There is hardly a person in the world who has never heard the name of the outstanding Italian artist, Michelangelo Buonarroti. This name is most often associated with the masterpieces of Renaissance sculpture, especially the sculpture called David. Michelangelo belongs to the group of the three giants of the Florentine High Renaissance. He stands in the one row with such personalities as Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. They worked during the same epoch and treated one another as rivals. It is possible to say that this unspoken competition helped these artists reveal their entire potential. We know Michelangelo as the greatest sculptor. However, this personality was a remarkable painter, architect, engineer and poet. He is the creator of the greatest sculptures and buildings of all time; therefore, this artist is worth your attention.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born on 6 March 1475 in Tuscany. His family had owned several banks for several generations but his father failed to preserve the financial condition of his bank; thus, he had to occupy public positions from time to time. After Michelangelo’s birth, the family moved to Florence. His mother died when he was 6 years old and he was raised by his nanny in Settignano. I can say that this place influenced Michelangelo’s future a lot. His father owner a marble quarry there and the little boy obtained his love to stone. He observed the work of stonecutters every day and it fascinated him considerably. No wonder, the young man decided to apply for the workshop of Ghirlandaio brothers. One of them, Domenico, was an expert in perspective, portraying, painting and figure drawing. He was supposed to be the best master in Florence. Without question, Michelangelo’s father protested against such a ‘low’ occupation of his son. However, he understood that the young man was very talented and he supported his idea of becoming an artist. Among the earliest sculptures created by Michelangelo in the workshop were Madonna of the Steps and Battle of the Centaurs and Crucifix. In 1498, the young artist received the order from the French Cardinal to create Pietà for St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. This sculpture represents Mary holding the body of Jesus after Crucifixion. Pietà belongs to the list of the most noteworthy works of Michelangelo.
Very soon, the young man began studying anatomy in order to cut human figures. In 1499, he moved to Florence. In 1504, Michelangelo finished his most famous work, David. This stature is considered to be the representative of the entire Italian Renaissance. David made Michelangelo very famous. The young artist was invited to Rome by Pope Julius II in order to build the Pope’s tomb. The entire work lasted for more than forty years inasmuch as Michelangelo had to fulfil many other tasks in Rome. The artist had to cut the composition of forty figures. The most renowned statue of that composition is Moses that impresses with its original presentation. One of the most well-known works of that period was the decoration of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. The artist spent more than four years to finish it. It will not be a mistake to say that Michelangelo’s work was colossal there. The entire composition on the ceiling covers about 500 square meters and contains 300 figures from various scenes of the Bible. The most famous elements on the ceiling are The Creation of Adam and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. These paintings are the masterpieces and the brightest examples of Renaissance. Many further artists (Rubens among them) followed Michelangelo’s style whereas his approach towards painting is treated like classical.
In 1534, Pope Clement VII planned to paint the scene of The Last Judgement on the altar of the Sistine Chapel. Shortly after his death, the new Pope Paul III recommended Michelangelo for this job. The artist accepted this offer, designed the plan of the project and spent five years to finish it. The Last Judgement was very controversial forasmuch Michelangelo painted too many naked figures. Four centuries ago, this approach was severely criticized by the clergy. In 1546, Michelangelo became the main architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. He designed its project and created a few frescos for it.
Michelangelo Buonarroti died in 1564 in Rome when he was 88. His legacy cannot be overestimated. The artist worked for nine Popes and gained his fame during his lifetime. He was the first Western European artist whose biography was written when he was still alive.
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