Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni popularly known as michelangelo was born march 6, 1475 in Caprese, Republic of Florence Italy, died February 18, 1564, Rome, Papal State. Michelangelo is an Italian Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, and poet who applied an unmatched influence on the development of Western art.
Michelangelo was viewed as the best living artist in his lifetime, and as far back as then he has been held to be perhaps the best artist ever. Some of his works in painting, sculpture, and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. In spite of the fact that the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Vatican; see below) are probably the most popular of his works today, the artist thought of himself essentially as a sculptor. His practice of several arts, however, was not irregular in his time, when every one of them were thought of as based on design, or drawing. Michelangelo worked in marble sculpture for his entire life and in different arts just during specific periods. The high respect for the Sistine ceiling is incompletely an impression of the more prominent attention paid to painting in the twentieth century and halfway, as well, on the grounds that huge numbers of the artist’s works in other media remain incomplete.
A side effect of Michelangelo’s fame in his lifetime was that his career was more fully documented than that of any artist of the time or earlier. He was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive.
Early Life And Works Of Micheangelo
Michelangelo Buonarroti was born to a family that had for several generations had a place with minor respectability in Florence yet had, when the artist was conceived, lost its patrimony and status. His dad had just occasional government jobs, and at the time of Michelangelo’s introduction to the world he was administrator of the small dependent town of Caprese. A couple of months after however, the family came back to its permanent residence in Florence. It was something of a downward social step to turn into an artist, and Michelangelo turned into an apprentice generally late, at 13, maybe in the wake of defeating his dad’s objection. He was apprenticed to the city’s most noticeable painter, Domenico Ghirlandaio, for a three-year term, yet he left after one year, having (Condivi recount) nothing more to learn. A few drawings, copies of figures by Ghirlandaio and older extraordinary painters of Florence, Giotto and Masaccio, survive from this stage; such copying was standard for apprentice, but few examples are known to survive. Clearly gifted, he was taken under the wing of the leader of the city, Lorenzo de’ Medici, known as the Magnificent. Lorenzo surrounded himself with poets and scholarly people, and Michelangelo was incorporated. More important, he approached the Medici art collection, which was dominated by fragments of old Roman statuary. (Lorenzo was not such a supporter of contemporary art as legend has made him; such modern art as he possessed was to ornament his home or to make political statements.) The bronze sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni, a Medici friend who was responsible for the collection, was the closest he had to a teacher of sculpture, yet Michelangelo didn’t pursue his medium or in any major way his approach. Still, one of the two marble works that survive from the artist’s first years is a variation on the composition of an ancient Roman sarcophagus, and Bertoldo had produced a similar one in bronze. This composition is the Battle of the Centaurs (c. 1492). The action and power of the figures foretell the artist’s later interests much more than does the Madonna of the Stairs (c. 1491), a delicate low relief that reflects recent fashions among such Florentine sculptors as Desiderio da Settignano.
Florence was at this time regarded as the leading centre of art, producing the best painters and sculptors in Europe, and the competition among artists was stimulating. The city was, however, less able than earlier to offer large commissions, and leading Florentine-born artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Leonardo’s teacher, Andrea del Verrocchio, had moved away for better opportunities in other cities. The Medici were overthrown in 1494, and even before the end of the political turmoil Michelangelo had left.
In Bologna he was hired to succeed a recently deceased sculptor and carve the last small figures required to complete a grand project, the tomb and shrine of St. Dominic (1494–95). The three marble figures are original and expressive. Departing from his predecessor’s fanciful agility, he imposed seriousness on his images by a compactness of form that owed much to Classical antiquity and to the Florentine tradition from Giotto onward. This emphasis on seriousness is also reflected in his choice of marble as his medium, while the accompanying simplification of masses is in contrast to the then more usual tendency to let representations match as completely as possible the texture and detail of human bodies. To be sure, although these are constant qualities in Michelangelo’s art, they often are temporarily abandoned or modified because of other factors, such as the specific functions of works or the stimulating creations of other artists. This is the case with Michelangelo’s first surviving large statue, the Bacchus, produced in Rome (1496–97) following a brief return to Florence. (A wooden crucifix, recently discovered, attributed by some scholars to Michelangelo and now housed in the Casa Buonarroti in Florence, has also been proposed as the antecedent of the Bacchus in design by those who credit it as the artist’s work.) The Bacchus relies on ancient Roman nude figures as a point of departure, but it is much more mobile and more complex in outline. The conscious instability evokes the god of wine and Dionysian revels with extraordinary virtuosity. Made for a garden, it is also unique among Michelangelo’s works in calling for observation from all sides rather than primarily from the front.
The Bacchus led at once to the commission (1498) for the Pietà, now in St. Peter’s Basilica. The name refers not (as is often presumed) to this specific work but to a common traditional type of devotional image, this work being today the most famous example. Extracted from narrative scenes of the lamentation after Christ’s death, the concentrated group of two is designed to evoke the observer’s repentant prayers for sins that required Christ’s sacrificial death. The patron was a French cardinal, and the type was earlier more common in northern Europe than in Italy. The complex problem for the designer was to extract two figures from one marble block, an unusual undertaking in all periods. Michelangelo treated the group as one dense and compact mass as before so that it has an imposing impact, yet he underlined the many contrasts present—of male and female, vertical and horizontal, clothed and naked, dead and alive—to clarify the two components.
The artist’s prominence, established by this work, was reinforced at once by the commission (1501) of the David for the cathedral of Florence. For this huge statue, an exceptionally large commission in that city, Michelangelo reused a block left unfinished about 40 years before. The modeling is especially close to the formulas of classical antiquity, with a simplified geometry suitable to the huge scale yet with a mild assertion of organic life in its asymmetry. It has continued to serve as the prime statement of the Renaissance ideal of perfect humanity. Although the sculpture was originally intended for the buttress of the cathedral, the magnificence of the finished work convinced Michelangelo’s contemporaries to install it in a more prominent place, to be determined by a commission formed of artists and prominent citizens. They decided that the David would be installed in front of the entrance of the Palazzo dei Priori (now called Palazzo Vecchio) as a symbol of the Florentine Republic.
On the side Michelangelo produced in the same years (1501–04) several Madonnas for private houses, the staple of artists’ work at the time. These include one small statue, two circular reliefs that are similar to paintings in suggesting varied levels of spatial depth, and the artist’s only easel painting. While the statue (Madonna and Child) is blocky and immobile, the painting (Holy Family) and one of the reliefs (Madonna and Child with the Infant St. John) are full of motion; they show arms and legs of figures interweaving in actions that imply movement through time.