Fact #19 - Answer

It sounds hilarious, and that’s because it is. The famous painter of the Sistine Chapel, arguably the most famous piece of artwork in the world, also wrote a poem about the horrible experience and sent it to his friend.

The Sistine Chapel can be found in Vatican City, the home of the Catholic Faith (and also the smallest country in the world, but you already know that!) It was the Pope’s very own private chapel, and one Pope commissioned an artist to paint the roof. Michelangelo thought of himself as a good sculptor artist, but an average painter. So, when the Pope asked him to do it, he was riddled with self-doubt. He even thought it was a set-up from rival painters who wanted him to fail. However, it was unheard of to refuse a Pope, so he reluctantly took the job.

But that didn’t mean Michelangelo had to enjoy painting the ceiling for the next four years of his life. As you can see from these extracts from the poem he wrote and sent to his friend, it was not his most enjoyable job:

I've already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy . . .

. . . My brush, above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!

My poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless . . .

Because I'm stuck like this, my thoughts
are crazy, perfidious tripe . . .

My painting is dead.
Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honour.
I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.

Despite all this, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is considered a true masterpiece. And, I’d like to think, is elevated by the fact the painter had 24-hour butt cramps and a face full of paint poop.

Learn more about Michelangelo:

  • One year into painting the ceiling, mould started to grow and, although he tried to give up, the Pope persuaded him to start again.
  • There is thought to be several hidden messages that Michelangelo added to the painting, including a human brain, an angel doing a rude gesture to the widely disliked Pope who commissioned the work, and even a self-portrait
  • Michelangelo was the wealthiest artist of his day, having invested wisely in property, and was worth around $50 million

What to know more about the Sistine Chapel & Michelangelo:

The Truth or Poop Book Series