Earlier in September, during the period of national morning that the UK experienced, I visited the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition in Leeds. I might not be ever get to visit Rome or the Chapel in person, but seeing the high definition, to scale images of the work of a master such as Michelangelo was amazing in of itself. As well as getting to view in detail the major areas in the ceilings area the exhibition also allowed you to read/listen to how Michelangelo worked and the rational behind much of the composition and elements of each group of subjects, such as the ancestors of Christ and the Prophet’s and Sybil’s.
For example the Ancestors of Christ are all presented as small family groups reminiscence of the Holy Family. Though the individual labels are disputed there is the male ancestor of Christ in the mid to back ground position along side a woman and child/children in the foreground. The tone of the art is dark and pensive, a hint to the emotion of the Passion, and none of them carry this sense more clearly than the piece labelled “Jesse” where there visual formula screams all the classic depictions of melancholy.
There is a consistent level of communication through detail in all of Michelangelo’s work. As another example, the Prophets and Sybil’s are all decocted with books and scrolls in positions of either reading, or having been disturbed in the act by the message of god, indicated by the two cherubic figures present in each image. This means that the exceptions leap out, such as the weeping prophet Jeremiah’s scene being dominated by the emotion of melancholy both in the form of the prophet and the more adult companions behind him. There is also the depiction of Jonah, where there is no scroll or book but a giant fish head, reminding the viewer that Jonah was a prefiguration of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ in his encounter with the Whale.
There are so many rabbit holes to fall down with each individual picture, and of course the Fall of Man and Expulsion from Paradise is what draws my eye with the depiction of a temptation involving a being both serpent and human in appearance.
There are so many pictures that I took so here is a selection of my favourites. Regardless of your faith or spirituality I defiantly recommend going to see this exhibition if you have the opportunity to do so. The standard tickets are pretty reasonable, particularly as you don’t need to pay extra for the audio tour, just download the QR reader app they recommend, plug in and listen.