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Graham-Dixon, former art critic for the Independent, brings to the fore the greatest achievement of the genius who perhaps best deserves the designation Renaissance man. After a short biography of Michelangelo up to his reluctant acceptance of the pope's commission, Graham-Dixon analyzes the masterpiece itself. He excels at contextualization, appropriately calling the chapel "a simple rectangular building" and making plain how the artist strongly insisted he was a sculptor, not a painter of frescoes. The figures created in this hallowed space are nearly as sculptural as anything truly in the round, a fact the author emphasizes. Graham-Dixon is adept at analyzing the pictorial scheme in its entirety and interpreting the dozens of individual sections of the ceiling's barrel vault. He has managed to resurrect, in an attenuated scholarly nugget, the popular appeal of this great and beloved landmark of the Western world. A focused and instructive read, this refreshing look at a familiar topic should attract a wide readership.
—Douglas F. Smith