The Agony and the Ecstasy

Synopsis: Pope Julius is eager to leave behind works by which he will be remembered. To this end he cajoles Michelangelo into painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. When not on the battlefield uniting Italy, the Pope nags Michelangelo to speed up his painful work on the frescoes.
Director(s): Carol Reed
Production: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
  Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
138 min

The Dome of St. Peter's, a triumph

of engineering, marvel of design.

Created during the italian Renaissance

by a man named Michelangelo.

And even today,

in this time of scientific miracles...

a source of wonder.

A focus of admiration

for those who, this past year...

gathered in Rome

from all over the world...

to commemorate the four-hundredth

anniversary of its designer's death.

And in the Vatican close by,

the Sistine Chapel:

stronghold of the most celebrated

frescoes in the history of painting.

The work of an artist who

did not want to paint.

Michelangelo was born in 1475...

in the Tuscan village of Caprese,

where his father was the Mayor.

There had been soldiers in the

Buonarroti family too...

but never an artist.

Michelangelo burst from his heritage

like an unexpected flame.

Here at Settignano, he studied the

rudiments of sculpture technique.

First the ordinary stone...

then the marble, the "stone of light",

as the Greeks called it...

learning to discover its defects,

to probe its potentialities.

This was the groundwork

for the student.

And his goal:

Dominated, in the year 1469,

by one man who was a prince...

a poet, a patron of the arts:

Lorenzo, the Magnificent.

New buildings rose,

new statues appeared.

And here, in this new Athens...

the boy Michelangelo

saw how the marble...

that stone that sprang from

the heart of his land...

could reach its potentialities...

could acquire harmony

of volume and form...

in churches...


bridges, streets.

Here, too, he learned to draw,

to unleash his talent in painting.

Muscular masses, figures,

standing out from the folios...

with all the substance of statues.

No wonder he felt his destiny:

born to sculpt, not to paint.

His first work, a bas-relief,

the "Madonna of the Stairs".

He was only fifteen.

Yet under his hands,

marble lost its hardness...

became soft as wax,

translucent as alabaster.

Mary, the mother of Christ,

the "Giver of Life...

and the Custodian of Death".

At seventeen, he created

the "Battle of The Centaurs".

Limbs, muscles...

carved with a force and energy

stirring as a rebellion.

A joyous satyr,

in reality the devil...

in the act of tempting an

intoxicated Adam...

otherwise known

as the "Bacchus".

A work commissioned

by a banker of Rome...

for by now the fame of

Michelangelo had spread...

beyond the walls of Florence.

The "Apollus".

For the Dominicans of Santo Spiritu,

"The Crucifix"...

a treasure of art only

recently discovered.

The renowned "Pitti Madonna".

And the significant "St. Matthew".

Significant for that

"unfinished appearance...

which recurs in other

of the master's creations.

As here, he now and again

would stop short...

lest further refinements

would compromise...

the "life", the real essence

of the work.

The Medici Tombs...

even the architecture

designed by Michelangelo.

A setting for his

Tomb of Lorenzo...

with its figures of Dusk...

and Dawn.

The Tomb of Giuliano and

its companion works:

Night and Day.

Night in her gloom...

with the owl...

and the mask, symbols of the

dreams and terrors of darkness.

Day, that "unfinished mark again,

roughly hewn...

like first vague light of dawn.

The genius of "Victory",

said to be tribute to Lorenzo...

Michelangelo's second father...

who had banished the

shadows of barbarism.

The "Medici Madonna".

The "Pieta" of the Duomo,

in Florence.

The "Pieta" of Palestrina.

But a work more widely

known than these...

came from one gigantic

block of marble...

earlier rejected by other artists

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Irving Stone

To be distinguished from Irving I. Stone, philanthropistIrving Stone (born Tennenbaum, July 14, 1903, San Francisco, California – August 26, 1989, Los Angeles) was an American writer, chiefly known for his biographical novels of noted artists, politicians and intellectuals; among the best known are Lust for Life (1934), about the life of Vincent van Gogh, and The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961), about Michelangelo. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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