We begin with questions to give tangible form to what at first seems unknown.
How long can we look at the Sistine ceiling without a notion of what is happening; maybe not you, but me: am perplexed by it. My mind runs back and forth across the ceiling, landing only where it finds meaning. But not initially, it was not meaning that gave pause but beauty.
Beethoven’s music creates for me extraordinary feelings on the level of Michelangelo’s visual art. One provides explanation for the other; both are related by proxy.
And it is Beethoven’s symphony number seven that I relate most to the ceiling. The attack and decay of those opening strident strings give rise to the melodious discourse that follows and one is sweep away.
Though the ceiling is long and far-reaching it’s not a sprawling mess but a tightly structured whole that serves to introduce multiple themes. The main one being the coming of Christ.
Above each of the thrones of the sibyls and prophets (except Zechariah and Jonah) are two figures of ignudi, sitting on plinths. The ignudis gestures and facial expressions offer contrast to the sibyls and prophets whom tell of the coming of Christ. The ignudis represent man before Christ consciousness.
Juxtapose them against any of the sibyls and prophets, and they become a study in contrast. Especially look at the prophet Jeremiah and feel the weight of the world held in the balance between heaven and earth.
Now raise your gaze upwards into main panels and experiences by artistic gesture the biblical telling of events that lead to Christ’s coming. For Christ to come, man had to fall out of God’s grace. But the ceiling tells more than the fall of man, it brings life to the book of genesis.
Like a a note being struck that reverberates, five times is the act of creation performed by God. First with given life to Eve, then to Adam, then the creation of the sun and moon, the creation of vegetable matter and the division of light from darkness.
My question for this week is what relates Noah to Christ’s coming? Why did Michelangelo first choose to start with depicting Noah as his first narrative?
But the answer comes now in the asking: it is that man’s consciousness is awakened by realizing that he has done wrong? Noah’s son’s attempt to cover Noah in his drunkenness.
But also one must note the difference in pictorial style, this is where Michelangelo began painting the ceiling. The ceiling itself is conceptual, it establishes a need for Christ. And as he painted, so too did he become closer to this idea of Christ and Michelangelo’s usage of the nude form strips away all pretense of hiding.