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Patronage I: The Western World from Ancient Greece until 1900  
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However, even if these "accusations" were valid, it is important to keep in mind that it is extremely unlikely that Julius would have discussed his sexual escapades with the artists in his employ. Nevertheless, a sexual attraction to other men certainly would have enhanced his appreciation of Michelangelo's powerful and profoundly beautiful statues and paintings of nude male figures. Moreover, it seems probable that Michelangelo sublimated his homosexual desires, which he found troubling, into the creation of spiritually elevating imagery, which could be utilized to convey the power and dignity of the Roman Catholic Church in the face of Protestant assault.

Through his patronage of various artistic projects, Julius hoped that Catholic Rome would regain and even surpass the splendor of the city at the height of the Roman Empire. He sponsored archaeological excavations in the city which uncovered many major sculptural works in the Hellenistic style. The superheroic scale and emphatic musculature of Hellenistic statues directly inspired many of Michelangelo's works. In fact, the torso of Adam in the Creation scene was based on the Laocöon (Roman copy of Hellenistic original of 2nd or 1st century B.C.E.), which was discovered in 1506 in an excavation near Saint Peter's.

As part of his renovation of the fabric of the city, Julius ordered in 1506 that the Early Christian Basilica of Saint Peter's be demolished and replaced by a new structure, designed by Donato Bramante (1444-1516), who infused architecture with the same sort of muscular energy that Michelangelo visualized in his paintings and statues. For Saint Peter's, Bramante envisioned an immense centralized structure with a Greek cross plan. Among the elements based on ancient prototypes was the saucer dome, inspired by the Pantheon, Rome (118-25).

When he undertook the construction of the New Saint Peter's, Julius resolved that his tomb would be placed directly underneath the central dome. The previous year, he had commissioned Michelangelo to create a monumental funerary structure with three stories, decorated with forty-seven life-size statues. Constant changes in plans, required first by Julius and subsequently by his heirs as well as by successive Popes who did not want his monument to detract from theirs, were among the many factors that inhibited the realization of the original plans. A much truncated version of the monument was assembled in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, in 1545. However, Michelangelo had begun by 1513 the seated figure of Moses, which utilizes the heroic musculature of Hellenistic sculpture. Of uncertain meaning, sensuous nude figures, the Rebellious Captive and Dying Captive (1513-19, both Louvre, Paris), also were created for the tomb.

By the end of 1506, Julius compelled Michelangelo to cease his work on the tomb in order to undertake the Sistine Ceiling. Over the next two years, the final program for the ceiling was developed through often heated negotiations between the Pope and the artist. The nine narrative scenes down the center of the ceiling narrate the history of creation, the fall of the human race through original sin, and the establishment of a Covenant between God and the Chosen People, led by Noah. Michelangelo began with the chronologically later scenes, involving Noah, and worked towards the initial stages of creation, which marked the culmination of his work on the ceiling. His figures became increasingly large in size, heroic in musculature, and dynamic in movement as his work progressed.

In the joint scene of the Temptation and Fall, Michelangelo endowed Adam and Eve with powerful forms that eloquently convey their spiritual weakness. His conception of the Temptation was innovative because he depicted Adam as an eager and willful participant in sin, rather than as a dupe of Eve's duplicity. Although the precise dates of the various components of the ceiling are debated, it is generally agreed that the Creation of Adam marked the midway point in the completion of the ceiling. This scene has the simplest construction of any of the narrative panels, and Michelangelo expressed here a balance of human potential and divine power.

In the remaining panels, he developed increasingly dynamic compositions that directly anticipate the Baroque style which emerged one hundred years later. In the Separation of Light from Dark, God seems to be defining his own being through the process of creation. At the corners of the five smaller narrative panels are seated youthful figures, referred to as ignudi. Since the unveiling of the ceiling, commentators have debated their iconographic significance, but their homoerotic qualities are evident to even a casual observer. The program is completed by heroic figures of Prophets and Sibyls, seated on thrones to the sides of the narrative panels. As is the case with the figures in the narrative scenes, these images became increasingly large and powerful as work progressed on the ceiling.

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