The second of five brothers, Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, at Caprese, in Tuscany, to Ludovico di Leonardo di Buonarotto Simoni and Francesca Neri. The same day, his father noted down: “Today March 6, 1475, a child of the male sex has been born to me and I have named him Michelangelo. He was born on Monday between 4 and 5 in the morning, at Caprese, where I am the Podest. ” Although born in the small village of Caprese, Michelangelo always considered himself a “son of Florence,” as did his father, “a Citizen of Florence. ” His Childhood and Youth Buonarroti’s mother,
Francesca Neri, was too sick and frail to nurse Michelangelo, so he was placed with a wet nurse, in a family of stone cutters, where he, “sucked in the craft of hammer and chisel with my foster mother’s milk. When I told my father that I wish to be an artist, he flew into a rage, ‘artists are laborers, no better than shoemakers. ” Buonarroti’s mother died young, when the child was only six years old. But even before then, Michelangelo’s childhood had been grim and lacking in affection, and he was always to retain a taciturn disposition.
Touchy and quick to respond with fierce words, he tended to keep to himself, ut of shyness according to some but also, according to others, a lack of trust in his fellows. His father soon recognized the boy’s intelligence and “anxious for him to learn his letters, sent him to the school of a master, Francesco Galeota from Urbino, who in that time taught grammar. ” While he studied the principles of Latin, Michelangelo made friends with a student, Francesco Granacci six years older than him, who was learning the art of painting in Ghirlandaio’s studio and who encouraged Michelangelo to follow his own artistic vocation.
Early Life in Florence. Michelangelo’s father, now a minor Florentine official with connections to the ruling Medici family, placed his 13-year-old son in the workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. After about one year, Michelangelo went on to study at the sculpture school in the Medici gardens and shortly thereafter was invited into the household of Lorenzo de’ Medici *http://www. thais. it/scultura/sch00073. htm*, the Magnificent. There he had an opportunity to converse with the younger Medici, two of whom later became popes (Leo X and Clement VII).
He also became acquainted with such humanists as Marsilo Ficino and the poet Angelo Poliziano, frequent visitors to the Medici court. Michelangelo produced at least two relief sculptures by the time he was 16 years old, the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs (both 1489-92, Casa Buonarroti, Florence), which show that he had achieved a personal style at a precocious age. In Michelangelo’s personal diary he recounts his first two works: “My first work was a small bas-relief, The Madonna of the Stairs.
Mary, Mother of God, sits on the rock of the church. The child curls back into her body. She foresees his death, and his return on the stairway to heaven. “My second work, another small relief. My tutor read me the myth of the battle of the Lapiths against the Centaurs. The wild forces of Life, locked in heroic combat. “Already at 16, my mind was a battlefield: my love of pagan beauty, the male nude, at war with my religious faith. A polarity of themes and forms… one spiritual, the other earthly, I’ve kept these carvings on the walls of my studio to this very day.
His patron Lorenzo died in 1492; two years later Michelangelo fled Florence, when the Medici were temporarily expelled. His Studies of Anatomy During the years he spent in the Garden of San Marco, Michelangelo began to study human anatomy. In exchange for permission to study orpses, the prior of the church of Santo Spirito, Niccol Bichiellini, received a wooden Crucifix from Michelangelo. But his contact with the dead bodies caused problems with his health, obliging him to interrupt his activities periodically.
The Bolognese Period During the unstable rule of Piero, the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and shortly before the expulsion of the Medici from Florence, Michelangelo made a brief visit to Venice and then went to Bologna, where he stayed until 1495, as a guest of Francesco Aldrovandi. It was here in Bologna that the monk Girolamo Savonarola impressed upon Michelangelo his apocalyptic vision, which would later fuse with the artist’s own tragic sense of human destiny. First Roman Sojourn.
Michelangelo then went to Rome, where he was able to examine many newly unearthed classical statues and ruins. He soon produced his first large-scale sculpture, the over-life-size Bacchus *http://www.thais.it/scultura/sch00150. htm* (1496-98, Bargello, Florence). One of the few works of pagan rather than Christian subject matter made by the master, it rivaled ancient statuary, the highest mark of admiration in Renaissance Rome. Piet At about the same time, Michelangelo also did the marble Piet *http://www.istusrex.org/www1/citta/Bs-Pieta.jpg* (1498-1500), still in its original place in Saint Peter’s Basilica. One of the most famous works of art, the Pieta was probably finished before Michelangelo was 25 years old. The youthful Mary is shown seated majestically, holding the dead Christ across her lap, a theme borrowed from northern European art. Instead of revealing extreme grief, Mary is restrained, and her expression *images/mary-resign.jpg* is one of resignation.
Just days after it was placed in Saint Peter’s, Michelangelo overheard a pilgrim remark that the work was done by Christoforo Solari, a compatriot from Lombard. That night in a fit of rage, Michelangelo took hammer and chisel and placed the following inscription on the sash running across Mary’s breast in lapidary letters: MICHEL ANGELUS BONAROTUS FLORENT FACIBAT (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this). This is the only work that Michelangelo ever signed. Michelangelo later regretted his passionate outburst of pride and determined to never again sign a work of his hands.
The Piet, which many regard as the greatest work of sculpture ever created, inspired Giorgio Vasari to comment: “It would be impossible for any craftsman or sculptor no matter how brilliant ever to surpass he grace or design of this work, or try to cut and polish the marble with the skill that Michelangelo displayed. For the Pieta was a revelation of all the potentialities and force of the art of sculpture. Among the many beautiful features (including the inspired draperies) this is notably demonstrated by the body of Christ itself.
It would be impossible to find a body showing greater mastery of art and possessing more beautiful members, or a nude with more detail in the muscles, veins, and nerves stretched over their framework of bones, or a more deathly corpse. The lovely expression of the head, he harmony in the joints and attachments of the arms, legs, and trunk, and the fine tracery of the veins are all so wonderful that it is hard to believe that the hand of an artist could have executed this inspired and admirable work so perfectly and in so short a time.
It is certainly a miracle that a formless block of stone could ever have been reduced to a perfection that nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh. ” Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists, first published 1550, 2nd edition 1558. First Return to Florence. On August 4th, 1501, after several years of political confusion, a republic was once again proclaimed in Florence. The order established over the following four years received the unconditional support of Michelangelo. Also, during the same period, the artist clearly expressed his own political orientation, unlike in later work.
Twelve days after the proclamation of the republic, the Arte della Lana or Wool Guild, the wealthy corporation responsible for the maintenance and ornamentation of the Cathedral, commissioned him to sculpt a statue of David. David The high point of Michelangelo’s early style is the gigantic (4. 34 m/ 14. 24 ft) marble David *http://www.thais.it/scultura/sch00065. tm* (Accademia, Florence), which he produced between 1501 and 1504, after returning to Florence. The character of David and what he symbolizes, was perfectly in tune with Michelangelo’s patriotic feelings.
At the time, Florence was going through a difficult period, and its citizens had to be alert and mobilized to confront permanent threats. He used David as a model of heroic courage, in the hope that the Florentines would understand his message. This young Biblical hero demonstrated that inner spiritual strength can prove to be more effective than arms. His faith in God (“The Lord is my strength and my shield. ) enabled this young shepherd to overcome Israel’s enemies, using a mere sling, which is the only element in the composition enabling us to identify the mythical figure of David.
Michelangelo chose to represent David as an athletic, manly character, very concentrated and ready to fight. The extreme tension is evident in his worried look *http://www.thais.it/scultura/sch00066. htm* and in his right hand, holding a stone. The meaning of this David becomes fully clear if we take into consideration the historical circumstances of its creation. Michelangelo was devoted to the Republic, and wanted ach citizen to become aware of his responsibilities and commit himself to accomplishing his duty.
Michelangelo wrote in his diaries: “When I returned to Florence, I found myself famous. The City Council asked me to carve a colossal David from a nineteen-foot block of marble — and damaged to boot! I locked myself away in a workshop behind the cathedral, hammered and chiseled at the towering block for three long years. In spite of the opposition of a committee of fellow artists, I insisted that the figure should stand before the Palazzo Vecchio, as a symbol of our Republic. I had my way. Archways were torn down, narrow streets widened… ook forty men five days to move it. Once in place, all Florence was astounded. A civic hero, he was a warning… whoever governed Florence should govern justly and defend it bravely. Eyes watchful… the neck of a bull… hands of a killer… the body, a reservoir of energy. He stands poised to strike. ” With this statue Michelangelo proved to his contemporaries that he not only surpassed all modern artists, but also the Greeks and Romans, by infusing formal beauty with powerful expressiveness and meaning.
Michelangelo, The Painter While still occupied with the David, Michelangelo was given an opportunity to demonstrate his bility as a painter with the commission of a mural, the Battle of Cascina, destined for the Sala dei Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio, opposite Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari. Neither artist carried his assignment beyond the stage of a cartoon, a full-scale preparatory drawing. Michelangelo created a series of nude and clothed figures in a wide variety of poses and positions that are a prelude to his next major project, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
From these years date the Bruges Madonna *images/bruges-madonna.jpg* (Notre Dame, Bruges) and the painted tondo of the Holy Family *http://musa. ffizi. firenze. it/Dipinti/michdoni25. html* (Uffizi). The Last Judgement. The Commission The idea of commissioning an enormous fresco, the largest ever painted in that century, depicting the Last Judgment *http://www. christusrex. org/www1/sistine/40j-E.jpg*, was probably suggested to Clement VII by the traumatic events that were undermining the unity of Christians at the time.
After the pope’s death, on September 25, 1534, and only two days after Michelangelo’s arrival in Rome, his successor, Paul III Farnese confirmed the commission to Michelangelo, and in April 1535 scaffolding was put up in front of the ltar wall. All that had happened in the church in the years that preceded the Judgment, including the Reformation and the Sack of Rome, had a direct influence on the work’s conception: painted on the altar wall, the Last Judgment was to represent humanity face to face with salvation. The Scandal Even before its official unveiling, the Judgment became the target of violent criticisms of a moral character.
Vasari relates that Biagio da Cesena, the Vatican’s master of Ceremonies, said that “it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing hemselves so shamefully, and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns. ” *images/biago.jpg* *images/biago.jpg*Michelangelo was not slow to take his revenge: the poor Biagio *images/biago.jpg* was portrayed in hell, in the figure of Minos, “shown with a great serpent curled around his legs, among a heap of devils.
Others accused the painter of heresy. These included Pietro Aretino, who, in a famous letter, even called for the fresco’s destruction, the Dominican preacher Ambrogio Politi called Caterino, and Giovanni Andrea Gilio, who drew up a long statement of harges against Michelangelo in his Dialoghi. But the nudity of the figures worried neither Paul III nor his successor Julius III. It was not until January 1564, and therefore about a month before Michelangelo’s death, that the assembly of the Council of Trent took the decision to “amend” the fresco.
Summary *images/lostsoul. g*The Last Judgement, which Michelangelo finished in 1541 was the largest fresco of the Renaissance, it depicts Judgement Day. Christ, with a clap of thunder, puts into motion the inevitable separation, with the saved ascending on the left side of the painting and the damned *images/damned. pg* descending on the right into a Dantesque hell *images/charons-boat.jpg*. As was his custom, Michelangelo portrayed all the figures nude, but prudish draperies were added by another artist (who was dubbed the “breeches-maker”) a decade later, as the cultural climate became more conservative.
Michelangelo painted his own image in the flayed skin *images/flayed.jpg* of St. Bartholomew. Although he was also given another painting commission, the decoration of the Pauline Chapel in the 1540s, his main energies were directed toward architecture during this phase of his life. Michelangelo, The Architect The Campidoglio In 1538-39 lans were under way for the remodeling of the buildings surrounding the Campidoglio *http://www. tulane. edu/lester/images/Renaissance/Italian. Renaissance/L48.jpg*, the civic and political heart of the city of Rome.
Although Michelangelo’s program was not carried out until the late 1550s and not finished until the 17th century, he designed the Campidoglio around an oval shape, with the famous antique bronze equestrian statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the center. For the Palazzo dei Conservatori he brought a new unity to the public building faade, at the same time that he preserved raditional Roman monumentality. St. Peter’s Basilica Michelangelo’s crowning achievement as an architect was his work at St. Peter’s Basilica *http://www. christusrex. org/www1/citta/B-Pietro. g*, where he was made chief architect in 1546.
The building was being constructed according to Donato Bramante’s plan, but Michelangelo ultimately became responsible for the altar end of the building on the exterior and for the final form of its dome. Michelangelo was now in his seventies. However he accepted this mighty responsibility, maybe the heaviest he ever had to carry upon his shoulders. The Pope’s persistent demands were perhaps not the main reason why he accepted the burden: first of all, he considered it as a duty and a mission entrusted to him by God.
He had served popes all his life, and he wished to dedicate his last years to serving God. Thus, he wrote to his nephew Lionardo: “Many believe, — and I believe — that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him. ” Michelangelo would not accept any payment for this sacred task. He soon had to face his numerous enemies: he “Sangallo clan,” construction suppliers and contractors whose fraudulent practices Sangallo had always connived at. So, Michelangelo freed Saint Peter’s from thieves and bandits.
Since his very first visit to the site, he criticized the model designed by Sangallo, declaring that it had been blinded, devoid of light, that there were too many columns piled up on one on top of each other– and that with so many projections, pinnacle turrets and various fragments of all kinds, it looked more like a German edifice than a monument inspired by the Antiquity or even by a beautiful modern school. Furthermore, sserted the Master, it was possible to spare fifty years of construction time and save over three hundred thousand ducats of expense.
I spend my days supervising the construction of St. Peter’s. The Vatican’s financial superintendent keeps harassing me for a progress report. My response: your lordship, I am not obliged to, nor do I intend to, tell you anything. Your job is to keep the money rolling in, and out of the hands of thieves. I will see to the building. ” The architect Piero Ligorio had just entered Paul IV’s service. He began to torment Michelangelo again, repeating everywhere that he was growing senile. His intrigues made the sculptor furious.
He wished to return to Florence, and was about to do so, but Giorgio Vasari wrote him again and encouraged him to pursue the building of Saint-Peter’s. Of course, Michelangelo felt the burden of old age; he often repeated that he had reached his last hour and that no thought was born in him where death did not figure. Thus, in one of his letters, he wrote: “So, Vasari, God wants me to encumber him for a few more years. I know you will tell me I am a crazy old man to write sonnets — but since many people say that I have become gaga, I have to live up to my reputation.
I can eel through your letter the affection you feel for me. Yes, I would like to move my old bones next to those of my father, as you beseech me to do. But if I left Rome, I would feel guilty of dooming Saint Peter’s to failure, and that would be a great shame and a deadly sin. When enough of the construction is done and nothing can be changed to it any more, I hope to follow your advice — when it is no longer important to frustrate the appetites of those who hope that I will leave soon. ” The Rondanini Pieta Mentioned by Vasari in his first edition in 1550, it was therefore begun before that date.
According to Blaise de Vigenre, a French traveler, who saw Michelangelo work on this statue that very year, the sculptor (who was in his seventies and not very robust) chipped off more splinters from a very hard lump of marble, than three young stone-cutters in triple the time. He attacked the stone with such fiery energy that one expected to see the block shattered to pieces. With one blow he sent chips three to four fingers thick flying into the air, and penetrated to a point indicated by a drilling with such precision that he might have destroyed the whole stone, had he cut slightly deeper into it.
Thanks to Condivi, we now for sure that he was still working on this group in 1553. In his second edition, Vasari reports: “At this time (1556), Michelangelo was working at it almost every day: it was like a hobby for him. He ended up breaking the block, probably because the latter was full of impurities and so hard that sparks flew from under his chisel; perhaps also because his self-criticism was so ruthless that he was never satisfied with what he had done.
Indeed, to tell the truth, he rarely completed the works of his old age when he had reached the peak of maturity in his creative power. The only completely finished culptures date back to the early period of his career. ” Here are Michelangelo’s last words concerning his final masterpiece: “the course of my life has finally reached In its fragile boat, over stormy seas The common port where we must account For all our past actions. No painting or sculpture can quiet my soul, Now turned to the Divine Love that opens To embrace me in His arms. For ten years of sleepless nights, I’ve been designing a Pieta. The body of our Lord was too heavy with death to be held up by his old Mother.
His head… too earthy with matter, too real… so I cut away the Lord’s head and shoulders, eaving only his arm as a model for a new one, and carved a new head from the Virgin’s shoulder. He backs inward to fuse with his Mothers’s body, as she bends forward to raise him up. Mother and Son, the Living and the Dead, become One – Death becomes a Resurrection.
Michelangelo who could no longer sleep, got up at night to work with his chisel. As he used to do in the past, he had made himself a cardboard helmet upon which he fixed a candle to light up his work and keep his hands free. As he grew old, he wished more and more to be alone. He needed solitude, and when Rome was fast asleep, he ought refuge in nightly labor. Silence was a blessing to him and night was his friend. “I live alone and miserable, trapped as marrow under the bark of the tree.
My voice is like a wasp caught in a bag of skin and bones. My teeth shake and rattle like the keys of a musical instrument. My face is a scarecrow. My ears never cease to buzz. In one of them, a spider weaves its web, in the other one, a cricket sings all night long. My rattling catarrh won’t let me sleep. This is the state where art has led me, after granting me glory. Poor, old, beaten, I will be reduced to nothing, if death does not come swiftly to my rescue. Pains have quartered me, torn me, broken me and death is the only inn awaiting me.
Michelangelo’s Achievements During his long lifetime, Michelangelo was an intimate of princes and popes, from Lorenzo de’ Medici to Leo X, Clement VIII, and Pius III (1439-1503), as well as cardinals, painters, and poets. Neither easy to get along with nor easy to understand, he expressed his view of himself and the world even more *http://scriptorium. lib. duke. edu/mazzoni/exhibit/treasures/B56. html* than in the other arts. Much of his verse deals with art and the hardships he underwent, or with Neoplatonic philosophy and personal relationships.
The great Renaissance poet Ludovico Ariosto wrote succinctly of this famous artist: “Michelangelo was widely awarded the epithet ‘divine’ because of his extraordinary accomplishments”. Two generations of Italian painters and sculptors were impressed by his treatment of the human figure: Raphael, Annabale Carracci, Pontormo, Rosso Fiorention, Sebastiano del Piombo, and Titian. His dome for St. Peter’s became the symbol of authority, as well as the model, for domes all over the Western world; the majority of state capitol buildings in the U. S. , as well as the Capitol in Washington, D. C. , are derived from it.