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Michelangelo Buonarroti

1475-1564

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti was of noble birth, but was not raised by his parents.  His father had him brought up by a stone carver and his wife, because his own wife was too ill to take care of the child.  While living with his surrogate parents, young Michelangelo learned the skills that would serve him throughout his life., but his father was displeased when his son told him he wanted to be an artist, and it took much convincing for Michelangelo to be permitted to further his apprenticeship.

Michelangelo went on to study sculpture at Medici gardens, where, like Leonardo da Vinci, his talent was allowed to flourish by Lorenzo de Medici, patron of the arts, and ruler of Florence, who introduced him to the great thinkers of the renaissance.

Following his sojourn at Medici gardens, Michelangelo went to Bologna, then to Rome, where he saw the impressive marble statues which he would later echo in his own works.  Upon his return, he set out to create his first complete sculpture, as statue of  Mary holding Jesus' lifeless body, known as La Pietą.  His first large scale commissioned work was the statue of Bacchus for a sculpture garden.

Shortly thereafter, he created one of his most important works, the statue of  David,  a commissioned piece symbolizing the liberation of the republic of Florence.  Michelangelo truly had achieved fame as an artist, and his talent became sought after by Pope Julius II, who asked him to embark on a very demanding artistic journey, a commission to paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel in the Vatican.

At first, Michelangelo, who had been busy painting frescos in Pope Julius' tomb, refused his successor's request, feeling that the undertaking of such a monumental task would take him away from his first love, that of sculpture, but the Pope insisted, and his word prevailed.

Ironically, Michelangelo's work on the chapel ceiling far exceeded the original outline of the commission, which called for twelve paintings instead, he covered the entire ceiling with over 300 figures, from The Creation of Adam to Noah and the great Deluge.  It is interesting to note that the Pope did not object to the large amount of nude figures in the paintings.  Michelangelo's portrayal of women has also been the subject of speculation as to his sexual preference, as his depiction of Eve shows her as having very masculine features.

The next big commission for Michelangelo came when he was asked to paint the altar wall by Pope Clement VII, shortly before his death.  The fresco in question was that of  The Last Judgment, a vivid rendition of the Apocalypse and of Heaven and Hell.  In a comic twist, Biagio da Cesena, the master of ceremonies for the Vatican, who had denounced Michelangelo's use of nude figures as inappropriate, was cast by Michelangelo as Minos walking through Hell, a serpent biting his genitalia.  Michelangelo himself appears on the fresco as the flayed skin of St-Bartholomew, and in the lower left hand corner, as one of the damned, looking earnestly at the dead, rising from their graves.

The Sistine chapel was to be the last of Michelangelo's paintings, with his focus returning to his first love, that of sculpting.  Later, shortly before his death, it was decided that Michelangelo's nude figures would be censored, their sexes draped in cloth by an extra layer of paint.

"A man paints with his brains and not with his hands."
Michelangelo

 

 

 

 

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