King's historical account of the four years Michelangelo Buonarroti spent frescoing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome is splendid, thorough and detailed. But its larger appeal lies in the way King (Brunelleschi's Dome) brings out the story's human elements. Listeners learn of Michelangelo's bitter disappointment when a project he was eagerly looking forward to (the construction of the Pope's tomb) was cancelled and that he had little experience with the art of fresco and was reluctant to take on the Sistine Chapel. King explains the craft of frescoing with involving details: for example, fresco dries quickly, so the artist could work only in small sections, and if a mistake was found after the paint dried, the whole day's work had to be chipped away and redone. Listeners also learn of Michelangelo's financial woes and family problems and the political upheavals of the time. Sklar's narration is perfect for the project. His lively and expressive reading add a realistic edge to a centuries-old tale. He speaks passionately and his accent on the Italian names and phrases is flawless. Simultaneous release with the Walker hardcover (Forecasts, Dec. 9, 2002). (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This amazing book transports the listener back to Italy in the early 16th century. King is able to describe the intricacies of fresco painting while also portraying the day-to-day life of that era. Descriptions of the court intrigues of Pope Julius II are interwoven with the struggles Michelangelo faced when Julius ordered him to paint, in fresco, the 12,000 square foot ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The author's research and writing skills bring the many characters vividly to life. Alan Sklar seems to be reading the abridged version from cue cards, while John Lee narrates the unabridged production with more zest-his performance definitely adds excitement to an already enthralling listening experience. King has certainly captured the spirit of the time, as well as the life of a very gifted and somewhat eccentric artist. Both of these recordings are superb, but the best reading is done by Lee. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A legend-busting, richly detailed account of the four-year making of the Sistine Chapel frescos.
When Pope Julius II wasn’t riding off to subdue some unfortunate neighbor during the endless Papal Wars, he was hounding poor Michelangelo--"When will you have this chapel finished?"--to make good on his three-thousand-ducat commission and reveal to an expectant world the mysteries of the Creation. If you’ve put those impatient words in the mouth of Rex Harrison, who brought Julius to the screen in The Agony and the Ecstasy, you’ll know that poor Michelangelo worked alone, racked by the demons of poverty and artistic insecurity, to say nothing of the Inquisition. Not so, writes King (Domino, p. 1337, etc.). It’s not that the pope was a patient or gentle man--from time to time he gave Michelangelo a good clout, and he once threatened to throw the recalcitrant artist off his scaffolding. But Michelangelo was being paid very well for his work and had a squadron of skilled craftsmen at his disposal, and it was they, not he, who spent years on their backs staring up at the ceiling, paintbrush in hand, while Michelangelo was ducking off to check on other commissions in Florence and Bologna. King supplies a richly nuanced view of Michelangelo and company’s day-to-day life in the Sistine Chapel, placing it in the context of the overall Renaissance, a time of plenty of bloodshed and intrigue, but also of extraordinary artistic accomplishment thanks to the likes of Julius, Cesare Borgia, and other noteworthy hotheads. Disputing the now accepted view that Michelangelo was gay (there is no good evidence, King argues, that he had much of any kind of sex life), King examines Michelangelo’s considerablevirtues and quirks--one of which, his understandable desire not to show a work until it was done, was to get him into much trouble with his eminent patron.
Readers looking for the lite version of this tale may still want to fire up the VCR and watch Charlton Heston chew the scenery. Those seeking a richer understanding of Renaissance art-making will find this a pleasure.
“This amazing book transports the listener back to Italy in the early 16th century. King is able to describe the intricacies of fresco painting while also portraying the day-to-day life of that era . . . Highly recommended.” Library Journal
“A legend-busting, richly detailed account of the four-year making of the Sistine Chapel frescos . . . Readers looking for the lite version of this tale may still want to fire up the VCR and watch Charlton Heston chew the scenery. Those seeking a richer understanding of Renaissance art-making will find this a pleasure.” Kirkus
“Scrupulously researched, written with panache, Ross King's Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling is a sublime peek into a remarkable era.” The Miami Herald
“Ross King expertly wipes away such smudges from the story of this great painting, only to uncover a truth even more exciting and improbable.” San Francisco Chronicle
“[An] exciting account. . . King chronicles Michelangelo's aesthetic decisions and clarion triumphs over myriad forms of adversity with expertise and contagious enthusiasm.” Booklist, starred review
“Splendid, thorough and detailed.” Publishers Weekly