The Prophet Zechariah

size(cm): 45x48
Sale price£161 GBP


The Prophet Zechariah, one of Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo Buonarroti's fresco depicts the prophet Zechariah. The ceiling painting of the Sistine Chapel of St. Peter's Cathedral. Zechariah, Hebrew priest, prophet, father of John the Baptist. The holy prophet Zechariah and the holy righteous Elizabeth were the parents of the holy prophet, forerunner and baptist of the Lord John. They came from the Aaron family: Saint Zacharias, son of Barachia, was a priest in the Jerusalem temple, and Saint Elizabeth was the sister of Saint Anne, the mother of the Most Holy Mother of God.

This fresco depicts the biblical prophet Zechariah accompanied by two angels. As the angels look over Zechariah's shoulder, the innermost angel gestures with his right hand. When looking at the painting for the first time, it is easy to miss this small detail, however, it is symbolic of the feud that Michelangelo and Pope Julius II had during that time period.

The gesture that the angel makes is called "the fig." This specific gesture was the equivalent of the American middle finger. In ancient Rome it was known as the "manus obscenus" or "obscene hand". Although this gesture has fallen into disuse, it was included in this painting by Michelangelo for the eyes of Pope Julius II.

Researchers agree that the prophet Zechariah was born in Babylon shortly before the enactment of Cyrus's decree and arrived in Jerusalem at a young age. Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the prophet Zechariah belonged to the priestly family. St. Cyril of Alexandria directly calls Zacharias "descendant of priestly blood, that is, of the tribe of Levi."

The books of the Holy Scriptures do not contain precise and detailed information about the circumstances of the life and work of the prophet Zechariah. From the book of his name, as well as from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, it is possible to determine clearly enough only the personality of the prophet and the time of his life and work. Zechariah's first recorded prophecy dates back to the second year of Darius Hystaspes. The beginning of Zechariah's prophetic activity according to Scripture is fairly precisely determined; there is absolutely no indication in the Scriptures about the end of it, nor about the time of the prophet's death and the place of his burial. The purpose and meaning of writing the book of Zechariah is the Old Testament prophet's intention to encourage the builders of the temple and the entire Jewish people in the difficult time for the community to be restored after captivity; along with that

To achieve these goals, the prophet Zechariah describes the future Kingdom of the Messiah and, in general, the glorious destiny of the people of God, as if it had come true after a long struggle with paganism, after repeated falls of the chosen people themselves. ; The actions of Providence, leading the chosen people to their intended purpose, will express themselves in miraculous help to the children of Israel in the fight against paganism, on the one hand, and in severe punishments for their sins, on the other. ; moreover, the pagans serve as an instrument in the hands of God for the punishment of the children of God's people, as in times past. The last of Zechariah's prophecies, which has a definite indication of time, refers to the ninth month of the fourth year of Darius.

In 1505, Pope Julius II asked Michelangelo to design and create an elaborate tomb for Pope Julius. Michelangelo gladly accepted the offer from his first papal patron and abandoned all his other works, allowing all his time and efforts to be devoted solely to this project. During the forty years of production of the tomb, Michelangelo drafted his final version of the tomb which included forty sculptures in three different stories. It only took a year to locate and transport the Carrara marble needed to begin production of the tomb. Michelangelo had devoted an enormous amount of time, energy, and talent to the project, only for the Pope to stop funding the construction of his tomb. Although there is no documented concrete reason for the pope's abrupt decision, funding was said to have been a factor. Enraged by this decision, Michelangelo felt incredibly disrespected and retired to Florence to continue with other works.

In 1508, Michelangelo and Pope Julius II crossed paths when the Pope called Michelangelo back. Michelangelo hesitantly accepted this offer to paint the frescoes for the Sistine Chapel (all while Michelangelo was still working on the tomb at this time). Many disputes were discussed between the two as the production worked its way up. The constant disagreement and bitterness that Michelangelo felt over the years for Pope Julius II is what prompted this inclusion of "the fig" in Michelangelo's fresco of the prophet Zechariah.

Upon entering the Chapel (usually through the east door, because contrary to prevailing custom, the altar with the 'Last Judgment' occupies the west wall), the prophet Zechariah can be seen enthroned above. In ecclesiastical tradition, Zacharias is young, but Michelangelo painted him as a man gray with age, with a long beard and a flowing green cloak, perhaps indicative of the unfathomable depth of his prophecies. This may be the oldest figure; he is extremely powerful but still somewhat clumsy, and hardly suggests a being who has received enlightenment. The old man is reading from his book, perhaps reciting the passages on rebuilding the temple, which he advocated.

Some scholars thought Julius II and his advisers took it as a reference to the rebuilding of St. Peter's. Zechariah prophesied the arrival of a king in Jerusalem riding on a donkey, that is, on Palm Sunday; and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, both of which played a prominent role in the ritual of the Vatican Church. A crest with oak from della Rovere is placed on the Zacharias console. The twin jinn look over the shoulder of the Prophet with the book.

Zechariah was one of the twelve "minor" prophets. Michelangelo chose two more, Joel and Jonas, from among them, in addition to the four major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The remaining thrones are occupied by five of the twelve traditional Sibyls.

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