We're standing in the Sistine Chapel and we're looking up at the two greatest frescoes of all time— both painted by Michelangelo Buonarroti.Not so loud. This is a place of worship.(Whispering) Sorry Maestro. Despite these amazing achievements, you always insist that painting is not your profession.
It's certainly true that I learned the basics about painting in the Ghirlandaio workshop, and assisted on some of their frescoes and altarpieces. But once I'd gone to the Medici sculpture garden I always thought of myself as a sculptor. I signed my letters "Michelangelo, sculptor." My conviction that sculpture was my profession intensified when I was diverted from Pope Julius' tomb to paint the Sistine Ceiling. In truth, I was also trying to protect myself in case I failed, which many influential people thought I would—Bramante, the architect of the new Saint Peter's, said I wouldn't be able to paint foreshortened figures. Foreshortened figures were the least of my worries. I'd never painted a fresco on my own before, and no one else had painted a ceiling fresco of such scale and ambition. My fresco replaced a decorative painted canopy of stars on a blue background, painted by an anonymous artisan. You can understand why they kept things simple: the vault measures around 45 x 128 feet, has various kinds of curved surfaces, is not entirely regular, and rises over 60 feet above the ground. I stood on a gantry to paint aided by lamplight, arching my back, sticking my butt out, getting spattered by drips of paint. Most of the work— except for preparing the surfaces, grinding pigment, and painting the trompe-l'oeil architecture—was done by me alone. I badly strained my eyes and my neck. The physical and mental exertion nearly finished me off.