun, from 1508-1512. Equal parts documentary, art analysis, and political context of the times, the format of Ross'...more
Craig Masten
I am on a jag to read all of Ross King's books about Italy. They make excellent non-guidebook introduction to the country This one recounts the efforts of Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel under the patronage of the warrior Pope Julius II in turbulent times It abundantly gives history of events, biography of the major players, and predictably, analysis of each individual part of the creation of the Sistine ceiling, including the materials and technique used. One of the author's best books...more
"Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling" is a history book about the famous works of Michelangelo (with a focus on the Sistine Chapel ceiling) with details about the activities of Pope Julius II, including his military campaigns and the other artists he had busy at work for him, like Raphael. The author used quotes from letters penned by Michelangelo and biographies written about him at the time to help give a personal note to the story. The writing was fairly entertaining and full of drama, but...more
Jennifer Riha
This was a fascinating book. Frankly, I'm surprised by how well I enjoyed it since non-fiction is not my usual literature of choice.

The book offers wonderful details on the incredible chore of painting such a huge expanse of vaulted ceiling. It also debunks a number of common myths. For example, Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling while lying on his back. There was about a 6 foot clearance between the floor of the scaffolding and the painting surface. Admittedly, this would not be a very comf...more
A fascinating non-fiction account of Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.

King's account of the painting of this most famous fresco is brewed in a rich broth of historical detail that puts the creation of the ceiling into a magnificently complete context. King brings the reader to a far greater appreciation of the work than could ever be grasped by focusing on the fresco and the fresco process itself. If you ever plan to see the chapel's ceiling for yourself, if you already h...more
Normally I like a really in-depth look at art history, but this time it just annoyed me. This book was supposed to be an in-between book but it was taking so long to finish, I had to completely stop it about halfway through so I could listen to the other book I had on hold. While it is interesting to hear about how an artist actually completes a fresco, I found it boring that they spent so much time going over it. I found the personal history of Michelangelo, his relationship with Pope Julius II...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Ross King (born July 16, 1962) is a Canadian novelist and non-fiction writer. He began his career by writing two works of historical fiction in the 1990s, later turning to non-fiction, and has since written several critically acclaimed and best-selling historical works.

More about Ross King...
Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism Ex-Libris Leonardo and the Last Supper Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power

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