The Pauline Chapel is a small private chapel located inside the Vatican Papal Palace, in fact the chapel is located very close to the famous Sistine Chapel – both rooms are separated by a small room known as the Sala Regia - and like this, the Pauline Chapel also preserves some frescoes by Michelangelo Buonarroti, although these are much less known and admired than those of the Sistine. It seems that in the middle of the 16th century, around the year 1540, Pope Paul III decided to build a small chapel in honor of the Blessed Sacrament inside the Papal Palace, the works were commissioned to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger(1484 – 1546) one of the most prominent architects of the Italian Renaissance trained alongside Bramante and who already achieved great fame during his lifetime.
But if Paul III spared no expense in hiring an architect to carry out his new undertaking, he did even less so when he decided to commission the decoration of the Chapel who would be one of the most important painters in the history of art, Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1574).
Miguel Ángel was born in the town of Caprese, in Italian Tuscany. Son of a notorious family, his father at first did not seem too sure that his son would dedicate himself to the arts, however, his decision was unshakable. He trained in the workshop ofGhirlandaio, Michelangelo possessed an innate gift for art that soon made him one of the most prominent figures in all of Italy. He worked for the main clients of the time, among which the Medici family or the papacy stand out.
Just one year after, in 1542, Michelangelo had completed the fresco of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Paul III commissioned him to create two frescoes in the new Pauline Chapel. Michelangelo worked on them until 1550, in a very long process that was paralyzed numerous times due to a fire, an illness suffered by the artist, etc. On this occasion the theme chosen was martyrdom, on the one hand that of Saint Paul and on the other that of Saint Peter.
The first to be carried out was the Martyrdom of Saint Paul and it is here where we can find more similarities with respect to his previous work. Saul has fallen to heaven and is helped by other men while a ray of light comes from the figure of God the Father on high and reaches the saint. The fresco is much riskier than other works by Michelangelo, we are facing a truly Mannerist work and for this reason the artist garnered some quite harsh criticism with it. Perhaps for this reason, when the artist He made the second fresco dedicated to the Crucifixion of Saint Peter, takes up a more traditional and classicist aesthetic, with figures that refer to his work in the Sistine Chapel. Be that as it may, the truth is that it can be considered asthe last pictorial work made by the artist.