Today in 1475 Michelangelo was born.
He was sort of a two-sport superstar in his day.
He could sculpt legendary works like David and the Pieta, and he could paint masterworks like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
But all that work could take a toll on a guy.
To be fair, it was a lot of work.
The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling originally had a painting of a blue sky with gold stars, but after a construction project put a big crack in the ceiling, the pope decided to start over.
He brought Michelangelo to the Vatican to paint the twelve Apostles on the chapel ceiling.
The project grew and grew and grew, with more than 12,000 square feet of painting that included hundreds of figures from the Bible.
That alone was a big undertaking.
There were also mold issues, which meant the artist had to redo some of his painting.
And the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is 68 feet high in places, so Michelangelo was working on a series of scaffolds.
For a long time people thought he had to paint while lying down.
That’s probably not the case, but even if he was standing, Michelangelo was also complaining.
He sent a poem to a friend laying out all of his grievances about the project.
Some were emotional: he saw himself first and foremost as a sculptor, not a painter, but here he was working on this huge painting project because he wasn’t in a position to say no to the pope.
It was enough to make any artist worry, and he did.
“I am not a painter,” he wrote, according to one translation.
And some of his complaints were physical.
He goes on and on about how he’s getting goiters from the work, his body is “bent taut as a Syrian bow,” he’s getting dribbles of paint in his beard, everything hurts, including his backside.
Michelangelo says his body is so squished up there on the scaffolds that even his thoughts are turning into “crazy, perfidious tripe!”
Now, we don’t know if this poem was entirely serious.
It could have been as hard as he described.
Or he might have been blowing off some steam.
Maybe he was feeling insecure and so he played up the toughest parts of the job.
Or maybe he was being self-deprecating while working on something that was difficult but that he knew would turn out great.
One thing we know is some of Michelangelo’s paintings on the Sistine Chapel are among the best known works of art ever made.
Not bad for a guy who said he wasn’t a painter.
37. Richard Nixon pic.twitter.com/G66eqFbA3Z
— Cam Harless (@hamcarless) March 1, 2023
Here’s the art we didn’t know we needed.
Last week on the Twitter account of Cam Harless, a series of portraits of every US president with a mullet.
And a lot of ‘em have big sunglasses too!
Labor Pains (Slate)
every american president, but they’re all cool and they all sport a mullet (Cam Harless on Twitter)
Photo by Antoine Taveneaux – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikicommons