Tips on how to approach CAT Reading Comprehension passages
- Don’t get into the minor details of the passage; just focus on what each paragraph has to say
- As you read, create a map of the passage; you must remember what thing is located where in the passage
- Once you read the question, come back to the part of the passage that is likely to have the answer
- Compare the options and eliminate the incorrect choices based on the evidence that you see in the passage
- Choose the answer once you are convinced of the right choice
PassageThe following is an exchange between two art historians over the recent restoration of the Sistine Chapel.
I shudder to think what Michelangelo’s reaction would be if he were to gaze up today at the famous frescoes he painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel over four centuries ago. He was a practical man and would not have been surprised by the effects of time and environment on his masterpiece. He would have been philosophical about the damage wrought by mineral salts left behind when rainwater leaked through the roof. He would also probably have taken in stride the layers of dirt and soot from the coal braziers that heated the chapel—if that dirt had not been removed during the restoration.
The armament of the restorer is no longer limited to artistic sensibility and historical knowledge. A chemist on the Vatican restoration team identified the composition of the layers swathing Michelangelo’s primary hues. Since there was a stratum of dirt between the painting and the first layer of glaze, it was clear that several decades had elapsed between the completion of the ceiling and the application of the glaze. This justified the use of cleaning solvents that would lift off all but that final layer of dirt, which was kept for the sake of protection of the frescoes.
The Vatican restoration team reveled in inducing a colorful transformation in the frescoes with their special cleaning solvents and computerized analysis equipment. But he would have been appalled at the ravages inflicted on his work by the restorers.
This effect was not, as they claim, achieved merely by removing the dirt and animal glue (which was, by the way, employed by earlier restorers to revive muted colors). They removed Michelangelo’s final touches as well. The ceiling no longer has its essential quality of suppressed anger and thunderous pessimism. That quality was not an artifact of grime, not a misleading monochrome imposed on the ceiling by time. Michelangelo himself applied a veil of glaze to the frescoes to darken them after he had deemed his work too bright. I think the master would have felt compelled to add a few more layers of glaze had the ceiling radiated forth as it does now. It is clear that the solvents of the restorers did not just strip away the shadows. They also reacted chemically with Michelangelo’s pigments to produce hues the painter himself never beheld.
The particular solvent they employed, AB 57, was chosen because of the overall neutral action of its two chemicals on pigments: one temporarily tones them down, but the other livens them up to the same degree. Thus, the colors that emerged from the shadows are truly what Michelangelo intended to be seen.
The luminous figures are without doubt the work of a master craftsman who executed typical Renaissance painting techniques to perfection. This is the source of the difficulty you have with the restoration: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel no longer seems to be the fruit of the wayward genius, defiant of Renaissance fresco-painting protocol, that you always thought Michelangelo was. You don’t like the fact that the painter seems, like a vagabond given a good scrubbing, to be a complete stranger, rational and traditional and devoid of fearfulness and anger. But the veil that led to the misperceptions of Michelangelo has now been lifted, and we may better acquaint ourselves with him.
Of course, the restorers left open an avenue for the reversal of their own “lifting of the veil.” Since the layers of animal glue are no longer there to serve as protection, the atmospheric pollutants from the city of Rome now have direct access to the frescoes. In fact, we’ve already noticed significant darkening in some of the restored work, and it’s only been four years since the restoration was completed. It remains to be seen whether the measure introduced to arrest this process—an extensive climate-control system—will itself have any long-term effect on the chapel’s ceiling.
Question: In the context of the passage, the word philosophical (line 9) means:
Question: Scholar B’s argument that the presence of dirt between the painting and the first layer of glaze justified the use of cleaning solvents to remove the glaze assumes that:
[A] the dirt was laid down several decades after the painting’s completion.
[B] the cleaning solvents would never actually touch the frescoes.
[C] Michelangelo intended the glaze to be relatively temporary.
[D] Michelangelo could not have applied glaze to the ceiling decades after painting it.
Question: Based on Scholar B’s claim that Scholar A is unhappy because the ceiling “no longer seems to be the fruit of [a] wayward genius, defiant of Renaissance-painting protocol,” it is reasonable to conclude that:
[A] Michelangelo was not a fiercely independent thinker.
[B] the restoration has jeopardized Michelangelo’s position in history as a great artist.
[C] darkening colors to produce a gloomy effect was characteristic of Michelangelo’s time.
[D] historical conceptions of Michelangelo overestimated his negative traits.
Question: Which of the following statements seems most in agreement with Scholar A’s arguments regarding the Sistine Chapel?
[A] Artists achieve their immortality through their art.
[B] It is impossible to step inside the mind of an artist.
[C] Deterioration of an artwork may be an unfortunate but natural process.
[D] There is seldom an appreciable difference over time in the visual impact of an artwork.
Question: Scholar A’s claim that Michelangelo would have been appalled at the “ravages inflicted on his work by the restorers” is:
[A] true, given that some damage to the ceiling was inevitable.
[B] supported by the assertion that the restoration team reveled in inducing a colorful transformation.
[C] quite possibly false, given the possibility that the ceiling was never intended to be dark.
[D] not supported by any further claims by scholar A.
Question: If it were discovered after a few years that the climate-control system had protected the frescoes from further pollution damage, one would expect Scholar A to contend that:
[A] restorers should have allowed the frescoes to be darkened by pollution.
[B] pollution damage would not have occurred in the first place had there been no restoration.
[C] removal of the animal glue from the frescoes had turned out to be a wise undertaking.
[D] no further intervention on behalf of the frescoes would be likely to happen.
Question: What does Scholar B’s comparison of Michelangelo to a “vagabond given a good scrubbing” (lines 61-62) imply about the painter?
[A] He is known to us almost exclusively through his art.
[B] He lived in poverty until he was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel.
[C] He was not appreciated as he should have been in his own time.
[D] He cared more about his art than about his personal well-being.
Question: Judging from the discussion between the two scholars, both Scholar A and Scholar B place a high value on:
[A] relying on artistic sensibility and historical knowledge.
[B] challenging long-established traditions.
[C] understanding the artist’s original intentions.
[D] applying modern technology to art preservation.
Question: In arguing that some of the restored work has already been darkened by pollution, which of the following assumptions did Scholar A make?
[A] I only
[B] I and II
[C] II and III
[D] I, II and III
Question: In a longer debate it might reasonably be assumed that Scholar B would most likely argue that the “quality of suppressed anger and thunderous pessimism” mentioned by Scholar A was:
[A] the product of a chemical reaction between solvent and pigment.
[B] not a feature of the original frescoes.
[C] nothing more than a typical Renaissance painting effect.
[D] the subject of many different and often contradictory interpretations.