Is this the Sistine Chapel of Pre-historic art?

Is this the Sistine Chapel of Pre-historic art?

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Of all the constructions, engravings, paintings and Original sites we have seen, none were more remote or difficult to reach, or ever return to, than the Cave of the Golden Boomerang. Neither Evan or myself could get a fix on any landmark or ridge to cue off, we were totally lost and under the direction of our guides.

They assured us beforehand that this isolated outpost of Original rock art was as unique as it was magnificent, and in both respects this gallery did not disappoint. But even so, we were unprepared for scope, artistry and attention to detail on display. Until stepping into this region and sighting this stone panel of figures in motion and devotion, we had accepted the scholar’s assertion in identifying specific regional Original styles, and that all forms of Original artistic expression cover a broad range, but fall well short when it comes to representational depictions of the human body.

The closest and supposedly only example of any pre-Cook art that verges on the representational is referred to as ‘Bradshaw Art,’ and explanations are varied with some condescending in the extreme. Some commentators, which includes self-proclaimed Kimberleys rock art ‘expert,’ Graham Walsh, are adamant that this form of ancient art is too sophisticated and refined for the crude Original palette. Given that ‘fact,’ Walsh and others assumed that the Bradshaw ochre paintings were created by non-Original people who sailed to Australia, painted in caves, and then departed without a trace or any substantiating historical evidence.

The Cave of the Golden Boomerang

Thousands of kilometers to the south of the Kimberleys, this gallery spans over 20 metres and is over 4 metres high. There are six figures/icons engraved and painted on the sandstone wall: two women (one standing the other floating or flying), one unarmed male, an infant, one boomerang and a Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine). It is widely claimed the Tasmanian Tiger has been extinct on the Australian mainland for at least 5,000 years, and as such, provides a reliable minimum date.

Each human figure is larger than life size (approx. one and a half) and directly proportional. Such is the attention to detail that thousands of years after creation it is still possible to identify the banding on the males’ arm creating a slight depression in the flesh, the arch in the floating woman’s foot, the depiction of each finger, a very unusual dreadlocked hair style, curvature of the hips, calf and buttocks, etc. The artist has gone to great lengths to replicate the same proportions, line and shape of the human body. It is plausible to claim, but impossible to prove, that if actual models were used, this group rendition was exact down to the millimetre. None of the Bradshaw figures are anywhere as proportional or large, and in comparison they are elongated stick figures with a hint of body shape.

Residual traces of ochre, nearly all of the most sacred category, red, can be found throughout the panel. The two most prominent areas of red colouring are inside the boomerang, which is the thickest, and the outer section of the two circles on the waist of the standing woman. What was interesting was the outcome of Evan’s application of different colour filters to the photograph of those circles, until then no-one had seen the hand stencils inside each red ochre circle. Whether applied at the same time, or after is debatable, but the fact that none of us on the day saw the hand prints either on site or when viewing then normal photographic images, only reinforces the incredibly secret sacred nature of this cathedral.

The narrative that accompanies this gallery is no less profound or sacred than that associated with the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and no less than a dozen times older. There is a pronounced feminine undertone with two women, one newly born baby and an unarmed male reaching towards, but not touching, the symbol representing illumination. The liberal use of bands, belts and diagonal sashes adds to the sacredness of this occasion. In its prime, over 5,000 years old and fully painted up, we firmly believe this rock art gallery was unparalleled in its artistry and mystical insights, not only in Australia, but throughout the planet.

A Pattern Repeated

It has always been our contention that fully modern human beings first evolved in Australia, then sailed from this continent to share their wisdom, technology, culture and genes with people throughout the world. Among their many talents, they were the first artists and mastered all styles and mediums from abstract, symbolic, hatched, dotted and exaggerated, all the way through to representational. The Cave of the Golden Boomerang merely illustrates how diverse and incredibly gifted the Original artists were, and how little of the real Original history is the currency of these days.

By Steven and Evan Strong


Nearly thirty years ago, Michael Stehr arrived at Stanford University, prepared to pursue studies in Political Science that would lead him to a career in law or business. Four years later, Michael left college with an additional major in Art History, plans to make an art history pilgrimage to Europe, and a burgeoning house painting business that would later develop into Sistine Chapel Art and Art History as it exists today.

Named for the most exquisite work of art in the western world, Sistine Chapel Art and Art History hopes to communicate the spirit of Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling— an awe-inspiring force of beauty, creativity, and human innovation— though Michael’s own fine art, decorative painting, and art history tours and lectures. Discovering the power of this creative energy in college forever altered the course of Michael’s life, and he hopes that he can mirror the impact such a discovery had on him for others through his work.

Michael devotes the majority of his time to his decorative art. These custom interior paint finishes include murals, layered color effects, wall finishes, colored plasters, gold leafing, and hand painted wood grain. Samples of Michael’s decorative finishes can be found under the Decorative Art tab above.

Toward the end of every year, Michael displays his fine art in a gallery show in Piedmont. His paintings primarily feature the two places in which Michael feels most at home: the Bay Area, and his faraway home of Italy. Michael also enjoys portraiture and figure painting, and he has recently begun painting animals after creating a (study? small painting?) of the family dog as a Christmas present for his daughter. Samples of Michael’s fine artwork can be found under the Fine Art tab above.

When Michael isn’t creating art, you can probably find him studying it— poring over a precarious stack of index cards or flipping through one of the many art history books that sit atop the family coffee table. Michael has lectured at many prominent locations, including the Commonwealth Club, Stanford University, and several notable private clubs and libraries throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also both lectured and displayed his fine artwork in Rome. Michael also leads annual art history tours in Rome and Paris, adventures marked by Michael’s incredible passion for the artists and their work that he channels into creating a uniquely personalized, highly engaging learning experience. Learn more about Michael’s art tours under the Art Tours tab above, and see Upcoming Events for a list of Michael’s upcoming lectures.


The original ceiling painting was by Pier Matteo d'Amelia, and had depicted stars over a blue background [5] like the ceiling of the Arena Chapel decorated by Giotto at Padua. [6] For six months in 1504, a diagonal crack in the Sistine Chapel's vault had made the chapel unusable, and Pope Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere) had the damaged painting removed. [5]

Pope Julius II was a "warrior pope" [7] who in his papacy undertook an aggressive campaign for political control to unite and empower Italy under the leadership of the Church. He invested in symbolism to display his temporal power, such as his procession (in the Classical manner), in which he rode a chariot through a triumphal arch after one of his many military victories. It was Julius who began the rebuilding of St Peter's Basilica in 1506, as the most potent symbol of the source of papal power. [8]

Michelangelo left the Battle of Cascina unfinished when Pope Julius II summoned him to Rome in spring 1505 and commissioned him to make his tomb in St Peter's Basilica. [11] [12] [13] Michelangelo and Pope Julius both had hot tempers and soon argued. [12] [13] As Walter Pater wrote, "Michelangelo was now thirty years old, and his reputation was established. Three great works fill the remainder of his life—three works often interrupted, carried on through a thousand hesitations, a thousand disappointments, quarrels with his patrons, quarrels with his family, quarrels perhaps most of all with himself—the Sistine Chapel, the Mausoleum of Julius the Second, and the Sacristy of San Lorenzo". [14] On 17 April 1506 Michelangelo left Rome in secret for Florence, remaining there until the Florentine government pressed him to return to the Pope. [13] In November 1506 he went instead to Bologna and constructed a colossal bronze statue of the Pope conquering the Bolognese. [13] (The Bolognese destroyed the bronze in 1511.) [13] The project of the papal tomb was quietly set aside, [9] to be reinvigorated by the Della Rovere family after his death. [12] [13]

In 1506 Julius II began rebuilding St Peter's Basilica, which engaged his attention and by February 1513, when he died, little work had been done on his tomb. [15] [11] [12] It had been a grand commission, with 40 large figures to be carved. [12] Its original design was never begun. [13] Ultimately Michelangelo finished only three figures for the completed monument of 1545, reduced successively to a series of more modest designs, and built finally in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, including the c.1515 statue of Moses. [15] [12] [11] Two Slaves, the Bearded Slave and the Young Slave, c.1513, are in the Louvre. [15] [11] [12] The tomb commission lasted decades, and Michelangelo lamented, "I have wasted all my youth chained to this tomb." [15] [11] Ascanio Condivi described the affair as the "Tragedy of the Tomb". [13]

In 1506 Pope Julius conceived a programme to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. [16] [ page needed ] The walls of the chapel had been decorated 20 years earlier. The lowest of three levels is painted to resemble draped hangings and was (and sometimes still is) hung on special occasions with a set of tapestries designed by Raphael. The middle level contains a complex scheme of frescoes illustrating the Life of Christ on the right side and the Life of Moses on the left side. It was carried out by some of the most renowned Renaissance painters: Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Signorelli and Cosimo Rosselli. [17] The upper level of the walls contains the windows, between which are painted pairs of illusionistic niches with representations of the first 32 popes. [18] It is probable that, because the chapel was the site of regular meetings and Masses of an elite body of officials known as the Papal Chapel (who would observe the decorations and interpret their theological and temporal significance), it was Pope Julius' intention and expectation that the iconography of the ceiling was to be read with many layers of meaning. [19]

The scheme proposed by the pope was for twelve large figures of the Apostles to occupy the pendentives. [20] [21] However, Michelangelo negotiated for a grander, much more complex scheme and was finally permitted, in his own words, "to do as I liked". [22] [a] It has been suggested that the Augustinian friar and cardinal, Giles of Viterbo, was a consultant for the theological aspect of the work. [23] [ page needed ] Many writers consider that Michelangelo had the intellect, the biblical knowledge, and the powers of invention to have devised the scheme himself. This is supported by Ascanio Condivi's statement that Michelangelo read and reread the Old Testament while he was painting the ceiling, drawing his inspiration from the words of the scripture, rather than from the established traditions of sacral art. [24]

In spring 1508, Michelangelo returned to Rome to work on a cycle of frescoes on the vault and upper walls of the Sistine Chapel. [12] [13] Michelangelo, who was not primarily a painter but a sculptor, was reluctant to take on the work he suggested that his young rival Raphael take it on instead. [25] [26] The pope was adamant, leaving Michelangelo no choice but to accept. [27] [ page needed ] The contract was signed on 8 May 1508, with a promised fee of 3,000 ducats. [28] Michelangelo initially sought to engage assistants to speed along the onerous and unwelcome work as quickly as he could, but he was unable to find suitable candidates and painted nearly the whole ceiling alone. [13] Among the Florentine artists whom Michelangelo brought to Rome in the hope of assisting in the fresco, Giorgio Vasari named Francesco Granacci, Giuliano Bugiardini, Jacopo di Sandro, l'Indaco the Elder, Agnolo di Domenico, and Aristotile. [29]

Michelangelo began work in spring 1508, beginning at west end with the Drunkenness of Noah and the Prophet Zechariah and working backwards through the narrative to the Creation of Eve, in the vault's fifth bay and finished in September 1510. [13] The first half of the ceiling was unveiled officially on 15 August 1511 a long hiatus in painting occurred as new scaffolding was made ready. [13] Subsequently the second half of the ceiling's frescoes were done swiftly, and after a preliminary showing and papal Mass on 14 August 1511, [16] [27] the finished work was revealed on 31 October 1512, All Hallows' Eve, [13] [12] being shown to the public by the next day, All Saints' Day. Michelangelo's final scheme for the ceiling included some three hundred figures. [ citation needed ]

After the revelation of the finished Sistine Chapel ceiling at the age of 37, Michelangelo's reputation rose such that was called Michelangelo il divino. [12] [13] From then on, Michelangelo was recognized as the greatest artist of his time, who had elevated the status of the arts themselves, a recognition that lasted the rest of his long life, and his Sistine ceiling has always thereafter counted among the "supreme masterpieces of pictorial art". [11] [13] [15]

Michelangelo's frescoes form the back-story to the 15th century narrative cycles of the lives of Moses and Christ by Perugio and Botticelli on the Chapel's walls. [11] [15] While the main central scenes depict incidents in the Book of Genesis, much debate exists on the multitudes of figures' exact interpretation. [15] [11] The Sistine Chapel's ceiling is a shallow barrel vault around 35 m (118 ft) long and around 14 m (46 ft) broad. [13] The Chapel's windows cut into the vault's curve, producing a row of lunettes alternating with spandrels. [13]

Though Michelangelo claimed he eventually had a free hand in the artistic scheme, this claim was also made by Lorenzo Ghiberti about his monumental bronze doors for the Baptistery of Florence, for which it is known Ghiberti was constrained by stipulations on how the Old Testament scenes should appear and was able to decide merely the forms and number of the picture fields. It is likely that Michelangelo was free to choose forms and presentation of the design, but that the subjects and themes themselves were decided by the patron. [20]

The central, almost flat field of the ceiling is delineated by a fictive architectural cornice and divided into four large rectangles and five smaller ones by five pairs of painted ribs which cut laterally across the central rectangular field. These rectangles, which appear open to the sky, Michelangelo painted with scenes from the Old Testament. [13]

The narrative begins at the Chapel's east end, with the first scene above the altar, focus of the Eucharistic ceremonies performed by the clergy. The small rectangular field directly above the altar depicts the Primal Act of Creation. The last of the nine central fields, at the west end, shows the Drunkenness of Noah below this scene is the door used by the laity. [13] Furthest from the altar, the Drunkenness of Noah represents the sinful nature of man. [13]

Above the cornice, at the four corners of each of the five smaller central fields, are nude male youths, called ignudi, whose precise significance is unknown. [13] [15] [11] Close to the sacred scenes in the uppermost register and unlike the figures of the lower register shown in perspective, they are not foreshortened. [13] They probably represent the Florentine Neoplatonists' view of humanity's ideal Platonic form, without the mar of Original Sin, to which the lower figures are all subject. [13] Kenneth Clark wrote that "their physical beauty is an image of divine perfection their alert and vigorous movements an expression of divine energy". [31]

Below the painted cornice around the central rectangular area is a lower register depicting a continuation of the Chapel's walls as a trompe-l'œil architectural framework against which figures press, with powerful modelling. [13] The figures are drastically foreshortened and are at larger scale than the figures in the central scenes, "creating a sense of spatial disequilibrium". [13]

The ceiling at the Chapel's four corners forms a doubled spandrel painted with salvific scenes from the Old Testament: The Brazen Serpent, The Crucifixion of Haman, Judith and Holofernes, and David and Goliath. [13]

Each of the Chapel's window arches cuts into the curved vault, creating above each a triangular area of vaulting. The arch of each window is separated from the next by these triangular spandrels, in each of which are enthroned Prophets alternating with the Sibyls. [13] [15] [11] These figures, seven Old Testament prophets and five of the Graeco-Roman sibyls, were notable in Christian tradition for their prophesies of the Messiah or the Nativity of Jesus. [13] The lunettes above the windows are themselves painted with scenes of the "purely human" Ancestors of Christ, as are the spaces either side of each window. Their position is both the lowest in the vault and the darkest, in contrast with the airy upper vault. [13]

Interpretation Edit

The overt subject matter of the ceiling is the Christian doctrine of humanity's need for Salvation as offered by God through Jesus. It is a visual metaphor of humankind's need for a covenant with God. The Old Covenant of the Children of Israel through Moses and the New Covenant through Christ had already been represented around the walls of the chapel. [3] Some experts, including Benjamin Blech and Vatican art historian Enrico Bruschini, have also noted less overt subject matter, which they describe as being "concealed" and "forbidden." [32] [ page needed ] [33] [ page needed ]

On the crescent-shaped areas, or lunettes, above each of the chapel's windows are tablets listing the ancestors of Christ and accompanying figures. Above them, in the triangular spandrels, a further eight groups of figures are shown, but these have not been identified with specific biblical characters. The scheme is completed by four large corner pendentives, each illustrating a dramatic Biblical story. [34]

The narrative elements of the ceiling illustrate that God made the World as a perfect creation and put humanity into it, that humanity fell into disgrace and was punished by death and separation from God. Humanity then sank further into sin and disgrace, and was punished by the Great Flood. Through a lineage of ancestors – from Abraham to Joseph – God sent the saviour of humanity, Jesus Christ. The coming of the Saviour was prophesied by Prophets of Israel and Sibyls of the Classical world. The various components of the ceiling are linked to this Christian doctrine. [34] Traditionally, the Old Testament was perceived as a prefiguring of the New Testament. Many incidents and characters of the Old Testament were commonly understood as having a direct symbolic link to some particular aspect of the life of Jesus or to an important element of Christian doctrine or to a sacrament such as Baptism or the Eucharist. Jonah, for example, recognisable by his attribute of a great fish, was commonly seen to symbolize Jesus' death and resurrection. [4] [ page needed ]

Much of the symbolism of the ceiling dates from the early church, but the ceiling also has elements that express the specifically Renaissance thinking that sought to reconcile Christian theology with the philosophy of Renaissance humanism. [35] During the 15th century in Italy, and in Florence in particular, there was a strong interest in Classical literature and the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle and other Classical writers. Michelangelo, as a young man, had spent time at the Platonic Academy established by the Medici family in Florence. He was familiar with early Humanist-inspired sculptural works such as Donatello's bronze David and had himself responded by carving the enormous nude marble David, which was placed in the Piazza della Signoria near the Palazzo Vecchio, the home of Florence's council. [36] The Humanist vision of humanity was one in which people responded to other people, to social responsibility, and to God in a direct way, not through intermediaries, such as the Church. [37] This conflicted with the Church's emphasis. While the Church emphasized humanity as essentially sinful and flawed, Humanism emphasized humanity as potentially noble and beautiful. [ citation needed ] [b] These two views were not necessarily irreconcilable to the Church, but only through a recognition that the unique way to achieve this "elevation of spirit, mind and body" was through the Church as the agent of God. To be outside the Church was to be beyond Salvation. In the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo presented both Catholic and Humanist elements in a way that does not appear visually conflicting. The inclusion of "non-biblical" figures such as the Sibyls or Ignudi is consistent with the rationalising of Humanist and Christian thought of the Renaissance. This rationalisation was to become a target of the Counter Reformation. [ citation needed ]

The iconography of the ceiling has had various interpretations in the past, some elements of which have been contradicted by modern scholarship. [c] Others, such as the identity of the figures in the lunettes and spandrels, continue to defy interpretation. [38] Modern scholars have sought, as yet unsuccessfully, to determine a written source of the theological program of the ceiling and have questioned whether or not it was entirely devised by the artist himself, who was both an avid reader of the Bible and a genius. [39] Also of interest to some modern scholars is the question of how Michelangelo's own spiritual and psychological state is reflected in the iconography and the expression of the ceiling. One such speculation is that Michelangelo was tormented by conflict between his homosexuality and "his profound, almost mystical Catholicism." [ citation needed ] [d]

Michelangelo probably began working on the plans and cartoons for the design from April 1508. [40] The preparatory work on the ceiling was complete in late July the same year and on 4 February 1510 Francesco Albertini recorded Michelangelo had "decorated the upper, arched part with very beautiful pictures and gold". [40] The main design was largely finished in August 1510, as Michelangelo's texts suggest. [40] From September 1510 until February, June, or September 1511 Michelangelo did no work on the ceiling on account of a dispute over payments for work done in August 1510 the Pope left Rome for the Papal States' campaign to reconquer Bologna and despite two visits there by Michelangelo resolution only came months after the Pope's return to Rome in June 1511. On 14 August 1511, Pope Julius held a papal mass in the Chapel and saw the progress of the work so far for the first time. [40] This was the vigil for Assumption Day on 15 August, the patronal feast on the Sistine Chapel. [40] The whole design was revealed to visitors on 31 October 1512 with a formal papal mass the following day, the feast of All Saints. [41] Clerical use of the Chapel continued throughout, exempting when the work on the scaffolding necessitated its closure, and disruption to the rites was minimized by beginning the work at the west end, furthest from the liturgical centre around the altar at the east wall. [40] Debate exists on what sequence the parts of the ceiling were painted in and over how the scaffold that allowed the artists to reach the ceiling was arranged. There are two main proposals.

The majority theory is that the ceiling's main frescoes were applied and painted in phases, with the scaffolding each time dismantled and moved to another part of the room, beginning at the Chapel's west end. [41] The first phase, including the central life of Noah, was completed in September 1509 and the scaffolding removed – only then were the scenes visible from the floor level. [41] The next phase, in the middle of the Chapel, completed the Creation of Eve and the Fall and Expulsion from Paradise. The Cumaean Sibyl and Ezekiel were also painted in this phase. [41] Michelangelo painted the figures at a larger scale than in the previous section this is attributed to the artist's ability to effectively judge the foreshortening and composition from ground level for the first time. [41] The figures of the third phase, at the east end, were at still grander scale than the second the Creation of Adam and the other Creation panels were finished at this stage, which took take place in 1511. [41] The lunettes above the windows were painted last, using a small movable scaffold. [41] In this scheme, proposed by Johannes Wilde, the vault's first and second registers, above and below the fictive architectural cornice, were painted together in stages as the scaffolding moved eastwards, with a stylistic and chronological break westwards and eastwards of the Creation of Eve. [40] After the central vault the main scaffold was replaced by a smaller contraction that allowed the painting of the lunettes, window vaults, and pendentives. [41] This view supplanted an older view that the central vault formed the first part of the work and was completed before work began on the other parts of Michelangelo's plan. [40]

Another theory is that the scaffolding must have spanned the entire Chapel for years at a time. [40] To remove the existing decoration of the ceiling, the entire area had to be accessible for workmen to chisel away the starry sky fresco before any new work was done. [40] On 10 June 1508 the cardinals complained of the intolerable dust and noise generated by the work by 27 July 1508 the process was complete and the corner spandrels of the Chapel had been converted into the doubled-spandrel triangular pendentives of the finished design. [40] Then the frame of the new designs had to be marked out on the surface when frescoeing began this too demanded access to the whole ceiling. [40] This thesis is supported by the discovery during the modern restoration of the exact numbers of the giornate employed in the frescoes if the ceiling was painted in two stages, the first spanning two years and extending to the Creation of Eve and the second lasting just one year, then Michelangelo would have to have painted 270 giornate in the one-year second phase, compared with 300 painted in the first two years, which is scarcely possible. [40] By contrast, if the ceiling's first register – with the nine scenes on rectangular fields, the medallions, and the ignudi – was painted in the first two years, and in the second phase Michelangelo painted only their border in the second register, with the Prophets and Sibyls, then the giornate finished in each year are divided almost equally. [40] Ulrich Pfisterer, advancing this theory, interprets Albertini's remark on "the upper, arched part with very beautiful pictures and gold" in February 1510 as referring only to upper part of the vault – the first register with its nine picture fields, its ignudi, and its medallions embellished with gold – and not to the vault as a whole, since the fictive architectural attic with its prophets and prophetesses were yet to be started. [40]

The scaffolding needed to protect the Chapel's existing wall frescoes and other decorations from falling debris and allow the religious services to continue below, but also to allow in air and some light from the windows below. [40] The Chapel's cornice, running around the room below the lunettes at the springing of the window arches themselves, supported the structure's oblique beams, while the carrying beams were set into the wall above the cornice using putlog holes. [40] This open structure supported catwalks and the movable working platform itself, whose likely stepped design followed the contour of the vault. Beneath was a false-ceiling that protected the Chapel. [40] Though some sun light would have entered the work space between the ceiling and the scaffolding, artificial light would have been required for painting, candlelight possibly influencing the appearance of the vivid colours used. [40]

Michelangelo designed his own scaffold, a flat wooden platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall near the top of the windows, rather than being built up from the floor. Mancinelli speculates that this was in order to cut the cost of timber. [42] According to Michelangelo's pupil and biographer Ascanio Condivi, the brackets and frame that supported the steps and flooring were all put in place at the beginning of the work and a lightweight screen, possibly cloth, was suspended beneath them to catch plaster drips, dust, and splashes of paint. [43] [ page needed ] Only half the room was scaffolded at a time and the platform was moved as the painting was done in stages. [42] The areas of the wall covered by the scaffolding still appear as unpainted areas across the bottom of the lunettes. The holes were re-used to hold scaffolding in the latest restoration. [ citation needed ]

The entire ceiling is a fresco, which is an ancient method for painting murals that relies upon a chemical reaction between damp lime plaster and water-based pigments to permanently fuse the work into the wall. [44] Michelangelo had been an apprentice in the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio, one of the most competent and prolific of Florentine fresco painters, at the time that the latter was employed on a fresco cycle at Santa Maria Novella and whose work was represented on the walls of the Sistine Chapel. [45] [ page needed ] At the outset, the plaster, intonaco, began to grow mould because it was too wet. Michelangelo had to remove it and start again. He then tried a new formula created by one of his assistants, Jacopo l'Indaco, which resisted mould and entered the Italian building and fresco tradition. [43] [ page needed ]

Because he was painting affresco, the plaster was laid in a new section every day, called a giornata. At the beginning of each session, the edges would be scraped away and a new area laid down. [42] The edges between giornate remain slightly visible thus, they give a good idea of how the work progressed. It was customary for fresco painters to use a full-sized detailed drawing, a cartoon, to transfer a design onto a plaster surface—many frescoes show little holes made with a stiletto, outlining the figures. Here Michelangelo broke with convention once confident the intonaco had been well applied, he drew directly onto the ceiling. His energetic sweeping outlines can be seen scraped into some of the surfaces [ citation needed ] , [e] while on others a grid is evident, indicating that he enlarged directly onto the ceiling from a small drawing. [ citation needed ]

Michelangelo painted onto the damp plaster using a wash technique to apply broad areas of colour, then as the surface became drier, he revisited these areas with a more linear approach, adding shade and detail with a variety of brushes. For some textured surfaces, such as facial hair and wood-grain, he used a broad brush with bristles as sparse as a comb. He employed all the finest workshop methods and best innovations, combining them with a diversity of brushwork and breadth of skill far exceeding that of the meticulous Ghirlandaio [ citation needed ] . [f]

The work commenced at the end of the building furthest from the altar, with the latest of the narrative scenes, and progressed towards the altar with the scenes of the Creation. [23] [ page needed ] The first three scenes, from The Drunkenness of Noah, contain smaller figures than the later panels. This is partly because of the subject matter, which deals with the fate of Humanity, but also because Michelangelo underestimated the ceiling's scale. [34] [46] Also painted in the early stages was the Slaying of Goliath. [47] After painting the Creation of Eve adjacent to the marble screen which divided the chapel, [g] Michelangelo paused in his work to move the scaffolding to the other side. After having seen his completed work so far, he returned to work with the Temptation and Fall, followed by the Creation of Adam. [48] [46] As the scale of the work got larger, Michelangelo's style became broader the final narrative scene of God in the act of creation was painted in a single day. [49]

The bright colours and broad, cleanly defined outlines make each subject easily visible from the floor. Despite the height of the ceiling, the proportions of the Creation of Adam are such that when standing beneath it, "it appears as if the viewer could simply raise a finger and meet those of God and Adam". [ citation needed ] Vasari tells us that the ceiling is "unfinished", that its unveiling occurred before it could be reworked with gold leaf and vivid blue lapis lazuli as was customary with frescoes and in order to better link the ceiling with the walls below, which were highlighted with a great deal of gold. But this never took place, in part because Michelangelo was reluctant to set up the scaffolding again, and probably also because the gold and particularly the intense blue would have distracted from his painterly conception. [27] [ page needed ] Michelangelo's patron and the ceiling's commissioner, Pope Julius II, died only months after the ceiling's completion, in February 1513. [41]

According to Vasari and Condivi, Michelangelo painted in a standing position, not lying on his back, as another biographer Paolo Giovio imagined. [50] Vasari wrote: "The work was carried out in extremely uncomfortable conditions, from his having to work with his head tilted upwards". [27] Michelangelo may have described his physical discomfort in a poem, accompanied by a sketch in the margin, which was probably addressed to the humanist academician Giovanni di Benedetto da Pistoia, a friend with whom Michelangelo corresponded. [50] Leonard Barkan compared the posture of Michelangelo's marginalia self-portrait to the Roman sculptures of Marsyas Bound in the Uffizi Gallery Barkan further connects the flayed Marsyas with Michelangelo's purported self-portrait decades later on the flayed skin of St Bartholomew in his Last Judgement but cautions that there is no certainty the sketch represents the process of painting the Chapel ceiling. [51] Michelangelo wrote his poem "I' ho già fatto un gozzo" describing the arduous conditions under which he worked the manuscript is illustrated with a sketch – likely of the poet painting the ceiling:

Fracking Arrives at the ‘Sistine Chapel’ of Prehistoric Art

On March 31 last year, a region in northern Spain quietly granted a concession of land, dubbed Arquetu, for natural gas exploration.

In Cantabria, the Arquetu traditionally was known as a mythological traveler who carries a coffer full of gold coins and lives an extremely simple lifestyle. Having disappeared from Cantabria’s folklore, now the Arquetu is back. Again, he is foreign, and bears riches, but this time he is surrounded by controversy.

Trofagas, which is owned by the California-based BNK Petroleum, was awarded the six-year concession of 24,876 hectares (61,470 acres) by the regional Government of Cantabria. In the new Arquetu territory, Trofagas will drill at least four wells to search for unconventional natural gas using hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking.’

With its gently rolling landscape, some parts of the concession strikingly resemble Carter County, in Southern Oklahoma, where BNK operates 22 wells. However, there are important differences between the two. The most significant difference is underground. Cantabria’s geology is extremely complex. Some areas are transected by a vast network of underground caves that expands into the neighboring region of Asturias. Those caves can be more than 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) deep, and the entire network, still unexplored, can be hundreds of kilometers long. People from Cantabria and Asturias joke that, if you drop painting in a cave, the water in some river—or in another cave—will become colored.

That geological structure supports a number of critically important archaeological sites. At least four decorated caves from the Paleolithic Age that have been listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO lie within the Arquetu. Among them is the world-famous Altamira Cave which, in 1880, became the first discovery of Prehistoric art, and has been nicknamed ‘the Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art’ for the quality and the degree of preservation of its paintings. Surrounding Arquetu are 13 other UNESCO-listed caves, plus other sites, such as El Sidrón, in Asturias, where exceptionally well-preserved Neanderthal remains have been discovered.

Moreover, part of the concession overlaps territories occupied by brown bears. These are the last 130 brown bears genetically “Spanish” (the ones in the Pyrenees have been introduced from Slovenia). They co-exist with the last remaining 500 Cantabrian grouse, a subspecies of the Western Capercaillie that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service classifies as endangered.

Could development activity in Arquetu damage all of these natural and cultural assets? Could the fracking provoke small earthquakes that could damage the caves, as has happened in the United Kingdom and, more recently, in the United States? Could the roads and wells disturb the bears and the grouses, or the fluids and gases poison some of the last rivers in Spain that still have significant populations of Atlantic salmon?

In June, when I visited BNK’s operations in Carter County, the company’s representatives told me that they are ready to change their procedures to enhance safety in their Cantabrian operation. However, environmental groups have petitioned the regional government to halt the operations, and nine Cantabrian municipalities have asked the same — not only because of the potential environmental risk, but also because they were not informed about the concession until it was reported in the media. The government has not responded to the petitions, and in December two environmental groups challenged the decision in court. Sources from the oil industry admit that the countless interconnected caves and subterranean sources of water pose a significant challenge for fracking in some parts of Northern Spain.

On the other hand, it is equally true that Spain is going through a tremendous economic crisis, and that any source of jobs and economic growth is welcome, no matter the environmental or archeological uncertainties. So far, the Spanish government has granted Trofagas 1.2 million hectares (296,000 acres) to frack in Spain.

The Arquetu is far from the only shale gas potential being explored in Spain, as seen from this map. Not far to the east of Arqetu in the Gran Enara area, two American companies—True Oil in Wyoming, and HEYCO, from New Mexico—are partnering with the Basque government to explore 13 areas that officials say contain enough unconventional natural gas to supply Spain for five years.

Some accuse the opposition to fracking of being inadvertently manipulated by the influential lobby of conventional natural gas importers, who import gas for Spanish consumption from Algeria and sense the business threat of this new exploration.

In the end, the travels of this 21st century Arquetu bring to the countryside not the simple reflections of a pilgrimage, but instead, complex questions on international forces in an energy-thirsty world.

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WHO warns of fresh Indonesia surge fed by virus variants

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Sistine Chapel Ceiling Layout

The overall structure of the ceiling paintings was designed by Michelangelo himself, via Wiki Commons

Michelangelo’s original commission was simply to paint the twelve apostles on the pendentives in the corners of the chapel. Unhappy first with being sidetracked from his preferred project, and now with having his work prescribed to him, the artist demanded complete artistic control. He designed a series of paintings that went far beyond his initial brief.

Running along the centre of the ceiling would be nine paintings showing stories from Genesis: the creation of the world the creation of mankind man’s fall from grace and subsequent suffering. The pendentives would show not the twelve apostles, but twelve prophetic figures, each of whom had foretold the arrival of the saviour. They were to be accompanied by four important biblical scenes featuring Moses, Esther , David and Judith .

The Last Judgement , Michelangelo, 1536-154, painted fresco, via Vatican Museums

Michelangelo also decorated much of the wall space, often depicting human figures who were not sufficiently holy to warrant a spot on the ceiling itself, but who still played a crucial role in the religious narrative he wanted to tell. Among these are the ancestors of Christ and the past popes. Most famous of all is his epic The Last Judgement , a later addition to the Sistine Chapel which stands behind the altar to remind (or warn) worshippers of what awaits. All in all, within the confines of a single room, Michelangelo painted a staggering 5000 square feet of frescoes .

Here's a first look at Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition in San Antonio

When I entered the historic Lambermont mansion, I truly felt I was escaping the city life and entering another world filled with breathtaking, floor-to-ceiling art reproduced photographically from Michelangelo's renowned frescoes inside the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.

Martin Biallis, CEO of Los Angeles-based Special Entertainment Events, brought Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition to San Antonio for the first time to give everyone that exact feeling: to leave your problems behind and go back in time. The exhibit has toured venues all around the world for the last six years. It will be at the Lambermont Events building, at 950 E Grayson Street, from Friday, June 11 to Thursday, September 30.

"This is one of the most iconic artworks that has been done in history," Biallis told MySA at a media event on Thursday, June 10. "Even if you're not Catholic or religious, it's more about the art and the story he was trying to tell . You get to step out of reality for an hour or two and experience beautiful pieces of art up close. The Pope could not even do that in the Sistine Chapel."

The unique exhibition showcases 34 reproductions on 16-foot panels spread out in nine rooms of the 3-floor building. The perspective is displayed in their original size, except for "The Last Judgement" (my favorite of the bunch), as it is a smaller size than its original 45-foot by 40-foot display at the Sistine Chapel.

At the chapel, Michelangelo began painting in 1508 and he continued until 1512, painting scenes from, among things, the "Book of Genesis." It was painted at the commission of Pope Julius II. The complex design includes several sets of individual figures, both clothed and nude.

Scroll below to know more about the exhibit:

On the first floor, you'll find three rooms, including one that is handicap accessible (there isn't an elevator in the building). The room has a slideshow of all the frescoes on the top two floors, along with two large artworks. In another room, you'll find the "Sacrifice of Noah" and the "Drunkenness of Noah."

In the Last Judgement room, there are four stunning frescoes. It instantly became my favorite as I grew up in an unorthodox, cult-like church that drilled into my head the "Book of Revelations" and what's to come when God's judgment comes. It spoke to me.

Also, if you look closely, Michelangelo painted himself in "The Last Judgement" artwork that has more than 300 figures in it. He displays himself as a melting individual who thought he was going to hell, but was ultimately saved and entered heaven. Try to find it. It's symbolic and truly takes your breath away.

David And Goliath on the second floor hallway of the Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition at the Lambermont.

After going up a stairwell, you'll find the second floor that has a gift shop with snacks and drinks and four rooms filled with art. The first room you're most likely to encounter is on the left, and features "The Great Flood" artwork, which is another one of my favorites.

In the hallway, you'll see the famous "David and Goliath" piece (who doesn't love an underdog story?). You'll also find comfortable chairs and couches in all rooms, but I sat and stared at the"David and Goliath" one for a while. It's a symbol of never giving up, which, of course, I love.

In a separate room on the second floor, you'll find the "Prophet Jonah," but the coolest part of it all is that it leads to a long balcony with views of the green landscape typically meant for weddings.

Note: I couldn't post anything when I was there so be prepared to save videos and photos. My poor AT&T service wasn't working maybe you'll have better luck. Also, the farthest room on this floor (towards the back) is extremely cold. Bring a light cardigan if you can.

The Creation of the Sun, Moon and Earth is on the third floor of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition at the Lambermont.

There are two rooms on the third floor, with the "Creation of the Sun, Moon and Earth" being my star of the floor as the pastel pink colors pop out more than others did. The room with that painting is probably the most colorful and bright.

As you enter the floor, the first room to the left has four of the artwork with a nice and comfy black couch for others to enjoy. You'll find "The Prophet Ezekiel" in this one, as well as "The Delphic Sibyl."

The vibe up here is a bit attic-like as you'll hear every squeaky noise on the wood floors. It's quite warm so prepare to take off that light cardigan.

The Lambermont is located at 950 E Grayson Street.

Starting Friday, June 11, the exhibit will be open to the public. However, tickets for tomorrow's event are sold out. You can visit the place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The visit will take around 60 to 90 minutes.

Tickets are $17,50 for adults and $12.70 for children ages four to 12. Seniors 65 and older, students and military members can enter for $14.40. To book a day, visit

Starting next Thursday, June 17, you can grab a bite to eat at the cafe in the backyard of the mansion. You can buy wine, salads, sandwiches and fruit cups. Visitors will be required to wear face masks.

You can take as many pictures as you want but don't touch the artwork.

Other than that, enjoy the mansion and all its glory. It's quite a sight to see and experience.

Sistine Chapel

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Sistine Chapel, papal chapel in the Vatican Palace that was erected in 1473–81 by the architect Giovanni dei Dolci for Pope Sixtus IV (hence its name). It is famous for its Renaissance frescoes by Michelangelo.

The Sistine Chapel is a rectangular brick building with six arched windows on each of the two main (or side) walls and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The chapel’s exterior is drab and unadorned, but its interior walls and ceiling are decorated with frescoes by many Florentine Renaissance masters. The frescoes on the side walls of the chapel were painted from 1481 to 1483. On the north wall are six frescoes depicting events from the life of Christ as painted by Perugino, Pinturicchio, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Rosselli. On the south wall are six other frescoes depicting events from the life of Moses by Perugino, Pinturicchio, Botticelli, Domenico and Benedetto Ghirlandaio, Rosselli, Luca Signorelli, and Bartolomeo della Gatta. Above these works, smaller frescoes between the windows depict various popes. For great ceremonial occasions the lowest portions of the side walls were covered with a series of tapestries depicting events from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. These were designed by Raphael and woven in 1515–19 at Brussels.

The most important artworks in the chapel are the frescoes by Michelangelo on the ceiling and on the west wall behind the altar. The frescoes on the ceiling, collectively known as the Sistine Ceiling, were commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 and were painted by Michelangelo in the years from 1508 to 1512. They depict incidents and personages from the Old Testament. The Last Judgment fresco on the west wall was painted by Michelangelo for Pope Paul III in the period from 1534 to 1541. These two gigantic frescoes are among the greatest achievements of Western painting. A 10-year-long cleaning and restoration of the Sistine Ceiling completed in 1989 removed several centuries’ accumulation of dirt, smoke, and varnish. Cleaning and restoration of the Last Judgment was completed in 1994.

As the pope’s own chapel, the Sistine Chapel is the site of the principal papal ceremonies and is used by the Sacred College of Cardinals for their election of a new pope when there is a vacancy.

'Prehistoric Sistine Chapel' gets world heritage status

The 1,000 drawings carved in the walls of the Decorated Cave of Pont dɺrc, or Grotte Chauvet, are 36,000 years old and include mammoths and hand prints.

Cave experts only discovered it in 1994 as the entrance had been concealed by a rockfall 23,000 years earlier.

It was one of several cultural and natural wonders granted the status by a committee of delegates in Doha, Qatar.

UN cultural agency Unesco said the cave, located in the Ardeche region of France featured "the earliest and best-preserved expressions of artistic creation of the Aurignacian people", who were believed to be the first modern human culture in Europe.

"The large number of over 1,000 drawings covering over 8,500 square metres (90,000 square feet), as well as their high artistic and aesthetic quality, make Grotte Chauvet an exceptional testimony of prehistoric cave art," said Unesco.

"Its state of preservation and authenticity is exceptional as a result of its concealment over 23 millennia."

 The Sistine Chapel. The Home of Iconic Renaissance Art masterpieces.

The Sistine Chapel plays an important role in Italian Renaissance art history and it houses some of the most iconic images of the era. The chapel, located within the Vatican City, is named after Sixtus IV della Rovere and is built on the site of a Medieval hall the "Cappella Magna". It was used for assemblies by the Papal Court.

The building work started in 1475 ended in 1483, and the chapel was inaugurated by the Pope who dedicated it to Our Lady of the Assumption. The chapel is used by the College of Cardinals for the election of a new pope (who is considered to be the successor of St Peter).

The chapel's dimensions (40.23 meters in length, 13.40 meters in width and 20.70 meters in height) are reputed to be copied from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem which was destroyed in 70 A.D.

When the structure was complete the side walls of the chapel were decorated in 1481 with frescoes by the greatest Italian Renaissance artists. From Florence, Botticelli, Rosselli, Ghirlandaio and Signorelli and Umbrian artists such as Perugino and Pinturicchio.

 Painted imitation curtains with the pope’s coat of arms were frescoed on the lower walls above these hung tapestries by Raphael and his followers.

Initially, the ceiling was decorated with gold stars on a blue background by the artist Umbrian artist, Pier Matteo d’ Amelia.

The Chapel's decoration was completed by Michelangelo and was Commissioned by Pope Julius II. Michelangelo was reluctant to accept the work (he always considered himself to be a sculptor rather than a painter) but he eventually agreed to fresco the vault and the painting took four years to complete 1508-1512.

 His famous ceiling frescoes replaced the earlier work by Pier Matteo d’ Amelia.

It is impossible to fully appreciate the grandeur of this building without visiting it for yourself. With its arched windows and barrel vault ceiling, you are surrounded by some of the greatest artwork ever produced.

If you love art this place will make your head spin, it is a feast for the senses and, even if you are just a curious tourist, you will be blown away.

You have got to see this great bit of technology which gives you private access to the Chapel. It's great because in reality you would never be alone in the room, which is always very crowded, and of course, in person, you can't see Michelangelo's spectacular artwork close up as you can here.

This virtual tour was prepared by Villanova University at the request of the Vatican.

Just click and drag your arrow in the direction you wish to see.  In the lower left, click on the plus (+) to move closer,  or on the minus (-) to move away.

The two images above are from the series of paintings on the Sistine Chapel walls. Perugino's Moses picture is on the left wall and Rosselli's Sermon on the Mount is on the right wall. Also see Botticelli's paintings in the Sistine Chapel.

The Sistine Chapel Ceiling.

The Ignudi support the corners of the smaller scenes on the chapel ceiling. These four examples highlight Michelangelo's understanding of the human form. (s)

The Altar wall - The Last Judgement.

Twenty years after finishing the frescoes for the vault Michelangelo painted his "Last Judgement" on the far wall of the chapel.

Restoration and Preservation.

The restoration of the Sistine Chapel was done between 1980 and 1992 and the work on the Last Judgement lasted for four years ending in 1994. The restoration consisted of washing the frescoes with distilled water and a mild solvent removing the layers of dirt that had built up over the years.

All of the candle smoke produced in the chapel had dulled the colours in the frescoes to such an extent that it was thought that Michelangelo was more interested in his bulky figures than any rendition of colour.

The cleaning process has revealed the vivid, bright colours that had been skilfully blended by the artist reducing the flattening effect of the figures.      

The result is a re-discovery of Michelangelo's works which can now be seen as vividly as the day the artist originally painted them.

The chapel is now climate controlled, with filters and air conditioning to deal with modern pollution levels.