The Artistic Genius of Michelangelo
William Wallace / Washington University in St. Louis
We recently celebrated the 500th anniversary of the unveiling of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. If any work of art demonstrates artistic genius, it is this well-known masterpiece. No matter how familiar the images, no matter the trials of that crowded space, few visitors have not felt awe standing under this titanic achievement. Like a handful of timeless monuments – the pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China among them – the Sistine never fails to astonish us.
In many ways the ceiling is a compendium: of Michelangelo’s art, of the Renaissance, and of Christian theology is a transcendent work of genius that is never exhausted through looking or describing. In the words of German writer, Johann Goethe: “Until you have seen the Sistine Chapel, you can have no adequate conception of what man is capable of accomplishing.”
About the Author
William E. Wallace is the Barbara Murphy Bryant Distinguished Professor of Art History at Washington University in St. Louis. His books include Discovering Michelangelo: The Art Lover’s Guide to Understanding Michelangelo’s Masterpieces; Michelangelo: The Artist, the Man, and His Times; and Michelangelo at San Lorenzo.