One of the truly great Renaissance men was a man named Michelangelo (Orange Ninja Turtle!) Michelangelo designed, sculpted and painted some of the greatest works on display today in the world. (If you ask me he had too much free time!)
Here we will have a look at the life of such a great Renaissance man!
The Rise of Michelangelo
Michelangelo was born near Florence in 1475. The son of a minor noble, Michelangelo at 13 was apprenticed to the workshop of Master Ghirlandaio where he learned the basics of his art, showing a special interest in sculpture. He studied the sculptures of Donatello, another famous Florentine sculptor and admired his work. He was invited to the school of sculpture set up by Lorenzo de Medici. Lorenzo treated Michelangelo like a son, making him part of the Medici family!
Michelangelo’s Famous Works
Michelangelo is regarded as one of the greatest sculptor’s of all time! After his training, he went to Rome where he was asked by a cardinal to
Create the most beautiful work in marble to exist in Rome”
Michelangelo achieved this by sculpting his first masterpiece: “The Pieta”
Michelangelo claimed that the block of Carrara marble he used to work on this was the most “perfect” block he ever used, and he would go on to polish and refine this work more than any other statue he created.
The scene of the Pieta shows the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ after his crucifixion, death, and removal from the cross, but before he was placed in the tomb. This is one of the key events from the life of the Virgin, known as the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which were the subject of Catholic devotional prayers. The subject matter was one which would have probably been known by many people, but in the late fifteenth century it was depicted in artworks more commonly in France and Germany than in Italy.
This was a special work of art even in the Renaissance because at the time, multi-figured sculptures were rare. These two figures are carved so as to appear in a unified composition which forms the shape of a pyramid, something that other Renaissance artists (e.g. Leonardo) also favored.
The Pieta became famous right after it was carved. Other artists started looking at it because of its greatness, and Michelangelo’s fame spread. Since the artist lived another six decades after carving the Pieta, he witnessed the reception of the work by generations of artists and patrons through much of the sixteenth century.
Statue of David
After Michelangelo completed Pieta, he returned to Florence where he was asked to carve a large block of marble that had been damaged by a previous sculptor. Out of this, Michelangelo created the Statue of David. This was the largest free-standing statue since Roman times. The sculpture represented the glory of Florence, so it was placed in front of the town hall for everyone to see. The sculpture has since been replaced by a model statue while the original is housed in a museum for preservation reasons.
Michelangelo the Painter
Michelangelo always preferred sculpture to painting, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t any good at painting! He was called back to Rome by Pope Julius II. The Pope wanted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to be given a lick of paint so he figured with all his money, why not try this famous Michelangelo! The fresco took Michelangelo Four Years to complete! The fresco tells the story of the Old Testament from the Creation of the world to the Flood. Other important scenes include the Creation of Adam and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Michelangelo made over 200 drawings for the scenes on the ceiling. He arched his neck backwards as he painted standing on the scaffold.
My brush above my face continually,
Makes it a splendid floor by dripping down.
The Pope, who felt the work was taking too long often interrupted Michelangelo. In spite of all his difficulties, Michelangelo kept going. He noted in his journal:
I work harder than any man who ever lived
When the painting was finished, people were in awe and in admiration for such masterful work.
Michelangelo also painted The Last Judgement behind the altar of the Chapel. Originally, the figures were nude but their was such outcry that he painted clothes on them!
Michelangelo the Architect!
Didn’t I tell you this guy had way too much free time!!
Anyway…. Michelangelo also contributed to the building of St.Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican city. He designed the dome but did not live to see it’s completion. He died in 1564 at the age of 89. He was originally buried in Rome but Florence laid claim to him also. One night, his body was stolen and smuggled out of Rome. He was laid to rest in Florence where he was buried with full honours.
Michelangelo was considered to be one of the greatest geniuses of the Renaissance. According to a fellow artists Vasari, he was the Artist who “surpasses them all”.
So there you go, Michelangelo was an all rounder!! He pretty much could do anything he set his mind to! (lucky sod!!)
For more on the Renaissance, keep it here at The Áed