Top 9 Less Known Facts about Michelangelo’s work Sistine Chapel!

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Michelangelo, an influential Renaissance painter, houses his most famous works in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican.

Artists who look up to the talented Michelangelo should check out these nine unpopular facts about his works in the Sistine Chapel!

Read further to discover the exciting backstory of Sistine Chapel paintings by looking at the creation process through the lens of Michelangelo’s thoughts and life. 

1. Michelangelo Painted the 12,000-square-foot Sistine Chapel Ceiling in Four Years!

Michelangelo Painted the 12,000-square-foot Sistine Chapel Ceiling in Four Years!
Image: Pinterest.com

Pope Julius II commissioned the Sistine Chapel painting job to Michelangelo in 1508 and he completed this work in 1512! 

You may wonder how Michelangelo completed painting the entire Sistine Chapel ceiling with frescos in just four years!

He worked continuously for 18 hours a day!

Most visitors believe that Michelangelo did all the paintings himself, which is not entirely true.

He designed most of the pieces but had assistants and students to help him cover this massive ceiling.

Because of all this help, Michelangelo was able to cover 12,000 square feet of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 4 years! 

2. Michelangelo hated the work so much that he wrote a poem about it calling it ‘Torture.’

Michelangelo hated the work so much that he wrote a poem about it calling it ‘Torture.’
Image: 2Oceansvibe.com

Michelangelo believed himself to be a better sculptor and wanted to spend his time crafting the marble tomb of Pope Julius II when he was asked to paint the Sistine Chapel. 

Because of the painting’s position and the ceiling height, he had to adopt many new tactics to help him paint.

The long 18 work hours made him miserable, and he wrote many letters and a poem to his friend, complaining about this painting work. 

The first poem line, “I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,” describes how fed up he was with the Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco work, even though the painting made him most popular. 

3. Michelangelo had to repaint his work a year later.

Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel Ceiling
Image: Smarthistory.org

Many of the Sistine Chapel ceilings were ruined because of water seepage and mold formation a year after Michelangelo completed the work.

Pope Julius asked him to repaint the ceiling, and despite protesting that the damage happened because he was a bad artist, he had to work on it again. 

You may not be able to point out this section, but a tour guide could help you find it. 

Michelangelo also repainted a section of The Flood painting on the ceiling because of molding, which caused his work to move behind by three months. 

4. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel Ceiling while Standing on Wooden Scaffolding!

Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel Ceiling while Standing
Image: Britannica.com

Since the Sistine Chapel ceiling was so high, Michelangelo had to attach wooden scaffolding to stand on.

Most people believe that Michelangelo painted the ceiling while lying down, but this is not true.

Can you imagine standing for 18 hours a day painting the ceiling? No wonder he hated the work in the Sistine Chapel! 

Check out our article on Michelangelo in the Vatican to see other artworks that adorn the holy city of the Vatican

5. Michelangelo’s Ceiling Frescos tell their story from East to West. 

Michelangelo’s Ceiling Frescos tell their story from East to West
Image: BBC.com

Visitors expect the Biblical story to begin at the entrance of the Sistine Chapel and end at the Altar.

But Michelangelo’s Biblical story from the Book of Genesis begins with the Separation of Light and Darkness over the Altar. 

This layout also has hidden symbolism, as God is at the Altar, and the frescos that show the fickle nature of man are placed at the entrance, from where people enter the Chapel. 

6. Michelangelo Destroyed Two of His Works!

Michelangelo Destroyed Two of His Works!
Image: Wikipedia.org

Pope Clement VII asked Michelangelo almost 25 years later to add the Last Judgment fresco to the Altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. 

To add this section, Michelangelo was forced to paint over two lunettes of the Ancestors of Christ. 

The original altar wall commissioned by Pope Clement VII was supposed to be a fresco of the Resurrection but was changed later by Pope Paul III.  

Michelangelo did this fresco when he was 60 years old. 

Want to know more hidden stories about the Sistine Chapel paintings? Check out our top 10 Sistine Chapel facts article! 

7. You can see a portrait of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel!

portrait of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel
Image: NYpost.com

The Last Judgment fresco by Michelangelo on the Altar wall of the Sistine Chapel has a hidden detail of Michelangelo’s self-portrait!

You must look for the painting of St. Bartholomew, who holds his flayed skin in his hand, as he was flayed for his faith. 

The face of this human skin resembles that of Michelangelo, who was trying to depict his sadness on the Sistine Chapel walls as he was forced to do this work. 

8. Michelangelo was the First Artist to Create an Image of God

Michelangelo’s depiction of God, with a white beard and majestic look, inspired millions of artists to follow in his footsteps. 

Previously, God’s image would simply be that of a hand appearing from the clouds or a bright light.

There was no human figure shown, which went against the Christian idea that God created humans in his image to look just like him. 

You could say that Michelangelo’s fresco portrait of God is what the Church accepted as most accurate! 

9. The Papal Masters disapproved of Michelangelo’s Nude Frescos

The Sistine Chapel is a holy space for the Papal Conclave and other prayer ceremonies to be held.

It is no surprise that the Papal Masters weren’t impressed by the nude figures covering the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

To cover these nude figures, Pope Pius IV ordered Michelangelo in the 1560s to add loincloths or fig leaves and cover these nude portraits.

Over the years, historians and artists rubbed these leaves off when restoring the frescos in the 1980s and 1990s.

The human figures visitors see in the Chapel now are the ones Michelangelo originally painted!  

It can take some time to hear about the stories and observe all of the Sistine Chapel paintings.

Here is an article on the Top 10 things to see inside the Sistine Chapel for visitors wanting a complete experience on a time crunch!

FAQs for Michelangelo Sistine Chapel Ceiling Fresco facts

What is the story behind Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel?

The Sistine Chapel ceiling depicts the story from the Book of Genesis. It documents the Creation of Earth and Humans, Original Sin, and Noah’s Ark scenes.

You can also see pictures of Prophets and other Biblical stories on the ceiling. 

What is the ticket price to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel artwork?

The standard Sistine Chapel ticket, with access to the Vatican Museum, costs €31 for adults.

Children between the ages of 6 and 17 can buy the ticket for a discounted rate of €20, with ID proof. Infants 5 years and below can visit the Chapel for free! 

What is the most famous scene by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel?

The Creation of Adam is the most famous scene by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

What did Michelangelo do at the Sistine Chapel? 

Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling and Altar wall frescos.

Did Michelangelo ever get paid to paint the Sistine Chapel?

Michelangelo was paid 3,000 ducats (approximately €415,000) to paint the Sistine Chapel. 

Did Michelangelo paint all of the Sistine Chapel?

No, Michelangelo only painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling and Altar wall. You can also see frescos by Rosselli, Perugino, and other famous Renaissance artists. 

How long did Michelangelo work on the Sistine Chapel?

Michelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel from 1508 to 1512, which is 4 years! He worked continuously for 18 hours a day to get the work done. 

How old was Michelangelo when he painted the Sistine Chapel? 

Michelangelo was 33 years old when he started painting the Sistine Chapel. He was 37 years old when he completed the Sistine Chapel.

Where can I find more of Michelangelo’s Works in Vatican City?

The Vatican City is home to the famous Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Sistine Chapel frescos are the biggest collections of Michelangelo artworks, all in one place. 

You can see other works like the Pieta sculpture by Michelangelo outside the St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Michelangelo was a great architect, and he designed St. Peter’s Basilica Dome, which was completed after his death.

Visitors can also find more Michelangelo’s artwork in Rome, close to the Vatican City.

Featured Image: Nationalgeographic.com

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