Michelangelo Buonarroti

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered to be the greatest living artist during his lifetime, he has since also been described as one of the greatest artists of all time. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with contemporary rival and fellow Florentine Medici client, Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo di Ludovico Buonarroti Simoni was the third of the five sons of Lodovico di Buonarroti Simoni and of Francesca di Neri di Miniato del Sera. After returning to Florence, the place where his family came from, Michelangelo was left in the care of a nurse. The nurse being the daughter and wife of a stonemason, has inspired little Michelangelo the love for marble. This early passion made him abandon school, even though his parents wanted him to study grammar and to devote to humanities. Due to his friend, painter Francesco Granacci, Michelangelo discovers painting and in 1488, he is given to apprenticeship in the most famous painting workshop in Florence, belonging to Domenico Ghirlandaio. At that time, Michelangelo together with his brother, David, have executed the frescoes of the Santa Maria Novella Church.

Michelangelo will live at the de Medici family in the years 1489-1492. During this time, he realizes 2 important works, “Battle of the Centaurs” and “Madonna della Scala”. After the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent, he leaves the palace and returns to his parental home.

He returns to Florence in 1495, along with the restoration of peace, and while Savonarola condemned in his sermons luxury and immorality, Michelangelo made a sculpture, called “Il bambino”. In 1496, he went for the first to Rome, where he received several sculpture orders from Cardinal Riario and banker Jacopo Galli including “Bacchus”. Michelangelo Buonarroti sculpts the famous “Pietà” for the Basilica San Pietro, whose beauty will make the artist’s contemporaries to recognize his genius. In 1501, upon his return to Florence, he sculpts the “Statue of David” and other works of sculpture and painting, including “Tondo Doni” and “Tondo Pitti”, which aroused the admiration of his countrymen.

In 1505, Pope Julius II called him to Rome, giving him the order to accomplish a monumental mausoleum, in which the architecture could blend, in the classical manner, with sculpture. He spends 8 months in Carrara to choose the best marble blocks. On this project he will work with interruptions, for four decades, perfecting it only in 1545. Also, Pope Julius II commissioned Buonarroti in 1508 to paint the vault of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace, a gigantic project at which Michelangelo will work for four years.

Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel

 

Creation - Adam
Creation – Adam

 

Pietà, made by Michelangelo at the age of 24 years old, in 1499, is far away from the traditional way of representing the Virgin Mary, which appears as a very young woman, with immaculate features. Her suffering ennobles love and beauty. With a remarkable pain, her head is slightly bent, while holding tragically in her arms her son’s inert body that seems to flow like a wave on her knees. The sculpture has proven to be a masterpiece of the genre and his contemporaries immediately recognized the genius of the artist.

Pieta
Pieta

Other sculptural works of Michelangelo are “Moses” (in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome), “Dying Slave” and “Chained Slave” (made for the mausoleum of Pope Julius II, now in the Louvre Museum of Paris), the group of statues “Day and Night”, “Dawn and Dusk” at the tomb of Giuliano de Medici, Il Pensioroso (the Thinker) depicting Lorenzo the Magnificent, the “Group of slaves” (the so-called “Giants”) and other unfinished sculptures located at the Academy Museum in Florence. The last sculptures with the theme of the Pietà differ from those from his youth through an impressive dramatism.

The openly homoerotic nature of the poetry was a source of discomfort to later generations. Michelangelo’s grandnephew, Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, published the poems in 1623 with the gender of pronouns changed, and it was not until John Addington Symonds translated them into English in 1893 that the original genders were restored. Even in modern times some scholars continue to insist that, despite the restoration of the pronouns, they represent “an emotionless and elegant re-imagining of Platonic dialogue, whereby erotic poetry was seen as an expression of refined sensibilities”.

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