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Monday, December 14, 2015

Dali realizes Michelangelo's abandoned project


The anniversary of the end of Vatican Council II has just been celebrated in conjunction with the beginning of the Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. Salvador Dali's Ecumenical Council was 'held' i.e. painted in 1960, before the actual Council started (1962). Dalí hoped that the event might be "ecumenical" in the broadest sense of the word, not only as a Council of the "worldwide widespread" Catholic Church as the Greek adjective etymologically implies. His post-1951 commitment to Christian lifestyle was -- honestly -- not very serious, but this had already been the rule with many Renaissance artists, at that.

This big painting (some 3 meter high), anyway, is at least an interesting tribute to Michelangelo. The interior of St Peter's Basilica apparently turns into the Heavenly Jerusalem. The picture is dominated by Christ seemingly coming out of his sepulcher, whose shape is here modelled by the arches. The Rising Christ, in fact, should have provided the original subject matter for the altar wall in the Sistine Chapel, where the Last Judgment can now be seen; several preparatory, and revolutionary, drawings by Michelangelo have survived. Dalí drew inspiration from them, though adding a sense of sacred mystery through the detail of Christ's hidden face. (For a remote source, see Exodus 33: 20.) Moreover, the general pattern of this Ecumenical Council recalls that of Michelangelo's Judgment.

Another interesting element in the painting, though not strictly related to Michelangelo, is the Annunciation on the right; imho, one of the best renditions of this subject in the history of Christian art.