Michelangelo was one of the most noted artists in 16th century Europe, whose work had an unparalleled influence on Western Art and whose ideology is known to have inspired the advent of Mannerism, which was the next biggest movement in the art world after Renaissance. His work is considered an integral part of Italian Renaissance Art.
Nickname: Il Divino
Date of Birth: 6th March, 1475
Place of Birth: Caprese, Republic of Florence (Present Day Tuscany, Italy)
Profession: Painter, Sculptor, Architect, Poet, Engineer
Known for: Famous Artist of Medieval Europe
Childhood and Growing Years
The second of five brothers, Michelangelo was born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni to father Ludovico di Leonardo di Buonarotto Simoni, who was a local magistrate and mother Francesca di Neri del Miniato di Siena. His lineage was a noble Florentine family of moderate wealth. He was raised in Florence, and his mother finally passed away in 1481 after battling a long illness when he was only 6 years old. Even before her death, he was nursed by the wife of a sculptor, and he moved in with the stonecutter’s family after his mother’s death. He was quoted to have said that it was here that he learnt how use a hammer and a chisel, which were his tools with which he made all his later sculptures. He was a quiet child who preferred a life of solitude.
Though his father made him go for schooling, he was least interested in studying anything except the paintings in local churches, which he used to try and replicate. His announcement to apprentice with Domenico Ghirlandaio (a painter) in 1488 which his shocked his father, as it was then considered most inappropriate and usual to want to be an artist. His father tried to dissuade him from doing it, but Michelangelo was persistent, and finally started his apprenticeship in the year 1489, when he was 14 years old. It was here that he found patronage in the household of Lorenzo de’ Medici, and studied the nuances of sculpture under the famed Bertoldo di Giovanni. It was during this time that he painted the famous Madonna of the Stairs (1490–1492) to be followed by Battle of the Centaurs (1491-1492), both of which were sponsored by the Medici family.
Claim to Fame
After the expulsion of the Medici Family from Florence, Michelangelo worked time and again in Florence, but the constant political upheavals did not appeal to him, and he only worked there sporadically.
He left Florence in 1494 and spent two years touring Venice and Bologna, absorbing the essence and culture of those cities. He then went to Rome in June, 1496 where he almost immediately started work on his first large-scale sculpture of Bacchus, a Roman wine god.
He was then commissioned in November 1497 by the Vatican to sculpt what would later be known as one of his most famous works – the Pieta. It was a depiction of Jesus after his crucification, lying in the lap of his mother Mary, and took nearly a year to complete. It was a very complex structure as it was a sculptural problem to depict two people in that position. He was just 24 at the time, and created one of the most beautiful and complex sculptures of all time which earned him widespread fame and recognition.
He returned to Florence in 1501, where he was now famous for his work on Pieta, the new government in Florentine commissioned him to carve a colossal David, which was in tune with Michelango’s patriotic feelings. The David was to be a symbol of independence and resistance. This task was made more difficult by the fact that the marble which he was given, had already been worked on by Agostino di Duccio 40 years earlier. Arguably, this was his most famous work of art, which managed to infuse beauty and strength and emotion and a hidden meaning into a sculpture.
In 1504, both Michelangelo, and his rival Leornado da Vinci were commissioned to work on the opposite walls of the Grand Council Chamber in Palazzo Vechhio, which was the seat of the government in Florence. Michelangelo was to work on the depiction of the Battle of Cascina and Leornado on the Battle of Anghiari. Both these works were left incomplete.
Michelangelo abandoned his work in Florence in 1505, when he was asked by Pope Julius II to design his tomb. This was an enormous undertaking, and his work on this project was constantly interrupted, and though he finished only 3 of the intended 40 figures, this project dominated most of his time for the rest of his life. The 3 figurines he worked on were Moses, Dying Slave and the Rebellious Slave (which was left unfinished). In 1508, he undertook the responsibility of painting Sistine Chapel Ceiling. This work was finally completed in 1512, after four years.
He worked in Florence for over a decade (1520-1535) under the Medici popes, on chapels and basilicas. His was passionate about his work, and it showed in his sculptures. His work had a sense of grandeur about it, which was appreciated by all. Though his paintings were some of the most noted masterpieces of all time, he was open in his preference for sculpture to painting.
In September 1534, he finally moved to Rome, where he stayed in peace for the rest of his days.
He was the first ever western artist to have had a biography published when he was still alive.
He was well known for his architectural prowess (like the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, The Medici Chapel in Florence and Laurentian Library) as well as his work as a painter (known for original masterpieces like ), besides his work in sculptures.
He died on 18th February, 1564 at the age of 89. He is currently buried at Florence. He is just as famous today (maybe even more so) as he was during his time. His works of art, sculptures and even poetry is held in high regard in the art world.
“A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it.”
“A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.”
“Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.”
“I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.”
“I live in sin, to kill myself I live; no longer my life my own, but sin’s; my good is given to me by heaven, my evil by myself, by my free will, of which I am deprived.”
“If we have been pleased with life, we should not be displeased with death, since it comes from the hand of the same master.”
“There is no greater harm than that of time wasted.”
“Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”