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Tuesday, 10 March 2015


In 1305 Giotto di Bondone, an Italian shepherd and artist, completed his frescoes, which entirely covered the walls of the Arena Chapel in Padua. His mammoth work, which took him two years to complete, depicted over 100 different Bible scenes, in particular the lives of Jesus and Mary. Their naturalistic look and the attention to detail was truly innovative, especially the way Giotto represented the crucified Christ as not just a Byzantine icon but with an illusion of space.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling (see below), completed by Michelangelo in 1512, is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art. The painting technique he employed was fresco, in which the paint is applied to damp plaster. Michaelangelo spent nearly five years working on the project, perched on a high scaffold, with his head thrown back and paint dripping in his eyes. It left him with a crick in his neck and he was close to be permanently crippled.

The Last Judgment,  a fresco by Michelangelo executed on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. The Italian Renaissance master began working on it twenty five years after having finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling and he finally completed it in 1541.

The pope's master of ceremonies irritated Michelangelo by constantly pestering him to let him see The Last Judgement fresco before the artist was ready to reveal it to the world. When he finally unveiled his masterpiece it was noted that Michelangelo had included the irritating official among the damned in hell being tormented by demons.

In 1525 The Italian painter Bernardino Luini was commissioned to paint a fresco of the Madonna for the local shrine of Our Lady of the Miracles. Luini used as his model for Madonna a young tavern keeper, with whom he was having an affair. She was so impressed with the picture that she created for him a Christmas gift, an amber red liqueur made with almonds and apricots from her garden. It was called Amaretto, which is Italian for “a little bitter,” a drink which remains popular today.

The eighteenth-century English painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds, had to resort to using an ear trumpet after catching a cold whilst in Rome, which brought on his deafness. He'd been studying the frescoes in a draughty corridor of the Vatican.

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