I had read some of Irving Stone’s books earlier and I had picked up “The Agony and the Ecstasy” on a hunch without knowing what I am going to find inside. I was completely bowled over by this book. My only regret remains that I read this book after my travels to Rome and Paris. I am sure if I had gone after reading this book, I would have enjoyed looking at those pictures and sculptures much more and would have understood and appreciated them a little better.
This is a biographical novel of Michelangelo, a renaissance painter, sculptor, architect and engineer. He was the architect for Saint Peter’s Basilica, Painter for Sistine Chapel and sculptor for his most famous works David and Pieta (Depiction of body of Jesus in the lap of Mother Mary after crucifixion). Before this book, I had never read anything remotely related about painting and sculpting. I had heard of Michelangelo but I did not know much about him. This book really opened my eyes to the science and struggle behind these greatest works of art. I could understand what kind of work goes in making a statue or a painting lifelike.
Irving stone has used Michelangelo’s letters written during his lifetime and his own research on the field for this book and it really brings authenticity to the story. The book talks about how Michelangelo did autopsy on dead bodies in secrecy to learn about inner details of human shape even though it was banned at that time. This is the learning which helped him in creating true to the form of human sculptures. I was amazed by the kind of study that was required about the rocks, their formation, size, support and shapes before they could be used. A really good book to read even if you do not know anything about these “Art works” in advance.