NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!

Lezlie



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MICHELANGELO AND THE POPE'S CEILING

by Ross King



"[T]he extraordinary story of the four years during which Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Although the artist considered himself a sculptor, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo as a painter. With only scant knowledge of the art of fresco, Michelangelo created figures so beautiful that when they were unveiled in 1512, they stunned the onlookers. Ross King chronicles what went into this monumental project: not only Michelangelo's experiments with the composition of pigment and plaster, but also his ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, and bitter rivalry with Raphael, who was working on the neighboring Papal Apartments." (From the CD container.)

As much as I love history, I find it difficult to find non-fiction history books that capture and hold my attention. So many of them are so very dry. The problem is exacerbated when the historical topic is not something in which I've had anything beyond a vague curious interest. The ceiling of Sistine Chapel is one of those topics. When I see pictures of it, I'm astounded. Take the pictures away, I forget all about it.

With that confession out of the way, why did I choose Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling? I chose it because I am committed to finishing all of my reading challenges for this year and I had two books left to go for the Art History Reading Challenge. I wanted an audiobook, and the day I went to the library this was the only one that fit the bill. Thank the library gods! What a great book!!

I not only learned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about Michelangelo, his life and his amazing frescoes, but I learned about other prominent artists like Da Vinci, Raphael, and too many others for me to remember all their names, and about familiar classic authors like Erasmus and Machiavelli. I learned about European history generally and Italian history specifically, history of the papacy, more about the Borgias and tons about Pope Julian II. I learned about art and how frescoes and paintings were done. I learned about famous works I immediately looked up on the Internet so I could see them and about amazing pieces that are lost to us forever. And I was so engrossed in the presentation that I often forgot it was non-fiction.

So, I've gone from vaguely curious to scoping out Amazon for Michelangelo's Selected Poems and Letters. If that is not the mark of a wonderful non-fiction book, I don't know what is. Aren't reading challenges great? :-)



20 comments:

Amanda said...

This book is sitting on my shelf right now as we speak. My sister lent it to me after saying she loved it and I had to read it. And I'm going to for the art history challenge. Thanks for the second recommendation!

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

I'm with you on the awe factor and leaving it at that. Gotta love it when you take so much away from a book... and all due to a reading challenge ;)

Lezlie said...

Amanda ~ I could not be more surprised at how much I liked it. I hope you have as much fun with it! Your sister has good taste!

Mel ~ Sometimes the reading challenges completely shock me with what I find. That's the part that will make it hard not to do any next year. I need to keep that wide-open-mindedness while choosing my reading!

Lezlie

carolsnotebook said...

You've certainly inspired me. I may have to add this to my list.

zetor said...

Sounds a good book and you have reminded me of the Art History challenge, must catch up with that one.

Andi said...

Yay! I've had this one on my wishlist FOREVER and had pretty much forgotten about it. I'm SO GLAD it is as good as I'd originally hoped. Whee!

Terri B. said...

Ooooo ... Michaelangelo! I read The Agony and the Ecstasy (a biographical novel) a number of years back and really look forward to reading it again someday. It was quite lengthy, but I didn't mind at all. I learned about many of the same things you mentioned from your audio book. Looks like I should put Michaelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling and my TBR list.

Lezlie said...

Carol's Notebook ~ You *absolutely* should add it. You won't regret it!

Zetor ~ I fell off that wagon, too. That's why I made it the next challenge I want to finish up on.

Andi ~ I had never even heard of it before. The library gods were watching over me! :-)

Terri ~ I wondered about The Agony and the Ecstasy as I was listening to this. I really want to read that, and I may enjoy it even more now that I have this background. I'm glad it's good, because you're right about it being loooong.

Lezlie

Petunia said...

How timely! Not only have I just gone through this historical period with my kids in our homeschool but I also just finished a monstrous 3000 piece puzzle of the Sistine Chaple ceiling. It took me 7 weeks to put it together but I am now intimately knowledgeable of its every detail, like just how many naked men, angels and cheribum are within its borders. :) I would love to read this book. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention. (Don't you just love finding those diamonds in the rough?)

joanna said...

Glad you liked it so much! I love books like this, with insight into more 'obscure' topics... I'll add it to my list, although since I don't anything about Italy during that time, I'm worried I'd be lost? What do you think?

JoAnn said...

I have the same problem with lots of nonfiction history! Looking for further information is a sure sign that this book was a winner...I'll have to do some investigation.

Lezlie said...

Petunia ~ With that kind of recent exposure, you'll most likely *love* this book! I had to continually look up photos of the parts he was working on. I'll be the puzzle is gorgeous! I've seen ones like that but have been too intimidated to give it a whirl. I love jigsaw puzzles though.

Joanna ~ I don't think you'll be lost at all. The author does a great job of introducing people and events in a manner that makes it easy to follow. There's just *a lot* here!

JoAnn ~ "Boring" is the reason I don't read more non-fiction history despite my enormous fascination with it. This one gives me hope that there are some out there that are just as fun to read as fiction. The Borgias and Their Enemies was a good one, also.

Lezlie

Matt said...

I read this book a few years ago like a work of fiction, although it chronicles the stunt of a job in painting the ceiling if the chapel. From time to time I held my breath when Michelangelo runs into technical difficulty. I saved the book for re-read.

Lezlie said...

Matt ~ It does read like fiction. I found myself getting very agitated with Michelangelo's family. His brother and father were a pain in the neck, weren't they? I'd have been tempted to wash my hands of the lot of them!

Lezlie

Ladytink_534 said...

This reminds me of a movie I watched a few years ago called The Agony and the Ecstasy. Charles Heston played Michelangelo and Rex Harrison was the Pope.

http://reviewsofthings.blogspot.com/2007/07/he-made-end-when-he-was-finished.html

Lezlie said...

Ladytink ~ I put that book on my TBR as soon as I was finished with this. I'll have to check out your review of the movie!

Lezlie

Heather J. said...

I'm not into art history but I am into history of this era and of religious art specifically. This sounds like wonderful book. And the fact that it is an audio book is a bonus for me - I'll have to see if my library has it!

Lezlie said...

Heather ~ I'm not into art history either, so I was completely taken aback at how much I loved this book. I hope your library has it on audio. The reader was spectacular!

Lezlie

Rebecca Reid said...

Does it have to be nonfiction? I loved The Agony and the Ecstasy when I read it before my trip to Florence. It's a fictionalized account of Michelangelo's life.

Lezlie said...

Rebecca ~ The Agony and the Ecstasy is on my radar. Not to mention on my Wishlist! :-) I nearly picked it up the other night, but I know I won't get to it for a little while yet. I'm looking forward to it though!

Lezlie