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The Michelangelo code: The genius of the Sistine Chapel was rude, puerile and a tad pornographic
Times Online UK ^ | March 5, 2006 | Waldemar Januszczak

Posted on 03/18/2006 4:40:46 AM PST by billorites

You know that famous Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling whose fingers are nearly touching God’s but not quite? Well, I’ve stroked him. I’ve run my hand along his naked body, and I’ve slapped that big, muscled thigh of his. Not a hard slap, mind you. Just a soft slap of affection that ended on a rub. I’ve even stroked his sweet little willy. I know I shouldn’t have done. But I couldn’t stop myself. And it was probably the single most exciting moment I have had in art.

How did I come to touch the naked Adam high up on the Sistine ceiling? Well, a couple of decades ago the ceiling was being cleaned in a huge restoration campaign that lasted many years and cost many zillions of yen. Why yen? Because the cleaning was being paid for by a Japanese television station. How did a Japanese television station get involved? That’s a long story. Basically, the Japanese were charmed out of their money by the last pope, the one before Uncle Fester. While planting kisses on the airport tarmacs of the world, the Polish pope fetched up in Japan, where he met the wife of the owner of a local cable-television station who happened to be a Catholic. Japan has a tiny but fierce Catholic population left over from the days of St Francis Xavier, the apostle of the Indies. The owner’s wife was one of those. She pestered her husband, a Buddhist, until finally, in the name of eternal peace, he agreed to fund the entire Sistine restoration.

As it happens, I had some projects on the go at the time with the same television station, and with a bit of ruthless wheedling of my own was able to persuade the man at the Vatican who was in charge of Japanese TV access to let me climb the scaffold while the cleaning was in progress.

I sneaked up there a few times. And under the bright, unforgiving lights of television, I was able to encounter the real Michelangelo. I was so close to him I could see the bristles from his brushes caught in the paint; and the mucky thumbprints he’d left along his margins.

The first thing that impressed me was his speed. Michelangelo worked at Schumacher pace. Adam’s famous little penis was captured with a single brushstroke: a flick of the wrist, and the first man had his manhood. I also enjoyed his sense of humour, which, from close up, turned out to be refreshingly puerile. If you look closely at the angels who attend the scary prophetess on the Sistine ceiling known as the Cumaean Sibyl, you will see that one of them has stuck his thumb between his fingers in that mysteriously obscene gesture that visiting fans are still treated to today at Italian football matches. It means something along the lines of: how would you like this inserted into your rectum, ragazzo?

Another figure I touched while the restorers’ backs were turned was a biblical character called Booz, who appears in the Old Testament as a kindly Jew who marries a much younger woman, Ruth, from a different tribe.

Michelangelo didn’t see Booz as kindly. Michelangelo saw him as stupid and senile. His Booz has escaped from an episode of Steptoe and Son where he played the dad. With his Jimmy Hill chin and a nose like a bottle opener, this ’orrible little man gibbers away at a miniature version of himself stuck onto the end of a stick. It’s a seriously rude piece of characterisation.

I remember all this now because a chance to know the real Michelangelo better is also heading your way. Opening soon at the British Museum is the largest Michelangelo exhibition of recent years: an extravagant selection of his drawings. Getting close to Michelangelo is tricky because so little of what he did is portable. You obviously cannot move the Sistine ceiling, or the giant David, or that thunderous Moses embedded in the tomb of Julius II in Rome. The extra-large scale of a typical Michelangelo commission makes it terribly difficult to put him into exhibitions. Unless you feature his drawings. Britain is lucky to possess lots of them. The Queen owns some choice ones. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has a funny little sketchbook for the Sistine Chapel. But the biggest depository of all is the British Museum, which is sitting on a basement full of Michelangelo sketches. Something like 600 pages of his drawings have survived, and about 100 of these are going on show in London. These drawings won’t only emphasise his thrilling skill as a draughtsman – although God knows they’ll do that; they will also reveal how his mind works. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Because as his letters home to his family make hilariously clear, the divine Michelangelo could be devilishly mean, grumpy, possessive, sneaky, suspicious and paranoid.

The creator of this show is a jolly British Museum scholar called Hugo Chapman, who used to work at Christie’s, and who has about him that pleasingly crumpled air that you get with English eccentrics who are too busy thinking great things to worry about the stains on their tie.

I met with Hugo in the bowels of Hogwarts – sorry, I meant in the staff corridors of the British Museum – and he led me down into the cellars, where there’s a vault in which the Michelangelo drawings are stashed. Hugo pulled out one after another and we examined them at our leisure. It was just the two of us in there.

When you go to see this show, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it is not packed with obvious masterpieces. Rather, it’s full of scraps, fragments, quick ideas. Most of the sheets came directly from Michelangelo’s studio. The Buonarotti family kept them together after his death for 300 years, and only began dispersing them in the 19th century, when the art market soared to the first of its crazy peaks. Michelangelo used these drawings to work out his ideas for bigger works – there’s a stupendous sequence of studies for the figures on the Sistine ceiling – or sometimes as teaching aids for his students.

Hugo Chapman, who giggles a lot, likes particularly to giggle at the notion that Michelangelo was a very bad teacher. Some of the most fascinating pages in the exhibition show Michelangelo correcting the work of his pupils, and it’s immediately clear that his main teaching technique was to outshine them at every stage in order to make them feel feeble and inadequate. To prove this, Hugo picks out a sheet with lots of staring eyes on it, in which the various weak hands having a go at drawing an eye are shown up by the two eyes Michelangelo adds. Why were all of Michelangelo’s pupils mediocrities? Because that’s how he preferred it. Read his letters, and you’ll see this same thunderous insecurity and meanness of spirit being directed at his family.

The puerile streak that I had noticed on the Sistine ceiling is also in evidence in the drawings. Peep into the corner of a sheet covered with heroic warriors’ heads and you’ll find a cheerful little chappie, as Hugo puts it, “having a dump”. Michelangelo hasn’t only captured perfectly the contentment on his happy little face, but also the fresh curl of his excretions, brought to a point like ice cream in a cone.

Because he was so parsimonious, the great man would invariably draw on both sides of the paper, or in the margins, or over the top of other things. Some of the drawings have poems worked out on them, or drafts of his notoriously grumpy letters, or even his expenses. They convey a fantastic sense of a real and busy life, and have none of that unshakable sense of purpose to them that distinguishes the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. One sheet from Oxford has a song on it, a skull, a horse, a rider, a vase, a ladder, a pyramid, and finally another little chap in the corner with his legs around his neck, showing you his tackle. What are those phallic-shaped knobs and balls further up the page? Why, they’re knobs and balls.

Among the most striking of the drawings is the famous portrait of Andrea Quaratesi, with whom the ageing Michelangelo is said to have fallen in love. It’s such a beautiful thing – a black chalk head-and-shoulders of a pretty boy made noble and deep by the introspection in his eyes. Whatever did or didn’t happen between them, Michelangelo in his drawing has given Andrea the ultimate lover’s gift: an immortal presence. Andrea was one of the great man’s most useless pupils, and seems to have been responsible for some of the most cack-handed efforts preserved in the show. “Andrea abbi patientia,” writes Michelangelo in his lovely script beneath the many bad attempts to draw an eye. “Andrea, have patience.”

All this is fascinating. It brings a genius to life, and makes him human, and tangible. But that’s not why you need to see this show. You need to see this show because it will take your breath away again and again. Around the time he was painting the Sistine ceiling, Michelangelo also began drawing with red chalk, and with this gorgeous medium, with its heightened tinge of drama, he produced some of his most stunning figure studies. There’s one here for Adam, the familiar reclining pose so naturally achieved, even though, if you try it, it’s impossible to do.

Red chalk is particularly suited to the evocation of naked flesh, and it is in the suite of male nudes, stretching, rearing, gliding, that Michelangelo’s genius is most clearly revealed. The whole show is a love song to the masculine muscle. Thighs, torsos, six-packs, pecs – those are the bits of the body that thrilled him most. But tear your eyes away, if you can, from these red chalk masterworks, and other aspects of his genius become easier to spot. He had an instinctive ability to see a pose in three dimensions. It’s a sculptor’s talent. Very few artists have it. The other day at Kenwood House I was looking at a wonderful Turner of some fishermen pulling their catch from a boat. Everything about this fine painting – the rough sea, the sense of climate, the moist atmospherics – was perfectly done. But the fishermen weren’t really leaning, or pulling. The figure in motion was beyond Turner. But it’s never beyond Michelangelo.

Although he complained ceaselessly about the scrounging of his family, it was from these Buonarottis that he received his most precious inheritance: the constitution of a horse. The 89 years Michelangelo spent on Earth were a lot more than most artists of his times were granted. This unusually long life enabled him to have many phases, all of which are recorded in the drawings. Near the end of his life he produced a series of crucifixions. I held the most moving of them up to the light and saw immediately that the man who drew this could barely hold his quill. His hands were shaking. He couldn’t finish a straight line. So he broke the cardinal artistic rule and used a ruler for Christ’s cross. But the shadowy Jesus that this old man was trying to draw is one of the most moving sights in Michelangelo’s art. What love there is in this shaky effort. What fire. What sadness.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: art; pornographyindeed
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1 posted on 03/18/2006 4:40:48 AM PST by billorites
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To: Republicanprofessor

pingy.


2 posted on 03/18/2006 4:43:14 AM PST by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
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To: billorites
I’ve even stroked his sweet little willy. I know I shouldn’t have done. But I couldn’t stop myself. And it was probably the single most exciting moment I have had in art.

Stopped reading after this ...

3 posted on 03/18/2006 4:48:10 AM PST by manwiththehands (Islam is as Islam does.)
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To: billorites
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
4 posted on 03/18/2006 4:52:21 AM PST by WideGlide (That light at the end of the tunnel might be a muzzle flash.)
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To: manwiththehands

Yeah, me too.

What a sicko.


5 posted on 03/18/2006 4:52:56 AM PST by Mr. Brightside (Watcher of the Skies)
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To: billorites

This is British journalistic writing at its worst. Dry, self-important, full of colonialist superiority undertones, and lacking content. Other than that, the bloke was lucky to have seen that masterpiece up close.


6 posted on 03/18/2006 4:54:59 AM PST by aristotleman
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To: billorites

Bravo Sierra


7 posted on 03/18/2006 4:55:00 AM PST by Rapscallion (Politician, fear the people.)
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To: manwiththehands

Free Willy!


8 posted on 03/18/2006 4:55:03 AM PST by humblegunner (If you're gonna die, die with your boots on.)
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To: billorites

So.....Michelangelo was a fag. I did not know that.


9 posted on 03/18/2006 5:02:03 AM PST by Ditter
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To: manwiththehands

I skimmed through to the end - it's an interesting read, that the painter was such a productive character throughout his 87 years. The author says Michaelangelo (sp?) was able to capture and illustrate the rendition of figures in motion ... the straining and pulling and grasping ... but read the whole thing; it's mildly interesting.


10 posted on 03/18/2006 5:06:18 AM PST by Ken522
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To: billorites

I once accidentally poked my finger into a Giotto at the National Gallery. Thank goodness the guy knew how to mix his pigments.


11 posted on 03/18/2006 5:06:49 AM PST by Mr Ramsbotham (Bend over and think of England.)
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To: billorites
"Well, I’ve stroked him. I’ve run my hand along his naked body, and I’ve slapped that big, muscled thigh of his. Not a hard slap, mind you. Just a soft slap of affection that ended on a rub..."

Hey, Waldemar!


12 posted on 03/18/2006 5:40:19 AM PST by Shalom Israel (There's a reason cows ain't extinct.)
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To: manwiththehands
Michelangelo was quite obviously homosexual ~ he was still an incredible artist, and he hit the ground running with his talent.

No idea about the writer's proclivities. In any case, all of that was irrelevant.

It's worth reading to get an idea of what else Michelangelo was up to ~ note the little character defecating in a corner ~ that shows up in the work of other well known artists, although maybe not as visibly. Sometimes an artist whose speciality is the human form will be badgered into doing a landscape ~ that figure will be in there. Or, maybe the poor abused artist will end up showing cattle breeding (Picasso is a good example of that).

I enjoyed the article and look forward to the publication of the gallery book featuring 300 of his drawings.

13 posted on 03/18/2006 5:49:13 AM PST by muawiyah (-)
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To: billorites

Another figure I touched while the restorers’ backs were turned was a biblical character called Booz,

Is the name "Booz" supposed to be some sort of play on words or is the guy really that ignorant?


14 posted on 03/18/2006 6:33:50 AM PST by bereanway
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To: bereanway

Is the name "Booz" supposed to be some sort of play on words or is the guy really that ignorant?




Well, someone's ignorant. Check Matthew 1:5. You'll find old Booz there in the geneology leading to Jesus.

It's always good to check before writing.


15 posted on 03/18/2006 6:42:56 AM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: billorites

You know, without even reading down the thread ( or having read the article beyond the first few paragraphs ), I'm going to hazard a guess: the author of the article is gay.


16 posted on 03/18/2006 6:45:42 AM PST by Tench_Coxe
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To: billorites

Thanks for posting. Good article.


17 posted on 03/18/2006 6:45:54 AM PST by BunnySlippers
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To: aristotleman

His dismissal of the artist's drawing multiple images on
the page or the use of both sides of a sheet, show his lack
of knowledge about the era. Paper was not available by the
ream then, and was a valuable commodity.

How I would have loved to see them myself!


18 posted on 03/18/2006 6:57:09 AM PST by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: billorites

The most interesting thing from Michaelangelo that I saw was when the Vatican had items on tour around the United States. It was a letter to a supplier of marble, and in it, Michaelangelo was complaining about poor service, and even name dropped with some veiled threats. Amusing.


19 posted on 03/18/2006 6:59:39 AM PST by Tench_Coxe
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To: billorites

Michelangelo was a genius and he was most certainly a homosexual.

If he had been born today, he probably would have been a fabulous interior decorator.


20 posted on 03/18/2006 7:00:55 AM PST by Dog Gone
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To: billorites
Thank you for a fascinating post. I, too, wasn't going to read it after the lede. But it was a real education in the genius of Michaelangelo. Thanks.

Congressman Billybob

Latest article: "Rep. Taylor's Office Caught in an Obvious Lie in Attempt to Smear John Armor"

21 posted on 03/18/2006 7:04:35 AM PST by Congressman Billybob (www.ArmorforCongress.com RIGHT NOW. I need your help.)
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To: bereanway

I vote ror his ignorance. The name should be "Boaz".


22 posted on 03/18/2006 7:10:02 AM PST by damper99
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To: billorites; martin_fierro
Wow, if you can get past the first few paragraphs, it's actually a good, interesting read.

Not sure if this is either GGG or Industrial Strength Humor ping-worthy.........

23 posted on 03/18/2006 7:11:02 AM PST by SW6906 (5 things you can't have too much of: sex, money, firewood, guns and ammunition.)
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To: SW6906
Wow, if you can get past the first few paragraphs, it's actually a good, interesting read.

That was the hard part. A lot of folks will want to hurl at the start and won't get to anything substantive.

24 posted on 03/18/2006 7:20:25 AM PST by Dog Gone
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To: billorites

I wouldn't let this guy touch my son's Paint-by-Numbers version of dogs playing poker.


25 posted on 03/18/2006 7:21:35 AM PST by IronJack
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Comment #26 Removed by Moderator

To: 3rdcanyon; 75thOVI; Abathar; albee; Alice au Wonderland; Amityschild; andie74; Andy'smom; ...

No amateurs, please.
Send FReepmail if you want on/off ISHP list
The List of Ping Lists

27 posted on 03/18/2006 7:26:43 AM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: billorites
...the Polish pope fetched up in Japan, where he met the wife of the
owner of a local cable-television station who happened to be a Catholic.
Japan has a tiny but fierce Catholic population left over from the
days of St Francis Xavier, the apostle of the Indies.


(Fellow Freepers, hold your fire. This is NOT a criticism of
the dropping of the atomic bombs to end WWII)
For the younguns in the crowd, the lady is probably part of the Catholic
population that was substantially reduced when the second A-bomb was dropped on
Nagasaki.
The bomb was aimed at an easily identified landmark of Nagasaki...it's cathedral.
In a flash of light, the Christian cause in Japan was dealt a
more severe blow than centuries of oppression by Japanese rulers.

I'm only mentioning this because it blows away a lot of the zenophobia
arguments about the dropping of the bombs.
The USA passed up targets that had Japanese cultural importance, but
took out a city with a large part of the Christian population.
So much for the zenophobia. We were dropping the bomb to end the war...
not to just do a racist killing of a foreign population.
28 posted on 03/18/2006 7:30:10 AM PST by VOA
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To: damper99

"I vote ror his ignorance. The name should be "Boaz"."

Not in my KJV. It's Booz.


29 posted on 03/18/2006 7:34:22 AM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: billorites
Good grief...

You've been around here long enough to know that this article requires a ***BARF ALERT!!!***

Straighten out your act or I'll report you to the Mods for abusing your posting privileges.

;^)

30 posted on 03/18/2006 7:36:15 AM PST by Willie Green (Throw the bums out!!! ............ALL OF THEM.)
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To: billorites

Michaelangelo had a big crew of painters working for him. The master generally drew the figures and along would come the help or understudys to fill them in. It's conceivable that these helpers added the figures like the figure doing the dump. The same sort of thing is sometimes seen in architecture and is sort of a signature for the workman. I believe they have even found them on the Great Pyramid.


31 posted on 03/18/2006 7:45:08 AM PST by zeeba neighba
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To: MineralMan; damper99
bo'-oz (TR, Booz; Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, Boes): the King James Version, Greek form of Boaz (thus, the Revised Version (British and American)) (Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32).

Argue about something important.

32 posted on 03/18/2006 7:45:12 AM PST by Eaker (My Wife Rocks! - There's no problem on the inside of a person that the outside of a dog can't cure.)
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To: Eaker

"Argue about something important."

Why? This is fun. Some poster calls the author of the article ignorant for naming a Biblical character correctly. I point out that Booz is the correct name, according to the King James Version, the most widely-used version of the Bible.

So, who's ignorant? Apparently it can be spelled both ways, and is Boaz in other translations. Yet...in the most popular translation, it's Booz. It's pronounced the same in both spellings.

Who care's if it's important? It's at least as important as the subject of the thread. Who cares what some British writer thinks about the Sistine Chapel ceiling? That's important?


33 posted on 03/18/2006 7:49:47 AM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: VOA
The bomb was aimed at an easily identified landmark of Nagasaki...it's cathedral.

Anyone who knows the details of the Nagasaki mission, original target was Kokura, knows that that claim is bulls***.

34 posted on 03/18/2006 7:57:54 AM PST by A.A. Cunningham
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To: MineralMan

You got me.

I am at work and am in a pissy mood because of it.

Lack of booze.

Carry on!


35 posted on 03/18/2006 8:14:25 AM PST by Eaker (My Wife Rocks! - There's no problem on the inside of a person that the outside of a dog can't cure.)
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To: Dog Gone
A lot of folks will want to hurl at the start and won't get to anything substantive.

Yeah, well most men only have one penis that they need to be concerned about.
Take care of it, and don't abuse it, and it'll last you a life time.
Obviously, there is something defective in the one that Waldemar was issued.

36 posted on 03/18/2006 8:19:52 AM PST by Willie Green (Throw the bums out!!! ............ALL OF THEM.)
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To: Liz; Joe 6-pack; woofie; vannrox; giotto; iceskater; Conspiracy Guy; Dolphy; Intolerant in NJ; ...

Art Ping

Should you want on or off the list freepmail Sam Cree RepublicanProfessor or me


37 posted on 03/18/2006 8:23:27 AM PST by woofie
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To: MineralMan

Definition
Boaz = "fleetness"
ancestor of David, kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, daughter-in-law of Naomi
name of the left of two brazen pillars, 18 cubits high, erected in the porch of Solomon's temple


38 posted on 03/18/2006 8:24:57 AM PST by zeeba neighba
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To: billorites

"Basically, the Japanese were charmed out of their money by the last pope, the one before Uncle Fester."

Hard to take this article seriously when they start out calling the Pope names.


39 posted on 03/18/2006 8:33:12 AM PST by gondramB (Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's.)
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To: Ditter

"So.....Michelangelo was a fag. I did not know that."

Yeah, that part is actually true..I don't know about the rest of it though. it is not a coincidence that his greatest works are the male form.


40 posted on 03/18/2006 8:35:09 AM PST by gondramB (Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's.)
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To: zeeba neighba

It's still "Booz" in the King James Version.


41 posted on 03/18/2006 8:37:40 AM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: Ditter

"So.....Michelangelo was a fag. I did not know that."

Apparently he was, from all reports.

I have it on good authority that Don Wildmon of the AFA is going to call for a boycott of the Vatican, especially the Sistine chapel, for supporting the homosexual agenda. Watch for the press release.


42 posted on 03/18/2006 8:38:58 AM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: MineralMan

Maybe he was Booz when they gleaned the grapes, and Boaz when they gleaned the wheat.


43 posted on 03/18/2006 8:40:18 AM PST by zeeba neighba
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To: Dog Gone
"If he had been born today, he probably would have been a fabulous interior decorator."


44 posted on 03/18/2006 8:46:07 AM PST by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
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To: billorites
The genius of the Sistine Chapel was author of this article is rude, puerile and a tad pornographic.
45 posted on 03/18/2006 9:04:21 AM PST by Sloth (Archaeologists test for intelligent design all the time.)
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To: Willie Green

LOL!


46 posted on 03/18/2006 9:12:16 AM PST by Dog Gone
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To: manwiththehands
I’ve even stroked his sweet little willy. I know I shouldn’t have done. But I couldn’t stop myself. And it was probably the single most exciting moment I have had in art.

Stopped reading after this ...

You're not the only one...

47 posted on 03/18/2006 9:17:25 AM PST by BlessedBeGod (Benedict XVI = Terminator IV)
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To: Ditter

Don't know about old Michelangelo, but the joker who wrote this article sure is!!


48 posted on 03/18/2006 9:28:23 AM PST by GadareneDemoniac
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To: Dog Gone
If he had been born today, he probably would have been a fabulous interior decorator.

That is, if he'd be allowed to explore and exploit his artistic gifts in whatever medium it took him to. Speaking as an artist, I can say that no matter how good you may be with one medium, you can't force yourself to be as good with another. Michelangelo, from what I know, was one of those rare artists who could pick up pretty much any form of artistic expression and excel at it. And these days, everyone seems to want art "just so" and to heck with expressing yourself in the way you want to; follow the trends! What I do doesn't follow the trends, not really. I don't think Michelangelo would, either - and thus, he likely wouldn't become famous if he did this art now instead of when he did.

Of course, if he'd been born today, he probably wouldn't've needed to be so discreet about his preferences, and who knows whether his art would then show such appreciation of the male physique?

But really, this is all speculation :P

~Moshi-chan

49 posted on 03/18/2006 10:16:08 AM PST by Moshikashitara (GOD BLESS THE USA! ~Proud to be an American 24/7/365!~ Support our Troops!)
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To: woofie

Thanks for the ping :)

~Moshi-chan


50 posted on 03/18/2006 10:18:16 AM PST by Moshikashitara (GOD BLESS THE USA! ~Proud to be an American 24/7/365!~ Support our Troops!)
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