Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Fig Leaf Campaign

The way I figure it, people have been getting naked for some time now.

a pretty girl who is naked 
is worth a million statues 
- e. e. cummings

The only fluctuation in displaying a birthday suit is the how, where and when.

Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor and didn't particularly enjoy painting stuff. 

Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture. - Michelangelo

He especially disliked painting stuff for the Popes but he had some constraints. Popes had (and have) an enormous disposable income, an interest in leaving a legacy, and a whole bunch of hellfire and brimstone for those not falling in line. 

Pope Julius II had commissioned the 33-year-old Michelangelo to build a papal tomb because papal and tomb and pomp and circumstances are ready friends. 

The design was adequately pompous, and the sculptor was hard at work, but in 1508 Michelangelo was removed from that project and assigned to paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. 

He was not pleased. 

What do you despise? By this you are truly known. - Michelangelo

The tomb was eventually completed after the Pope's death. Dead people not having as much influence as their live relatives, the finished project met the pomposity threshold but not the pomp of the one previously planned.

It does include a well known, most impressive, and pissed off Moses. 

Until you see the Sistine Chapel, you can have no adequate conception of what man is capable of accomplishing. - Goethe

The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling took 4 years to paint, included 343 figures, and is one of the few legitimate definitions of awesome.

Michelangelo included 20 Ignudi, athletic male nudes, on the corners of the narrative scenes. 

And just because I looked it up, I'm going to share stuff:
Ignudi means naked from nudi or nude.
The Sistine Chapel was named for Pope Sixtus IV, Sixtus meaning polished.  
Nepotism from nipote or nephew, meaning the papal practice of favoring relations. Pope Julius II was the nephew of Sixtus IV and often the Pope's nephew was actually the Pope's sons.
Acorns are prominent in the design and a reference to Julius II’s family name, Rovere meaning oak.

Pope Adrian VI (who I also had to look up) was pope from 1522 to 1523. He was offended by the Ignudi and wanted them painted over but he wasn't around long enough to enforce the no-naked proclamation. 

Every artist undresses his subject, whether human or still life. It is his business to find essences in surfaces, and what more attractive and challenging surface than the skin around a soul? - Richard Corliss

In 1535, Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Last Judgement on the wall of the Sistine Chapel. The fresco was completed 6 years later. 

During that time, several Vatican representatives picked up the no-naked proclamation of Pope Adrian VI and started a censorship campaign.  

The "Fig Leaf Campaign" was one of those up-in-arms movements people love to join.  

You miss a lot of wonderful as well as historic art if the nude is denounced. - B. J. Adams

The Pope's Master of Ceremonies Biagio da Cesena took particular joy in being outraged and said the chapel looked like a public bath house.

Michelangelo's response was fantastic. He painted da Cesena as Minos, the judge of the underworld, and included donkey ears and an inconvenient snake.

When da Cesena complained to Pope Paul III, the Pope replied, "Had you been in Purgatory I might have done something. . . God has given me authority in heaven and on earth, but my writ does not extend to hell. You will just have to put up with it." 


Out of the almost four hundred figures, Michelangelo also painted his own portrait in the fresco. St Bartholomew, one of the many martyrs waiting for justice, is holding up his flayed skin which has the face of Michelangelo.

I cannot live under pressures from patrons, let alone paint. - Michelangelo

Just after the wall was completed, the Council of Trent condemned nudity in religious art, and presumably nudity in most other things as well.

All lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust.  

Pope Paul IV called the Last Judgement, "a stew of nudes" and ordered some changes. 

Michelangelo retorted, "Tell his supreme holiness that this is a mere trifle and can easily be done; let him mend the world, paintings are easily mended."

A pretty gutsy move considering Pope Paul IV established a reign of terror through the Inquisition as well as forced Roman Jews into a ghetto while mandating they wear a Jewish badge of identification. 

A year after Michelangelo's death, Pope Pius IV decided the no-naked proclamation, especially in light of the Council of Trent, should be enforced.

Considering his other proclamations, it isn't surprising.

The Bible is not for the people; whosoever will be saved must renounce it. It is a forbidden book. Bible societies are satanic contrivances. - Pope Pius IV

They [Bishops] shall also banish from churches all those kinds of music, in which, whether by the organ, or in the singing, there is mixed up any thing lascivious or impure; as also all secular actions; vain and therefore profane conversations, all walking about, noise, and clamour, that so the house of God may be seen to be, and may be called, truly a house of prayer. - Pope Pius IV

Daniele da Volterra painted over the naughty bits and chiseled away St Catherine and St Blaise because St Blaise appeared to be staring at St Catherine's naked behind. He was a talented artist who created several impressive paintings but remains know as "Il Braghettone" the breeches-painter.

Over the years, 38 modesty breeches were added to the frescos and statues also received stone additions covering areas the Council of Trent preferred no one think about. 

He who does not master the nude cannot understand the principles of architecture. - Michelangelo

From 1984 to 1994, the Sistine Chapel was restored. There was an extensive debate about the removal of breeches. Eventually it was decided that some would stay and some would be removed.

Oct. 31, 2012 was the 500 year anniversary of the inauguration of the Sistine Chapel. 

5 million tourists visit the Sistine Chapel annually, with peaks of around 20,000 visitors per day. 

The current concern, breeches or not, is the amount of traffic damaging the frescos by increasing temperature, carbon dioxide and moisture in the chapel.

A long time ago I was able to spend a summer in Europe for study abroad, which was fantastic! However, I was in Rome for only one day and the Sistine Chapel was closed. Disappointment aside, I can't be blamed for contributing to the damage. 

Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish. - Michelangelo

The moral of the story is censoring art should be a thoughtful and difficult decision, unless the decision is made by fundamentalist extremists, and then they happily make it difficult for everyone else who has thoughts. 

16 Inflated Sex dolls by Sturtevant

Not to say, there aren't works of "art" and "performance artists" who churn out an extraordinary large load of crap . . .

and most genres of art can find, at the very least, one group who takes a particular joy in being outraged. 

Nudity is a problem for Americans. It disrupts our social exchange. - Eric Fiscal

But seriously, anytime Michelangelo doesn't get an artistic pass for nudity, it's time to take a good look at what group is doing the censoring. 

The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship. - George Bernard Shaw

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