No more sluggish grace: Ezekiel exhibits a poignancy of movement that proclaims a strong spiritual direction. His posture differs significantly from that of the sibyls, as he sits firmly on his throne, with both feet fixed on the ground. The prophet’s feet are shown without the embellishments we witness in his female counterparts; sturdy limps that were meant for walking, and reveal the day-to-day routine of the biblical prophet as physically demanding and even grueling.
At last we see a gaze that is prepared to confront an opposition; there is something violent in the way Ezekiel looks to his right. In fact, all of his frame appears rather intimidating. The red of his mantle further stresses the focus and the contained energy, ready to spill out in the form of words, as his pouting lips show and his callous right palm unequivocally implies. This man has a calling, and he means business.
This is a man of action. It seems that besides the movement, Michelangelo sought to express this trait by accentuating the physical properties of the prophet’s figure. First, there are the feet we mentioned earlier; second, the red cloth covers incredibly massive thighs; third, the arms, the biceps and the shoulders also seem very strong and muscular. Finally, the almost inhumanly thick neck brings a final touch to overall impression of solidity and power ready to be channeled where needed — the protagonist’s frame, intensely powerful, sympathetically reflects mental stamina.
Even the scroll in Ezekiel’s left hand associates more readily with a weapon than with letters and education — in contrast to the flowing arch of the scroll the Delphic Sibyl holds — as if the man is prepared to literally beat the truth into the minds of his opponents. The monograph on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling in my possession says that the depicted zeal reflects Ezekiel’s biblical image as a denunciator.
The two heads in the background add some balance and harmony to the upper part of the scene. Encompassing the prophet’s head, they soften its bulky shape; they also resonate with Ezekiel’s mood, the boy on the right expressing fear and anxiety, and the boy on the left showing compliance with the word of God.
There are a few interesting compositional elements: the serpentine line of the scroll is mirrored several times, in larger proportion, in the white cape and in the cloth descending to the right of the figure. The contours of the composition form a rectangle: a less elegant yet more firm and stable geometrical shape — which reaffirms Ezekiel’s spiritual certitude.
*this article has been edited at a later date