WHO WAS MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI?

michelangelo Michelangelo Buonarroti was a sculptor, painter, and architect, easily considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, and easily a candidate for one of the greatest artists of all time. His work was a brilliant blend of physical realism, psychological insight, and intensity that had never really been grasped at the time (and indeed, remains difficult to approach to this day). His works are the absolute definition of masterpieces and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the statue of David, are truly immortal works that will stand the test of time.

Michelangelo Buonarroti Biography

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, near Arezzo, Tuscany. For generations, his family had lived and worked as bankers in Florence, but eventually, this enterprise failed, and his father took on a government posting when Michelangelo was born.  His mother took ill and unfortunately passed away in 1481, when he was only six years old, and lived with a nanny and her husband, who was a stonecutter in the town of Settignano. It is from this early age that Michelangelo gained an appreciation for crafting marble, which we can even hear from his own mouth:

“If there is some good in me, it is because I was born in the subtle atmosphere of your country of Arezzo. Along with the milk of my nurse, I received the knack of handling chisel and hammer, with which I make my figures.”

Michelangelo Buonarroti turned to school but found himself less interested in studies than in watching painters at nearby churches, and drawing what he saw there.  Eventually, he was introduced to and apprenticed under painter Domenico Ghirlandaio at the age of thirteen.

While still an apprentice and still learning from his master Domenico, as well as studying at the Humanist Academy, Lorenze de’Medici, the ruler of Florence, asked Ghirlandaio for his two best apprentices and named Michelangelo as one.  At this time, Michelangelo sculpted the reliefs Madonna of the Steps (1490–1492) and Battle of the Centaurs (1491–1492), the latter of which commissioned by Medici himself.

With the death of his patron Medici in 1492, Michelangelo left the Medici court and returned to his father’s home.

Career Highlights

While Michelangelo Buonarroti had significant success throughout his career, making various masterworks from almost every period of life, it was in 1497 that Michelangelo created the Pieta which is a work of sculpted marble depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the crucifixion.

Interestingly enough, this piece of work shows no signs of Jesus’ Passion. The marks of Christ’s trials are limited to minuscule nail marks and an indication of a wound in Jesus’ side. Saying of the piece, Michelangelo commented that he did not want the Pieta to represent death, but rather to “show the religious vision of abandonment and a serene face of the son of God.”

http://www.accademia.org/explore-museum/artworks/michelangelos-david/David was also produced during this time and was finished in 1504 by the young artist. It depicts the biblical hero of David, who was a favored subject in Florence at the time. It went on to symbolize more than just a biblical hero and was soon expressing defense of civil liberties embodied in the Republic at the time, which was an independent city-state surrounded by more powerful entities at the time.

David is interesting because of its interesting use for the character at the time – previous incarnations of the figure are usually post-fight with Goliath, rendering the hero triumphant in combat, but Michelangelo’s David looks pensive and almost hesitant before his encounter with the monster.

Between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as well, probably his most famous effort. Pope Julius II conceived this enormous effort, and its painted elements combine to form a large scheme of decorations that tell foundational stories of the Christian faith. This includes nine scenes from the book of Genesis, the Twelve Prophetic figures, Ancestors of Christ, the Pendentives, and the Ignudi.

Creating the Chapel Ceiling was obviously a monumental task, and Michelangelo gained complete fame from doing it – as well as directly influencing a host of other artists with the same work.  Raphael, for instance, being a key figure.

Fun Facts

  • Pieta is his only work that he had ever signed. The story goes that Michelangelo overheard someone saying that the work was sculpted by someone else, chiseled his name into it, then immediately regretted the decision, swearing never to sign another work.
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti and da Vinci felt “an intense dislike for each other,” most assuredly because of their strong and passionate, independent personalities.
  • Michelangelo carved David from a discarded block of marble when he was only 26 years old. He told others that he believed that the figure of David already existed within the block, and he needed to free it from its prison.
  • Michelangelo was a prolific poet who wrote over three hundred poems during his life, many of which were sonnets he wrote to his close friend Vittoria Colonna.
  • Michelangelo was the wealthiest artist of his time since most of his patrons were exceptionally rich – Pope Julius II, for instance, invested widely and successfully in property and had more than enough funds to enlist the work of Michelangelo.

Concluding Thoughts

As one of the most prominent artists of all time and held up to the same standards and images of greatness like Shakespeare or Beethoven, Michelangelo Buonarroti shows us the tragic depth of the human experience in great depth and with an all-encompassing universality which remains applicable hundreds of years later. He has influenced countless artists and movements, and his masterworks have gained an immortality that has gone beyond the art world and into the mainstream – like the contemporaneous Mona Lisa, everyone has seen David and Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Musart is honored to feature the works of the great master and present him with all reverence and respect.

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