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? :-)
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!