From Publishers Weekly
When Pope Julius II saw Michelangelo's Pieta, he determined to have his grand tomb made by the artist. Summoned from Florence to Rome in 1508, Michelangelo found himself on the losing side of a competition between architects and the victim of a plot "to force a hopeless task" upon him-frescoing the vault of the Sistine Chapel. How the sculptor met this painterly challenge is the matter of this popular account, which demythologizes and dramatizes without hectoring or debasing. Forget cinematic images of Charlton Heston flat on his back-Michelangelo's "head tipped back, his body bent like a bow, his beard and paintbrush pointing to heaven, and his face spattered with paint" is excruciating enough to sustain the legend. King (Brunelleschi's Dome) re-creates Michelangelo's day-to-day world: the assistants who worked directly on the Sistine Chapel, the continuing rivalry with Raphael and the figures who had much to do with his world if not his art (da Vinci, Savonarola, Ariosto, Machiavelli, Martin Luther, Erasmus), including the steely Julius II. King makes the familiar fresh, reminding the reader of the "novelty" of Michelangelo's image of God and how "completely unheard of in previous depictions of the ancestors of Christ" was his use of women. Technical matters (making pigments, foreshortening) are lucidly handled. The 16 color and 30 b&w illustrations were not seen by PW, but should add further specifics to a nicely grounded piece of historical dramatization.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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A celebrated novelist as well as a lively nonfiction writer, King casts fiction's spell as he tells the creation stories of crowning artistic achievements, first in the widely acclaimed Brunelleschi's Dome
(2000), and now in this exciting account of the making of Michelangelo's magnificent Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes. Not only is King fluent in the complicated art of frescoing, a chancy technique sculptor Michelangelo (1475-1564) was loathe to undertake, he also relishes the tumultuous politics of early-sixteenth-century Rome, particularly the escapades of the irascible, syphilitic, gourmand Pope Julius II, Michelangelo's demanding patron. Everyone in Rome was terrified of this stick-wielding, bearded, warrior pope except for moody, homely, antisocial Michelangelo, and King recounts their skirmishes with as much verve as he chronicles the arduous efforts involved in creating the most famous ceiling in the world. Brilliant and tireless, Michelangelo designed an ingenious form of scaffolding and quickly mastered fresco's secrets so that he could paint his powerful, anatomically exact Old Testament figures freehand in an inspired frenzy. King chronicles Michelangelo's aesthetic decisions and clarion triumphs over myriad forms of adversity with expertise and contagious enthusiasm. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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