Michaelangelo - A Temper as Revered as His Talent
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564), was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect and occasional poet in the High Renaissance.
Remembered for his iconic works and also his notorious behaviour, he lived his life quite controversially. Leaving projects, having open affairs and fallouts were common to one of the most revered artists of all time.
A student of Greek and Roman sculpture, and cadavers, Michaelangelo was able to achieve a serene level of finesse which separated him from other sculptors of his time.
"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." - Michaelangelo
Born to a father who worked for the Florentine Government, the story of Michaelangelo is remarkable.
The Rise of Michaelangelo
Michaelangelo was the son of Leonardo di Buonarroti and Francesca di Neri del Miniato di Siena.
He grew up in Caprese, near Tuscany and while his father was aiding his ill mother, Michaelangelo would spend time with the family's nanny whose husband was a stonecutter.
Despite his father's disapproval, young Michaelangelo apprenticed with the painter, Domenico Ghirlandaio in 1488. However, Michaelangelo left after one year where it's said he had nothing more to learn.
Unbeknown to Michaelangelo, his next apprenticeship would change everything.
Michaelangelo and The Medici Family
He moved onto new ventures and became a student of classical sculpture under the powerful Medici family in their sculpture gardens.
This relationship with the Medici family proved to be crucial for Michaelangelo because he was able to traverse the upper echelons of Florentine society.
Now exposed to poets and scholars, it was here that Michaelangelo became an apprentice for Bertoldo di Giovanni, a respected sculpture artist.
Rarely given at the time, his freedom to explore cadavers had a great impact on his ability to almost bring to life the sculpts he did. However, there are other works Michaelangelo is famous for.
Famous Works by Michaelangelo
A man of many talents, it wasn't uncommon for artists to be well-versed in different disciplines.
Raphael, another famous painter from the High Renaissance, was a painter, architect and designer. you can read more about it here: Artist Spotlight: Raphael.
Even though Michelangelo was primarily a sculptor, he is renowned for his ability to create other iconic works, do you recognise them?
Sistine Chapel (1512)
The fresco paintings on the ceiling of The Sistine chapel is a sight to behold.
It's considered, by some, the greatest of all the High Renaissance paintings. It's hard to argue with, there are over 300 figures which describe stories in the Book of Genesis.
It starts from Noah and ends with lightness separating from the darkness. It took 4 years to complete and Michaelangelo is said to say that his health would never be the same!
Trivia - The Sistine Chapel attracts over 5 million visitors a year and generates around €80m for The Vatican each year.
This iconic sculpture depicts The Virgin Mary holding the body of Jesus after he died on the cross from crucifixion.
Known as one of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, Michaelangelo praised the piece of marble as the best had ever used.
Trivia - This work was completed when Michaelangelo was apprenticed with the Medici family and helped to launch his career.
David (1501- 1504)
One of Michaelangelo's greatest works. The subject, David, comes from the biblical story of David vs Goliath. Measuring a huge 5.16m high, it's 5,660 kg of solid marble.
Trivia - Michaelangelo actually took on the project after two other sculptors dropped out. Aged only 26, it was a perfect time to cement himself as one of the greats.
Usually, when this battle has been depicted, it shows David after defeating Goliath but Michaelangelo chose to show him before going into battle. What's interesting, is that David has been caught at the peak of his concentration.
There are copies of the statue too! one is in Piazza Della Signoria and the other is in Piazzale Michelangelo.
This one is located in Accademia Gallery, in Florence.
The Last Judgement (1536-1541)
Quite a fascinating piece. So, The Last Judgement has a lot going on but what's important to remember is that the story is taken from the bible and has Christ and The Virgin Mary centred.
The Last Judgement revolves around The Second Coming of Christ and the eternal judgement of God of humanity.
Michaelangelo followed convention by showing saved souls ascend on the left-hand side and the damned descend on the right - with angels and devils fighting to make them fall. For those who are saved, they enter heaven and are located at the top.
For those who are damned, they are ushered out of the boat and led to the infernal judge, Mino, who is wrapped in a snake.
Truly a thought-provoking painting, take a look and piece together the story!
Day, Dawn, Dusk and Night (1520-34)
When Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici were placed in a tomb, Michaelangelo created 4 sculptures which depict the different parts of the day with their own unique meaning.
Day - Quite a strong figure, it suggests numerous meanings from the figure feeling the weight of his body or looking backwards in fear rather than forward in hope.
Dusk - This is unfinished and is said to be Michaelangelo himself! This subject is also facing the Medici Madonna too.
Dawn - This sculpture captures the reaction from the woman to the emergence of light from darkness but in a position of grief. Why do you think?
Night - This sculpture portrays a woman in an uneasy sleep. This can suggest a multitude of things from the political tensions at the time or Giuliano de' Medici not earning his eternal rest.
Nothing worth having is easy and this can ring true for Michaelangelo. With a talent ahead of his time, his ability to not compromise on perfection has lead to works we still celebrate after 500 years.
The High Renaissance was an iconic time in Italy because the central hubs of Florence and Rome produced some of the greatest works of art ever seen. The Mona Lisa, Sistine Chapel, School of Athens and a score of others just illustrate how much of an impact that time period had on western art.
Living to the age of 88, Michaelangelo died after a short battle with an illness. His body was taken back to Florence - he considered himself a Florentine - and he was laid to rest in the Basilica di Santa Croce.
The public remembered him as a "Father and Master of All the Arts".
Do you think he's the greatest to ever live? Hit the share button and let us know!