When Michelangelo was in his early thirties, the pope invited him to paint a dozen figures on the ceiling of a Vatican chapel. Painting wasn’t Michelangelo’s first passion and he almost refused the project, thinking it was an insignificant one. But he accepted, and as he painted his enthusiasm mounted. Four years, four-hundred figures, and nine scenes later, Michelangelo had changed more than the chapel; he’d changed the direction of art and the style of European painting.
What turned Michelangelo’s work of obligation into an act of inspiration? An observer asked why he focused such attention on the corners of the chapel. “No one will ever see them,” he suggested. Michelangelo’s reply? “God will.” The artist must have known the scripture, “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Ephesians 6:7).
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