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Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, By Andrew Graham-Dixon

Although others have debunked various myths about Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel (the most popular probably being the belief that he did it lying down), Graham-Dixon does no harm to his excellent, accessible but always intelligent telling of the story by repeating such myths for those who maybe haven't heard them.

Even Michelangelo's breaking with painterly conventions, in his depictions of scenes from the Bible, was part of a Renaissance tradition of, indeed, breaking with convention, Graham-Dixon argues, and Michelangelo's promotion of himself as an untutored genius was utter nonsense.

Given that transgression is the subject that underpins so much of the work that covers the ceiling, it's perhaps remarkable that its commissioner, Pope Julius II, didn't object to more than the time it was taking his artist to finish the job. But Michelangelo somehow raised the human into the divine realm, and while a more perceptive art critic than the Pope might have questioned this aim, Julius was too busy building shrines to his own greatness to notice.

A fascinating study of a man and his times, of the politics that lie behind art and the combination of egos required to produce it.