Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Paper Trail: Michelangelo in a New, Old Medium

“My beard points to heaven, and I feel the nape of my neck on my hump,” Michelangelo wrote in a poem about his experience painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. “I bend my breast like a harpy’s, and, with nonstop dripping from above, my brush makes my face a richly decorated floor.” To accompany that poem, the artist sketched himself at work, stretching up to apply paint to the freshly applied plaster (detail shown above). In Michelangelo: A Life on Paper, Leonard Barkan, a professor of comparative literature at Princeton University, examines how Michelangelo—best known for timeless works chiseled from stone or painted on architectural surfaces—revealed his deepest self on that most fragile of media, paper. By following Michelangelo’s paper trail, Barkan discovers a more versatile artist of both pictures and words who seems more human and strikingly more modern than the Renaissance genius of legend. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Paper Trail."

[Many thanks to Princeton University Press for providing me with a review copy of Leonard Barkan’s Michelangelo: A Life on Paper.]

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