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Michelangelo speaks and speaks

Posted in Art in the world by Adele Todd on November 14, 2008

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The creation of man by God painted by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Most Art History students know the story of hidden meanings in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. This year marks the five hundredth birthday of the creation of that monumental work. It can be argued, no artist has been able to top it in terms of manpower and skill, yet! Michelangelo took only four years to complete it, and that in itself is still amazing.

So imagine my curiosity when I clicked on Yahoo and found in their newsreel the question, Did Michelangelo have a hidden agenda? My first response was so 21st century, “Well, duh!?!” Then I thought I might as well read the article, after all, anything on art catches my interest anyway.

The article is all about a book called, “The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican,” coauthored by Vatican Docent (who is Jewish, in a wonderful twist of things) Roy Doliner and Rabbi Benjamin Blech.

I love Mr. Doliner’s approach to revealing a bit more about the work than the run of the mill. After all, why publish the same information again and again? Even if the Dan Brown books are still making people want to know everything they can about the Vatican?

Mr. Doliner visited the chapel after the restoration completed in 1999 and after several visits, he observed the work from a naturally Jewish perspective. Some of his discoveries are really wonderful and exciting. His work took him to libraries for research, as well as other sources, and in 2005 a meeting cheered by the then Pope, Pope John Paul II, sparked questions that Vatican guides were stumped to answer.

For example,Mr.Doliner noticed the characters for Aleph, and Ayin, two Kabbalist symbols. He also saw the image of two Jewish men behind the alter that Michelangelo completed thirty years after the frescoes.

Mr. Doliner has also been able to see the character of Michelangelo come to life in his openly homosexual references, references that were possibly not encouraged in most past history books for fear of too much engagement on the topic? Or maybe truly overlooked.

Most books do acknowledge Michelangelo’s image of himself as the skin body suit, or the genitalia of a particularly disliked Cardinal of the time done as a snake biting his own leg.

I have always found that history is so wonderful because it is forever evolving, adjusting and changing meaning in subtle and not so subtle ways. The book would be a good one to add to a collection, as it brings new insight into one of the greatest works of all time.

For the whole article, go to: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122661765227326251.html?mod=yhoofront

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