"In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel in Rome. Four years earlier, at the age of twenty-nine, Michelangelo had unveiled his masterful statue of David in Florence; however, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with the challenging curved surfaces of vaults. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant: He stormed away from Rome, incurring Julius's wrath, before he was eventually persuaded to begin." Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling recounts the fascinating story of the four extraordinary years he spent laboring over the twelve thousand square feet of the vast ceiling while the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. Contrary to legend, he neither worked alone nor on his back. He and his hand-picked assistants stood bending backward on a special scaffold he designed for the purpose. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic and family problems, and the pope's impatience, Michelangelo created scenes - including The Creation, The Temptation, and The Flood - so beautiful that, when they were unveiled in 1512, they stunned onlookers. In the end, he produced one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, about which Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists, wrote, "There is no other work to compare with this for excellence, nor could there be."