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The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo's Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican Paperback – Bargain Price, May 12, 2009
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“Just as the work of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel changed forever the world of art, so will this book change forever the way to view and, above all, to understand the work of Michelangelo!” (Enrico Bruschini, Official Art Historian for the U.S. Embassy in Rome )
“The journey of analysis of the complex images rewards the reader with many profound insights about the artwork and the complex nature of Michelangelo’s ideas....fascinating and engaging!” (The Jewish Press )
“This book of astounding revelations is built on careful scholarship, lucid exposition, and it is, above all, compelling reading.” (Jonathan Harr, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Lost Painting and A Civil Action )
“…(a) fascinating study of the Sistine Chapel. […] Like the best art historians, the authors give us a fresh context for the times, never hesitating to make contemporary parallels. […]This is a stimulating exploration that makes familiar masterpieces seem strange and new.” (Los Angeles Times )
About the Author
Rabbi Benjamin Blech is an internationally recognized educator, religious leader, author, and lecturer. A recipient of the American Educator of the Year Award, he has been a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University since 1966. He is the author of eleven books and has written for the New York Times, Newsweek, and Newsday. He lives in New York City.
Top Customer Reviews
What's wrong with it? To begin with, factual errors on embarrassingly simple subjects.
Zerubabel was not the king blinded during the sack of Jerusalem (that was Zedekiah); he is associated with the building of the second temple, not the destruction of the first.
The Book of Jonah is not read at the closing (ne'ila) service on Yom Kippur, but at the beginning of the afternoon service (mincha).
Jonah does indeed have his own book in the Jewish Bible. The fact that it's referred to as one of the twelve short books is true of the books of Joel and Zechariah as well.
This is stuff that an eighth-grader in Jewish day school would know. In a book that wasn't edited carefully enough to catch these errors, all assertions become doubtful, and the force of the argument is gone.
Equally bothersome is how overblown the argument is. A little less bluster would make the book a lot less exasperating.
Then why three stars? Because it's a fascinating premise; because many of the questions it raises are worth exploring; because some of the explanations it offers do make sense.
The authors note that Michelangelo was virtually adopted by Lorenzo de Medici and educated in an intellectual environment of the de Medici court that included Renaissance scholars and philosophers who were proponents of ideals of unity of religious and philosophical thought. Among other sources, the authors claim these studies included Jewish teachings and philosophical works based on Jewish teachings. The authors argue that the Jewish component of those intellectual discussions at the "School of Athens" in the de Medici family palace must have been picked up and internalized by the young Michelangelo as a lifetime intellectual influence and a sympathy to Jewish religious and mystical thought. This tenuous speculation about his early education is the basis of the central claim.
In order to accept the theme, one has to accept the central speculation about Michelangelo's alleged fascination with the Jewish teachings.
Several detailed observations, subjective interpretations and speculations about the artworks in the Sistine Chapel and elsewhere are then provided in the book to validate these claims. These interpretations of the artworks are the strength of the entire argument. The authors provide skimpy evidence of this alleged fascination in Michelangelo's letters and poetry, his known associates, or in any accounts of his contemporaries.Read more ›
That's the idea behind Sistine Secrets. The book sets the stage by discussing little-known tales of artists embedding secret messages in their art. How many know, for instance, that sculptor Daniel French's Lincoln Memorial statue show Abe's forming the initials "A" and "L" in sign language? And what are the strange openings in the leafy canopy to either side of the head of the central figure in Botticelli's "Primavera"? Could the artist, in an age in which human dissection was taboo, have surreptitiously revealed his participation in this illicit practice by embedding the outline of human heart and lungs into his painting? I'm not sure what art historians make of this this theory, but it certainly got my attention.
Having established the fascinating possibility that artist embed "secrets" into their art, the authors move on to their main thesis. Michelangelo's tumultuous family life and apparent homosexuality come in or scrutiny. The story of how he snuck in at night to carved "Michelangelo made this" on the band across the Virgin's chest (in badly-spelled and ungrammatical Latin) was fun and accurate as far as I know.
But from here, things got dodgy. Michelangelo, taken in by the de Medici family, is supposedly instructed in the ways of the Kabala as well as neo-platonic teachings supposedly banned by the Church. I'm no scholar, but Church teaching took Plato quite seriously, seeing in his theory of the ideal forms an echo of divine perfection.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you like Michelangelo and plan to visit the Sistine Chapel, this will enhance your enjoyment.Published 1 month ago by KCF
Excellent transaction! Delivered quickly and great quality! Better than advertized!Published 2 months ago by Joseph Damico
The writing was excellent,not any dry pages but it could definitely have been cut down by a chapter and been just as informative.Published 2 months ago by Kindle Customer
A very well written book, fast moving and convincingly establishing the authors' thesis. Looking behind the artist's mind retrospectively is at best speculative. Read morePublished 4 months ago by R. Kannan
My take-away from this book is it's too much dry history & not enough of the "secrets" I expected hidden in Michelangelo's ceiling art. Read morePublished 6 months ago by NHBunion