LSAT 35 – Section 4 – Question 26

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT35 S4 Q26
Most strongly supported +MSS
+Medium 144.86 +SubsectionEasier

Kevin’s explanation

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Stephen’s response to Zachary, if true, most strongly supports which one of the following?

This is a Most Strongly Supported question, since we’re looking for an answer that is strongly supported by Stephen’s response. MSS questions with two speakers are rare, but do pop up from time to time. We have to read Zachary’s statement first before we get to Stephen’s, in order to understand Stephen’s point.

Zachary: The term “fresco” refers to paint that has been applied to wet plaster. Once dried, a fresco indelibly preserves the paint that a painter has applied in this way.

This seems to be context telling us about fresco. It’s some kind of paint that lasts indelibly (forever).

Unfortunately, additions known to have been made by later painters have obscured the original fresco work done by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

We know that some painters have painted over parts of Michelangelo’s fresco painting in the Sistine Chapel. Those rapscallions! So that’s why there’s a long mushroom drawn on God’s face…

Therefore, in order to restore Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings to the appearance that Michelangelo intended them to have, everything except the original fresco work must be stripped away.

This is Zach’s conclusion – if we want to get back to Michelangelo’s intended appearance for the Sistine Chapel paintings, we have to strip away everything except the original fresco work.

Does that conclusion follow from the fact that other painters have painted over parts of Michelangelo’s original fresco work?

(By the way, we should be skeptical and critical of Zach’s argument, even though this is a MSS question, because we’re asked what is most strongly supported based on Stephen’s response to Zach. Stephen is likely to criticize Zach’s argument. If we were asked instead what is most strongly supported based on Zach’s statement, then we would just accept everything Zach said as true.)

Zach’s argument doesn’t seem obviously flawed. There’s likely a problem with it, but I’ll proceed as if we can’t spot Zach’s assumptions just yet. Let’s see if Stephen’s response helps us see things more clearly.

Stephen: But it was extremely common for painters of Michelangelo’s era to add painted details to their own fresco work after the frescos had dried.

A-ha! What if Michelangelo made his own additions after the original fresco work dried? It was common for painters to do so during this time, so there’s a strong chance Michelangelo did so with the Sistine Chapel painting. And if that’s the case, then stripping away everything but the original fresco might actually go against Michelangelo’s intention. Stephen is pointing out that Zachary’s argument assumed Michelangelo didn’t intend any additions made after the original fresco work.

What’s strongly supported by Stephen’s response? I’m anticipating an answer that goes against Zach’s conclusion. Stephen’s response suggests Zach’s conclusion – that going back to the original fresco work is required to get back to Michelangelo’s intention – might be wrong.

Answer Choice (A) It is impossible to distinguish the later painted additions made to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings from the original fresco work.

This answer might be tempting if you’re thinking that our goal on this question is to weaken Zach’s argument or to strengthen Stephen’s response. After all, if it were impossible to tell what’s an addition and what’s an original, then we wouldn’t be able to strip everything but the original away.

There’s one fundamental problem with this answer, however: this isn’t a Weaken or a Strengthen question. We’re not looking to evaluate the effect of the answer, if it were true. We’re looking for an answer that is strongly supported by Stephen’s response, if his response is true.

Under that standard, (A) has no support. We have no idea whether it’s “impossible” to distinguish the additions from the original. Maybe some of the additions are clearly newer than the original? Stephen’s response merely suggests that Michelangelo made some additions to his original work. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know what’s new and what’s original.

If we take Zach’s claims to be true, then (A) is anti-supported. His claims imply that it is possible to distinguish the original from the later add-ons.

Correct Answer Choice (B) Stripping away everything except Michelangelo’s original fresco work from the Sistine Chapel paintings would be unlikely to restore them to the appearance Michelangelo intended them to have.

This is most strongly supported by Stephen’s response, because if it was “extremely common” for painters in Michelangelo’s time to paint over their original, then there’s a strong chance Michelangelo intended some additions that covered the original. In that case, stripping everything away except the original wouldn’t be what Michelangelo intended.

I would like this answer more if it used a word or phrase weaker than “unlikely,” such as “might not” or “would not necessarily.” But “unlikely” is supportable here given that painting over the original was “extremely common” in Michelangelo’s time period. If we did not know that this practice was very common, then I’d be careful about picking this answer choice, since “unlikely” would seem too strong.

Answer Choice (C) The painted details that painters of Michelangelo’s era added to their own fresco work were not an integral part of the completed paintings’ overall design.

Stephen’s response doesn’t suggest anything about whether the additions that the original painters made to the original work fit into the works’ overall design. Maybe the additions fit well, because the original painters realized that the original work was missing something. Maybe the overall design of the Sistine Chapel required Michelangelo’s later additions. We just don’t know from Stephen’s response.

Answer Choice (D) None of the painters of Michelangelo’s era who made additions to the Sistine Chapel paintings was an important artist in his or her own right.

We don’t know anything about the painters’ importance from Stephen’s response. Don’t assume that people who made additions to a famous painter’s work can’t themselves be famous.

Answer Choice (E) Michelangelo was rarely satisfied with the appearance of his finished works.

Stephen’s response doesn’t suggest anything about how frequently Michelangelo was satisfied with his finished works. First, even if Michelangelo added things to his originals, that doesn’t mean he was unsatisfied with the original – maybe he liked the originals, but just wanted to make them even better? Second, the “finished work” might include both the original and the additions – maybe he was satisfied with the work after making the additions?

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