Because it's the Christmas I thought an examination of the Michelangelo's beautiful artwork high on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was in order. A friend sent me this interactive link so you can rotate and zoom to most of the biblical scenes. But here is a still shot to help you orient yourself to what's going on in there. It's a pretty busy place and Michelangelo was a pretty busy guy from July 1508 to October 1512. Some of the history behind his work can be found at Art History. As we examined the work in detail this holiday season a different sort of story began to emerge. Something else was going on in these paintings that was hard to understand. Looking straight up in the center of the Chapel it appears that God himself is hurling himself from the painting in an effort to do something. It's not entirely clear what He intends to do until you understand the history of the painting. Over the past 500 years the painting has been altered in ways that have covered up important details and in other cases exposed additional evidence.
Using the latest in forensic art examination techniques, as well as with cameras, and special lighting, we were able to uncover some secrets that were hidden from current view long ago. We believe, that these secrets were in fact intended and painted by the master. Once the secrets have been uncovered one can little deny the action that is going on in each scene. In this particular one we have what appears to be an early ancestor of Wayne Rooney winding up for a thunderous strike through the goal posts of heaven as an unknown defender possibly Italian, slides in. The intentions of the Big Guy are clear. He is diving off his line to make the save. The human body is beautiful. Apart from his sculptures Michelangelo has been able to capture the movement of the human body in ways that can only be expressed through a beautiful game. He has captured the beauty of these movements exquisitely.
As we continued to study each fresco, more and more elements of the beautiful game began to emerge...some not so exquisite. One element of the game which continues to be a vexing problem within the international community is why do Italian strikers seem to fall to ground too easily? Well from this famous scene there can be no doubt the technique was well understood many centuries ago. It takes little or no imagination to understand what's going on here. In modern day football this scene would demonstrate how English defender John Terri could step in to win the ball from Italian striker Fransesco Totti. Henceforth, Totti would dive to the ground with seemingly little or no contact… but the tremendous amount of pain in his face is registered for all to see, including the ref! Now we understand completely how Italian strikers learned how to dive...it's been ingrained in their culture from a very early time.
Whether or not Totti should be punished is a question of judgement. The commandments, as they have been established quite clearly by FIFA, penalize overt attempts to deceive the Ref with a Red Card. In this scene the Ref clearly is able to discern what's really in the heart of man. He recognizes the trickery and rewards Totti with a sending off and documents the offence in the proverbial book.
At the other end of the pitch (or Chapel) even more scenes are depicted. In this one a distant ancestor of Gianluigi Buffon, saves a certain goal scoring attempt. It was definitely a clean save with no foul (as indicated by the “play-on” gesture by the ref in the immediate background) despite the protests of the Italian defenders. However, the FIFA rules regarding the protection of the keeper were not fully recognized by all back then. Therefore, most defenders were wearing a form of padded leather cap to protect themselves from marauding Europeans entering the box at full flight.
Whereas leather is no longer used, it is clear that modern goalkeepers did not invent the use of the “scrum cap” to prevent further head injury. The material, however, has changed. A synthetic, it is lighter and offers even greater protection. In this photo, Petr Cech displays the proper use of this important headgear.
Finally, what would the beautiful game be without advertising? We know from history that Michelangelo had a heck of a time getting paid for the painting he did in the chapel. Throughout the mosaic evidence of Michelangelo's attempts to find sponsorship were uncovered. In this particular scene we learned more about the game then just who was paying for advertising space. Clearly, since Australian kangaroo leather had yet to be discovered, the early Italian soccer shoe designers experimented with lamb’s skin. Undoubtedly this additional use of the material insured employment of Sheppard's for several more decades.
I'm sure many more secrets exist within the masterpiece yet to be uncovered. But please consider these few alternative beautiful moments as you enjoy a joyous holiday season.