Imagine this. At birth your mother becomes ill and you are sent to live with another family, a family of stone cutters. Your father loses his influence in shaping your career, surrenders his hopes for your help in the family financial business to the heredity vs. environment battle, and allows you to be apprenticed to a painter at the age of 13. One year later you are sent to study classical sculpture. Two of your works completed at the age of 16 still survive as testament to your talent and early training.
Though your ability is recognized, some of your works are attributed to others. At the age of 25 this
gets to you, so you carved your name in Mary’s sash on the “Pieta” that now sits in the Vatican City. This is the only work that bears your name.
You consider yourself a sculptor first and an artist second, but you accept anyway the consignment of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Your first efforts have to be removed because of an infectious fungus in the plaster. You fire your crew and take on the bulk of the work yourself during the four years it took to complete. It took a toll on your health. You joked you should not have quit your day job.
Your most famous panel in the whole project is most likely the one depicting God’s creation of Adam. Perhaps you were the first to start the “Can you find it?” craze way back in the 16th century by your inclusion of the human brain in this panel. It is theorized you did this to portray Adam receiving God’s gift of intelligence.
Many in the centuries to come will not realize you also painted the walls of the chapel as well as the ceiling. Thanks to news of your work spreading throughout the old and the new worlds via the printing press, the social media of the time, the chat about all the nudity in a papal hangout moves one of the popes to order, after your death in 1564, the addition of fig leaves to figures in the Last Judgment wall panel. ( These will be removed during a cleaning of the chapel in the 20th century).
This panel seems profoundly prophetic. “In one amazing vignette, you have a black man and a white man pulled up together in an incredible vision of human unity in this new world…The lion’s share of the space goes to the winner’s circle. There is where you find men and women…who combat adversity, overcome obstacles…Presiding over this assembly is Jesus, first a suffering man on the cross, now a glorious ruler in Heaven. As Michelangelo proved in his painting, hardship, setbacks and obstacles don’t limit excellence, they forge it.” (Art historian Elizabeth Lev said this in her Ted Talk on the Sistine Chapel).
“AS MICHELANGELO PROVED IN HIS PAINTING, HARDSHIP, SETBACKS AND OBSTACLES DON’T LIMIT EXELLENCE, THEY FORGE IT.”
That caught my attention. 2016 seems a good year to focus on being grateful for my hardships, setbacks and obstacles, rather than melancholy. My life is being molded moment by moment, and with attention on God’s artistry rather than my own, perhaps I will be shaped to fit His vision for me now. How cool is that?