When I recently met Antonio Forcellino in Rome he told me about this 3-part documentary. If you skip the toe-curlingly melodramatic intro to Chapter 1 – i.e. the first minute or so (just slide the cursor along to 1.15) – it paints a fascinating picture of the period. Then click on Chapters 2 and 3. It interests me for two reasons: first because my Ph.D. focused on the first half of the 16th century and I also came across the group of the “Spirituali”, Cardinal Pole and Vittoria Colonna in my research, and second because the English translation of Forcellino’s life of Michelangelo is due to be published by Polity Press next month – watch this space.
Antonio Forcellino has written another book on this period – 1545. It focuses on Michelangelo’s commission to paint the frescoes for the Cappella Paolina, built between 1537 and 1542 by Antonio Sangallo at the bequest of Pope Paul III (Farnese). Michelangelo’s frescoes show The Conversion of Saul and The Crucifixion of St Peter and – as in the Sistine Chapel – his nudes were the cause of much opprobrium and consternation.
After lengthy restoration work – which has taken seven years and cost some four million dollars – the Chapel will reopen on 4 July 2009 in a ceremony presided over by Pope Benedict XVI.
I’m working on Forcellino’s second book, a life of Raphael, and the few days I spent in Rome were dedicated to retracing Raphael’s Roman commissions – Villa Farnesina, the Vatican Stanze, the paintings in the newly restored Borghese Gallery, not to mention La Fornarina in Palazzo Barberini. It was a wonderful chance to refresh the memory – it’s been quite a while since I was in Rome – and enjoy such masterpieces.