The great Italian Renaissance artist, Michelangelo, was tasked with painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by papal request. At the time, Michelangelo was contentedly working on sculpting the tomb of Pope Julius II. This sudden change of plans prompted the artist to declare “painting is my shame!” He very strongly identified with chisels and stone rather than brushes and paint. Somewhat reluctantly he agreed to undertake this momentous project.
Just imagine building scaffolding up to a seventy foot ceiling and painting over three hundred biblical characters during the span of a four year period! Even though Michelangelo did not consider himself a painter, he created the figures and their environments in this magnificent masterpiece as if they were quite life-like and three-dimensional.
He must have endured countless drips of paint upon his face, hands and clothing. I’ve often wondered after those years of gazing upward, how long it took him to comfortably stand straight or if his neck could bend sufficiently to view his toes.
Michelangelo was a poet who loved to pen sonnets. The pairing of his passions of sculpting and sonnets intrigues me. I hear his chisel and hammer continually tap in iambic pentameter. Alas, during these four years his brush, most certainly, must have inherited this innate rhythm of the sonneteer.
Michelangelo worked on this upside down surface doing a job he initially wasn’t planning to do. Prior to starting, he had to learn the technique of fresco in order to accomplish the goal. He, by necessity, had to continually reach and look up in order to do the work.
Many of us may feel as if our world is upside down. We may be doing a job that wasn’t in the plans. Some of us may need to learn new things. Just as Michelangelo, we must reach and look up. Perhaps if we all reach and look up together, we can create a better world. We can do this! Then maybe, just maybe, we will be gifted with something just as beautiful and amazing!