On the 10th of May 1508 I signed a contract to agree to fulfill Pope Juliuscommission on painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I had bad feelings about thewhole thing from the day Julius commissioned me to paint instead of sculpt. I am anarchitect and sculptor not a fresco painter. It is not that I doubt my abilitys to completesuch a task, but I believe that there are other artists that would be much better suited forthe job than I. It is of course an honor to be chosen to paint such a ceiling and Julius isfar to stubborn to find anyone else but myself, so I will paint and I will make it one of thegreatest fresco paintings there will ever be.(Brandes, 254).
The scaffolding that was to be used for the work was horrible. Bramante haddesigned a scaffolding that required holes in my ceiling. How was I to paint a gloriouswork of art with holes in it! The first thing I did was have his scaffolding torn apart. Ithen designed a new structure; my ingenious scaffold increased its strength with theweight that was put on it. I mounted floor boards along obliquely running columns thatwere separated my wedges of wood. Maybe Julius has chosen the right man for the jobI sent to Florence for a number of assistance to help me with the frescos and thetechnique since I am somewhat hazy with the technique involved. I started my work onthe cartoons for the frescos. These 12 Apostles that I am commissioned to paint are soboring I must find a way around painting them in such a dull fashion. As we started topaint the frescos I became very uninspired by the idea of the 12 apostles I was upset andconfused. I knew that this was not the right idea for the ceiling.
I talked with Julius today and we discussed the project. I told him that It wasmuch to poor a thing to paint only the Apostles. And when he asked why I repliedBecause the Apostles, too, were poor. He told me to paint as I please, and now I willthe only problem is I dont quite know what is right yet. I had a vision for the ceiling while outside daydreaming today. I will paint theCreation of Man and the Creation of the Universe, I will tie in the already existingfrescos on the walls to the ceiling frescos by painting events that preceded the two epochof Sub lege and Sub gracia. I will include in my masterpiece many dramatic biblicalevents such as: Separation of Light from Darkness; the Creation of the Sun, Moon andhe Stars; Creation of the Waters and the Creation of the Animals; Creation of Adam;Creation of Eve; Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Paradise; Sacrifice of Noah; Flood;and Intoxication of Noah.
I sent my assistants back to Florence because I knew that this was my vision andmy responsibility to paint this ceiling. I started today with The Drunkenness of Noah, itis so uncomfortable to paint in this position that I must be in to paint such a ceiling. Itsometimes makes me wonder why I am here. I will paint this ceiling, not for the popeand not for the Romans but for myself, to fell proud of my own work. To show the reality in this painting of Noah I will place him collapsed on theground next to a jug of wine. His sons will be around him giving him support andcomfort as he struggles to understand what Gods plan is for him and his family. Noah issuch a peaceful man with a lot on his mind and this is how I will paint him.
I am now working on The Flood. This painting brings out a lot of emotion in me,there is a sense of fear and terror among the crowd of people who are about to be wipedaway from the earth. I want the wind to be a great force in this fresco to give the effectof a great storm. The trees are about to be uprooted and the people will run for shelterand higher ground. This painting of the great flood is very real and believable. My next fresco, The Fall of Man features the temptation of Adam and Eve to eatfrom the Tree of Knowledge and their expulsion. I divided the two events with the Treeof Knowledge in the middle with its branches outstretched across the top of the painting. On the left side of the painting Eve reaches out toward to grab fruit from the tree as theserpent intises the couple to try it. I used a great amount of detail on the muscles ofAdam in this fresco and I am able to tie together the art of sculpting to my newly foundtalent of frescos.
On the right side of the fresco Adam and Eve are expelled from thegarden by a fully clothed angel with a sword in hand as she curses them. I wanted toexpress the grief on Eves face and painted her leaning over hiding her face. outstretches his hand to show how he wants the angel to leave and stop theembarrassment. Julius is persistent on wanting to see my frescos, but I tell him that I will not lethim see them until it is a finished project. A great masterpiece such as this cannot beviewed by public eyes before it is finished, just as a pie cannot be eaten half-baked. Itgets worse with every day and every week I may have to give in to Julius and let him seewhat I have created so far.
I have just finished what I feel to be one of my most beautiful works of art ever,The Creation of Man. It is such a simple painting filled with great action and meaning. Iwanted to show God as a human figure creating Adam in his own image. Thishumanization of the divine makes people feel closer to their god with a level ofunderstanding for each other. God soars above Adam with his hand outstretchedtouching the tip of Adams hand to show the connection between man and God. It is myfavorite fresco that I have ever done. Julius insisted once again that I take down my scaffold so that he may see mywork. I refused again and told him that I was not even half finished with the project, andif I was to show off an unfinished piece of art it would not be truly appreciated andunderstood. By this point Julius was enraged and threatened to throw me off thescaffold, so I gave in to the fool and allowed the scaffold to be torn down.
On November 1, 1509 my scaffold was taken down and Julius made the chapelopen for public eyes to come and see what I had been working on for a little bit less thana years time. The chapel was flooded with all of Rome and was appreciated greatly by ost all, it is nice to have reinforcement from the public but there opinions really dont ean much to me. It would be nice to receive some pay for what I have accomplished so far and a months leave to go back to Florence, but the Pope is too stubborn and impatient to grant it to me at this time. Either way I will finish up the ceiling as soon as possible. I tried to keep my painting style very consistent from painting to painting on the ceiling. I was going for a watercolor effect for the whole project and I did this by avoiding some colors and using a variety of others.
I avoided pure reds, blues, and whites. The whites that I used I gave a bluish, yellow, or sometimes a brown tint. I did this to avoid a pure color standing out in the whole painting and to avoid distracting the viewer. I also left out gold and instead simulated it with other variations of color. When Julius asked me why I didnt use real gold I replied The prophets I have painted were poor men; they had no gold. Julius was very material and loved his jewelry andexpensive clothing, he did not understand the reality of being a poor man. (Brandes, 274). My work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is now complete and I will return to Florence to practice there. I believe that I have created something very special in this chapel. I have expressed my feelings and sent a message for all mankind to see. I owe this great piece of art to my imagination and am very pleased with the final product.