Vatican Frescoes, Boticelli (Part I)

Vatican Frescoes, Boticelli (Part I)
Vatican Frescoes, Boticelli (Part I)

When we think of the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican Palace, we all instinctively think of the famous mural paintings made by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, however the truth is that the decoration work on the place began long before, being the works of Michelangelo only the culmination of the works carried out there. The Sistine Chapel was one of the most prominent centers of Christian life, important conclaves and meetings were held there (and still are today). In this context, Pope Sixtus IV decided at the beginning of the eighties, specifically in the year 1481, to carry out a decoration of the room according to his rank. Years later, Pope Julius II would be in charge of completing the decoration of the room, this time with the aforementioned frescoes, the Last Judgment found on the main altar and with the creation scenes that adorn the vault.


For this Sixtus IV hadcalled some of the most outstanding painters of his timesuch as Boticelli, Ghirlandaio or Rosellini among others. The idea was to decorate the walls of the chapel with a unitary iconographic program that the pontiff himself had taken pains to prepare; with him it was a matter of dignifying the figure of the papacy through a series of frescoes in which the figures of Moses and Jesus Christ were related, with passages from the New and theOld Testament. In addition, in a higher register, the portraits of several popes who had governed the Vatican until then were designed and who looked out into the chapel through some openings with curtains that acted as a trompe l'oeil.

In order to ensure that the frescoes of such diverse artists had a certain stylistic unity the pope imposed a series of restrictions such as the same proportions when designing the figures, the same color range for all frescoes, the use of gold leaf etc.

According to Vasari, the artist Sandro Boticelli would be the author of the entire set of frescoes but the truth is that, as we have already pointed out, various artists participated in the work. Specifically, Boticelli made three of the historiated frescoes and some of the portraits of the popes; Some experts say that although Boticelli did not paint all the portraits, at least eleven of them were made under the design of the Florentine artist and he must have been directly involved in the creation of some of them.

The three frescoes made by Boticelli correspond to the scenes of The Punishment of the Rebels, The Temptation of Christ and The Tests of Moses,thus establishing a clear relationship between them last two as part of the continuity between the New and Old Testaments. All of them are frescoes with a horizontal format and large dimensions, they are about five meters wide and three meters high, which made them easy to see from anywhere in the room.

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