A Structural Resurrection

William Wallace, the Barbara Murphy Bryant Distinguished Professor of Art History in Arts & Sciences


We think of Michelangeloas the lone genius who carved the David, the Pietà, and painted the Sistine ceiling. Legend leaves out more than 50 years of Michelangelo’s life and work—completing the Tomb of Pope Julius II, painting the Last Judgment and Pauline Chapel frescoes, as well as creating his greatest masterpiece: St. Peter’s Basilica.

In 1547 Pope Paul III appointed Michelangelo, then age 71, to take over as architect of St. Peter’s. “I am not an architect,” the sculptor protested. But Michelangelo had also once claimed not to be a painter, and yet, pre-pandemic, more than 22,000 people lined up to visit the Sistine Chapel every day. Michelangelo could also protest that he was an old man—and he was. In an era when most people died by age 45, he had lived well beyond Renaissance life expectancy. He wanted to retire and return to Florence. But you do not say “No” to a pope.

Read the full piece in the Wall Street Journal.

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