How many have noticed that it is Eve, not Adam, who is the centerpiece of Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel ceiling? Or that for every male ancestor of Christ in the ceiling, Michelangelo painted a female one? What should we make of his powerful yet seductive Libyan Sibyl in her sheer skirt and unfastened corset? Michelangelo’s artistic audacity extended far beyond his heroic men to encompass an amazing cohort of authoritative, prophetic, nurturing, and active women. From his dynamic Madonna in the Doni Tondo to the weariness suggested in his statue Night,Michelangelo’s numerous varied representations of women always convey a profound and inherent dignity.
Art historian Elizabeth Lev looks at Michelangelo’s life and work to reveal how the Florentine Master turned the tables on old tropes and stereotypes in his portrayals of women in daring, innovative, and empowering imagery.