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michelangelo

Artist: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
Born: 6 March 1475 (Caprese, Republic of Florence)
Died: 18 February 1564 (Rome, Papal States)
Nationality: Italian
Movements: High Renaissance
Most Prominent Works:
○ Madonna of the Stairs (1491),
○ Battle of the Centaurs (1492),
○ Manchester Madonna (c. 1497),
○ Pietà (1498-1499),
○ David (1501-1504),
○ Doni Tondo (1504-1506),
○ The Sistine Chapel Frescoes (1508-1512),
○ The Tomb of Julius II (1505-1545),
○ The Medici Chapel (1524-1527),
○ St. Peter’s Basilica (1547-1564).
Mediums: Sculpture, Painting and Poetry.

brief summary

Il Divino (“the divine one”), as Michelangelo had come to be known, is generally considered one of the greatest artists humanity has ever seen.  Already acclaimed during his lifetime as Europe’s greatest living artist, his accomplishments, pushed further by his rivalries with Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, were crucial for the triumph of art during the High Renaissance, and its subsequent development.

Significance

Throughout his lifetime, Michelangelo was called Il Divino (“the divine one”). viewed as the archetypal renaissance man, many of his paintings, sculptures, and architecture are considered to be some of the most significant works ever created. Despite his paintings in the Sistine Chapel being the most notorious of his works, the artist regarded himself, first and foremost, as a sculptor. Emancipated from the aesthetic conventions of the time from the beginning of his career, he was largely considered a modern artist for the time, due to his expressive nature. His early works, especially the Pietà (1498-1499) (commissioned for the Vatican) and David (1501-1504) (commissioned for the city of Florence), are already early testaments to his precocious skills; it was a notorious mastery that kept developing throughout his life. Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) who wrote one of his biographies, claimed that he was the greatest artist since the beginning of the renaissance. His various achievements and monumental works created throughout his lifetime, seem to validate his nickname Il Divino (The Divine).

Portrait of Michelangelo (1550-1551) by Volterra

Signature of Michelangelo

Michelangelo emerged during the High Renaissance, a time that had seen countless changes in almost every aspect of life, especially artistically, philosophically and scientific. Departing from the Gothic iconography and work exclusively devotional, art began to be a celebration of man and his place as the centre of the world. The High Renaissance, which can be roughly dated between 1495 and 1520 (with the death of Raphael), was a period of a special artistic proliferation, especially in Florence and Rome. Architecture, sculpture and painting all benefited from the triumphant era: the Tempietto (initiated around 1500) of Donato Bramante (1444-1514) has been said to have marked the beginning of High Renaissance in architecture; sculpture was marked by the equilibrium between motion and motionless, achieving its pinnacle with Michelangelo (1475-1564); and painting saw tremendous progress when it came to illusionistic painting and compositional techniques, such as chiaroscuro, sfumato, anatomical studies and linear perspective, exemplified in the works of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Raphael (1483-1520). This was the time when the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy) and Trivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric) – known today as the humanities – were devised as such, the latter comprising the skills of thought (particularly exploring the realms of eloquence). Michelangelo saw a special significance in these realms of philosophy, as one of its biggest advocates. Immersed in the contexts of Neoplatonic philosophy, thanks to Michelangelo’s attendance to the Platonic Academy in Florence, this contact with philosophy deeply impacted his works, something that was practiced by men such as Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), Poliziano (1454-1494) and Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494).

  • After Gemistus Pletho (1335-1452) brought back Plato’s philosophy through the course of the Council of Florence, between 1438 and 1439, Cosimo de’ Medici (1389-1464) sponsored the creation of the Neoplatonic Florentine Academy. Marsilio Ficino was the head of the academy, and it remained open until the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449-1492), an enthusiast of the Humanist academy. This particular academy was not seen in a formal manner, instead it was seen as the modern version of the classic Platonist academy, dedicated to the translation of Plato’s works into Latin, such as the Enneads of Plotinus. Beside Marsilio Ficino, some of its most renown members included: Cristoforo Landino (1424-1498), Gentile de’ Becchi (1420/30-1497), Pico della Mirandola and Poliziano.

Posthumous portrait of Cosimo de’ Medici (c. 1565-1569) by Workshop of Bronzino

Detail of the Confirmation of the Franciscan Rule (Lorenzo de Medici – middle) (1483-1485) by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Highly unsatisfied with his own works, Michelangelo was known for having a deeply temperamental nature and for being an extreme perfectionist. He was reclusive, and had a rigorous approach to life. He didn’t have any close friends and wore dark clothes often. Often admired by his ‘terribilità’ (the  ability to instil a sense of awe), he had a very strong and  mighty personality. Very influential for his time, he was very well connected; he had been friends with the Medici’s from early adolescent life, and had become immersed in the community of the Vatican from his early twenties. From his early life, his impetuous character defined his reputation; he had become known as an artist that did what he wanted independently of his patron’s desires, either completing or leaving works unfinished according to his whim or mood. While he was painting the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo fired all of his assistants, except for one, which remained with him, aiding with the paint mixtures. Besides signing his name in the Pietà (1498-1499), as an erratic gesture signing as “Michael Angelus”, he never again signed his work, in keeping with his promise to himself. Highly demanding with the use of time, he is known for claiming that “There is no greater harm than that of time wasted.”. An extremely patient man, Michelangelo also often claimed that “Genius is eternal patience”, believing that patience was the key to creating successful works. He considered himself highly connected to the divine, and believed that a divine spark resides in each of us.

Detail of Michelangelo’s Signature in Pietà (1498-1499)

There were numerous rivalries between Michelangelo and other artists at the time, which all served as testimonies for the strong character, and very confident nature. The most notorious rivalry was between Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), who at the time was very popular, sociable and proud in his flamboyant dandy personality, which represented the polar opposite of Michelangelo who was much more reclusive in nature. Michelangelo was younger than Leonardo by 23 years.  Another notorious rivalry was with Raphael (1483-1520), 8 years younger than he was,  who at the time (c. 1508) had been chosen to paint Pope Julius II’s private library, resulting in The School of Athens (1509-1511) fresco, where Michelangelo is depicted with a sulking face as Heraclitus. Michelangelo often accused Raphael of copying his work. Despite his wealth, he lived a very simple life. Towards the end of his life, he was known for saying that “However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man”, emphasizing the fact that wealth didn’t affect his lifestyle at all. He was also a devoted catholic, and his faith grew stronger and stronger, especially in his final years. Towards his 60’s, Michelangelo wrote letters to young men expressing feelings, especially to the young aristocrat Tommaso Cavalieri (1509-1587) who is believed to have been his lover and close friend; these letters have led to be interpreted as Michelangelo being gay, however these cannot be confirmed.

Portrait of Michelangelo as Heraclitus, detail of The School of Athens (1510–1511), by Raphael

Self-Portrait as the Flayed Skin of St. Bartholomew, detail of The Last Judgment (1508-1512)

Self-portrait as Nicodemus, detail of the Pietà Bandini (1547) (CC BY 2.5, by Sailko)

Born on March 6, 1475 in Caprese near Arezzo, Tuscany, to a middle-class family of bankers, Michelangelo was the second of five sons. He began grammar school at the age of 6, however, he preferred to watch local painters in churches, and spend time drawing what he saw. His father, noticing his aptitude and disposition, once he reached the age of 13, sent him to the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448-1494) to train as an apprentice. He remained at the Florentine workshop for only a year, then moving into the palace of the Medici family, who had requested Ghirlandaio’s two best students to study the sculpture collection at the Medici gardens with the notorious sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni (1435/40-1491). At the Medici’s, Michelangelo studied works of classical Greek and Roman sculptors, and learnt the works of Giotto (1267-1337) and Donatello (1386-1466). There, as a young teenager, he also met numerous philosophers, artists, and thinkers of the time including Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), the notorious Platonist philosopher. Developing a particular interest in human anatomy, Michelangelo obtained permission from the Catholic Church to study human corpses to learn anatomy, carving them a wooden cross in return.

Detail of Battle Scene (c. 1480) by Bertoldo di Giovanni (CC BY-SA 4.0, by Sailko)

When the Medicis were expelled from Florence , Michelangelo followed them to Venice, then to Bologna. He was later invited to Rome by Cardinal Raffaele Riario (1461-1521), who had been impressed by his skills, after realizing that he had been deceived into buying an ancient sculpture that had been carved by Michelangelo. Arriving in Rome at the age of 21, it was during these early twenties that he carved the Pietà (1498-1499) for the Vatican. A few years later, in 1504, in Florence, he completed David (1501-1504), widely considered his most notorious work.  A year later, in 1505, he returned to Rome to work on a commission for the Tomb for Pope Julius II; a work that he would work on for over forty years. During this time, he also designed the fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, completed in just four years. It was a commission he had been reluctant to accept, as it had been suggested by Bramante (1444-1514), who wanted to see Michelangelo fail and thought painting would be an ideal trap. From 1513 to 1527, Michelangelo remained in Florence, completing architectural commissions for the Basilica San Lorenzo and for the Laurentian Library. After this period, fearing for his life when in 1527 Florence was declared a republic, Michelangelo fled back to Rome where Pope Clement asked him to design Pope Julius II’s tomb and to paint the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, which resulted in the Last Judgment fresco. It would take seven years in total to complete.

David (1501-1504)

At the age of 60, Michelangelo developed important friendships for the first time. The first with a younger nobleman, Tommaso dei Cavalieri (1509-1587), who was also his lover. The second with the widow Vittoria Colonna (1492-1547), a Marquise who also wrote poems; most of his poems were devoted to her, and he adored her until her death in 1547; the black chalk drawing Pietà for Vittoria Colonna of 1546 was given to her as a gift. During this time he worked on various architectural commissions,  including the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Michelangelo returned to Florence in 1530, working on the family tombs of the Medici. Four years later, in 1534, he left Florence for the last time and spent the rest of his life in Rome. Michelangelo continued working until his death at 88 years old. Tommaso, his lover and friend, was with him until his death, at home in Rome, in 1564. As he desired, his body was taken back to Florence.

Vittoria Colonna (?) (1520-1525) by Sebastiano del Piombo

Pietà for Vittoria Colonna (1546)

art

Michelangelo was a very multidisciplinary artist working in various mediums throughout his life, having created drawings, paintings, frescos, sculptures and various architectural works, his creative legacy is also known to have changed the course of art. His artistic journey, which began very early in life as a teenager in the gardens of the Medici’s, was marked by the creation of two marble reliefs that already exemplified his notorious artistry, the Madonna of the Stairs (1491) and the Battle of the Centaurs (1492) – both highly complex creations for the hands of a teenager. The latter, especially, already exemplifies the fascination with the human body that would define his artistic path and legacy. After he returned to his father’s house in 1492, Michelangelo created a wooden Crucifix (1493), conceived as a gift for the Church of Santo Spirito. This is a great example of the result of his anatomical studies (studies executed from the dissection of corpses). Besides this, he also drew his studies for his compositions from classical sculptures and from life. In his early twenties, he produced works such as St. John the Baptist (1495), Cupid (1495) – both for the Medici -, Bacchus (1496-1497) and his famous Pietà (1498-1499) – a not so common subject at the time, as it had been previously, during the northern middle ages. During this time he also painted the Manchester Madonna (c. 1497), also called Madonna and Child with John the Baptist.

Battle of the Centaurs (1492) CC BY-SA 3.0, by sailko

Bacchus (1496-1497)

Manchester Madonna (c. 1497)

Pietà (1498-1499)

In 1504, Michelangelo completed David (1501-1504), consolidating his reputation as the most prominent sculptor in Italy, for his exquisite technical ability. He is also commissioned to paint  The Battle of Cascina, while The Battle of Anghiari was commissioned to Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). However, both works were not actually finished and were both lost when they renovated the chamber in question. He proceeded to paint the Doni Tondo (1504-1506) and the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel (1508-1512), to complete architectural commissions for the Basilica San Lorenzo and for the Laurentian Library (1513-1527), to design for Pope Julius II’s tomb and to continue the work on St. Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo was also a poet during his lifetime, especially in his later years. Most of his poems are a sort of elegant letter format, developed in an expressive way; they totalize about 300 works, 74 of which are finished sonnets. 

The Battle of Cascina (1808) by Luigi Schiavonetti (After Michelangelo)

Taddei Tondo (1504) (CC BY-SA 2.5, by Ham II)

Expulsion from Paradise, Sistine Chapel Ceiling Fresco detail (1508-1512)

Michelangelo’s mastery in sculpting the human form derived greatly from his studies at the Medici gardens, was already clear in his two early works created as a teenager, Madonna Seated on a Step (1491) – also known as the Madonna of the Stairs – and Battle of the Centaurs (1492). In his early twenties, his talent grew stronger with works such as Bachus (1496-1497). During this period, Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Pietà (1498-1499) for the chapel of the King of France in St Peter ‘s Basilica, a work which would become one of his most iconic. The emotional expression  and the life-like natural forms specially granted him great notoriety at the time.  David (1501–1504), likewise, instantly became an iconic work that testified to the artist’s ability to greatly depict the human body. Grealty emphasizing David’s strength in a contrapposto position, Michelangelo creates an archetype of the ideal man. Pope Julius II, greatly impressed by David, commissioned Michelangelo to create his tomb. Of the figures created for the Tomb of Pope Julius II  (1505–1545), it is his notorious central Moses (1512-1513), which most stands out; a seated figure, which embodies drama, tension and life, as he seems to be captured in motion. The tomb was a vast project, which occupied Michelangelo for numerous years; the Pope wanted more than 47 life size figures in multi-levels, and the tomb was originally intended to be at St. Peter’s Basilica. The tomb also includes allegorical representations of Charity and Faith, that stand in niches to the left and right on the lower level of the imposing and tall structure. The Dying Slave (1512-1513) and the Rebellious Slave (1512-1513) were two other notorious figures created for the tomb. After this, Michelangelo focused his attention in the Tomb of Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici until 1527, designing the Medici Chapel in full (1524-1527). The most iconic works of the tomb which incorporate various full body sculptures, include the personifications of Day and Night, Dawn and Dusk which aimed to allude to the inevitable movements of time and impending mortality of human life. The figures each possess their own character, female Day implies inner fire and life, Night is a man asleep, female Dawn strains upward, and  strong male aged Dusk.  Other notorious works include the vast number of Pietàs Michelangelo created in his old age. The most significant of which includes the Florentine Pietà (1547) – also known as the Pietà Bandini or The Deposition, where he depicts himself as the aged Nicodemus holding the body of Christ. Right before his death, Michelangelo was working on another Pietà, which he left incomplete. Interestingly, all these various sculptures possessed a fascinating passion for the human body, and the way it was captured in motion; he was always more interested in capturing the living qualities of the human body than he was in capturing any type of likeness.

David (1501-1504)

Design for Wall Tomb of Julius II (16th century), attributed to Michelangelo

Moses (1512-1513), in the Tomb of Julius II, San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome

Rebellious Slave and Dying Slave (1512-1513), for the Tomb of Julius II, San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome |Louvre Museum, Paris (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Jörg Bittner Unna)

Tomb of Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici with Night and Day (1524-1527), Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence

Pietà Rondanini (1564) (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Paolo da Reggio)

Although Michelangelo considered painting to be a lesser art, he completed various notorious paintings which also define his oeuvre. After the completion of David (1501-1504), Michelangelo received several painting commissions, including the only surviving finished painting, Doni Tondo (“The Holy Family”) (1504-1506). This painting has a significant importance as it is believed to have been the foundation to Mannerism, by preferring exaggeration of form rather than a natural depiction of reality; further, the contorting spiraling composition and the use of expressive colors, create a dynamic effect, signifying energy and movement. His most notorious painting, is by far the ceiling fresco of the Sistine Chapel (1508-1512), which contains over three hundred figures, depicting scenes from the Book of Genesis, including the infamous Creation of Adam. Spanning 500 square meters, the enormous fresco, created in just 4 years, was completed while Michelangelo lied on his back. Decades later, 25 years later to be exact, when Michelangelo returned to the Sistine Chapel to paint the altar wall, The Last Judgment (1534-1541) scene resulted with a rather different aesthetic. With a simpler color scheme, against a bright blue sky, Christ’s damnation of sinners and blessed seems to have a more schematic and less energetic vibrancy. Between 1542 and 1549, Michelangelo painted two frescoes for the Cappella Paolina which were not seen as masterpieces, far from it. The Conversion of Saint Paul and The Crucifixion of Saint Peter defied contemporary conventions regarding the composition of such subjects. These remained in the shadows of the Sistine Chapel frescoes, in spite of the fact the chapel is of great significance to Rome.

Entombment (1500)

Doni Tondo (1504-1506)

First Day of Creation, Sistine Chapel Ceiling Fresco detail (1508-1512)

Conversion of St. Paul (1542-1545) in the Cappella Paolina, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

Michelangelo turned to architecture in the later stage of his life, when he was in his 50’s. In Florence, in 1513, towards the later stage of his life, Michelangelo was commissioned to work on the façade of the Basilica San Lorenzo, spending three years developing it. In 1520, he received another commission for the same Basilica. During this time he completed the commission for the Laurentian Library, which was in an annex to the same church, and used to receive the books bequeathed by Pope Leo. It is notorious for its stairway hall, which has come to be known as the ricetto, and the subversion of traditional architectural features, which has made it be cited as the first architectural work of Mannerism, due to its favoring of expressiveness and originality. However, his most notorious architectural creation is believed to be  the Medici chapel in the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence, which housed two tombs of the Medici. He worked on this project until 1534. In 1546, Michelangelo took over the design of the St. Peter’s Basilica. Well into his seventies, and unable to sculpt due to the physical strain, it was in architecture that Michelangelo found his refuge. He worked on the Basilica until the end of his life, especially on the dome, where he tried to combine all the design ideas of all the prior architects (including that of Bramante), and aimed to create a dome that would equate Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence. At the same time, he was also commissioned to design the Capitoline Square. He completed neither of these two projects, however, his design and vision is clear in the dome of the St. Peter’s Basilica, and stands the test of time as a testimony to his vision.

View of the Campidoglio (1569) Étienne Dupérac after Michelangelo

Project for the façade of San Lorenzo, Florence (c. 1517)

Staircase of the Laurentian Library, in the Church of San Lorenzo, Florence (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Sailko)

Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae: Longitudinal Section Showing the Interior of Saint Peter’s Basilica (16th century) by Etienne DuPérac after Michelangelo

Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica (1590), finished by Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana

It was Michelangelo’s abilities as a draughtsman, his skills in drawing, that provided the basis of his work across the various fields. He used drawing as a first approach to any project, be it a sculpture, a painting, or an architectural space. Although today these drawings are observed as works of art, they were conducted as studies. Various of his drawings were often left unfinished, probably because their purpose had been fulfilled as studies. Of reference are Michelangelo’s drawings of torsos, which study in great detail all of the muscles, exalting them and exaggerating them in order to make the figure become more animated or life-like. These drawings all express his imagination in inventing the human figure by applying specific knowledge of the human figure.

Study for Adam (Sistine Chapel frescoes) (c. 1510-1511)

Study for the Libyan Sibyl (1511)

Study of the Muscles of the Left Leg (c. 1515-1520)

Cleopatra (1533-1534)

Michelangelo worked with the human form and believed that the perfection of the human body revealed divine beauty and was a tangible personification of the soul. His objective was always to link human existence with the divine. As an artist, he believed that the hand of God created through human life. As such, and in order to do so, he believed that to reach creative perfection, the artist needed to purify his soul and be united with the divine, God. This process, for him, would make the artist be Christ-like, or baby Christ-like, a symbol he used as a self portrait, especially in one of his early works, the Madonna of the Stairs (1491).

Self-Portrait in Madonna of the Stairs (1491)

His works used mythological and classical sources, especially biblical narratives and stories. Michelangelo strove for a universal expression of human life, believing in the Renaissance idea of the Universal man. His imagined figures, complex narratives, idealized and perfected human forms and writhing motions, and all derived from a great study of human anatomy. His works are greatly characterized by a great anatomical accuracy, and he was known for being a master at depicting the human body with great technical mastery. He created with a pleasing aesthetic harmony, sustaining ideals of balance of composition, proportions, and naturalistic codes that create universal codes of beauty. A great believer in human life, his large figures possess a great level of human emotion and expression; portraying strong feelings which were greatly unprecedented for his time, figures suggest weight and strength by being realistic yet emotional depictions of the human figure. Abandoning a static and serene approach (depicted in the classical Roman and Greek sculpture), he rather sustained movement as the foundation of life, and tried to constantly animate the marble into life itself. The twisting and contorting figures  signify energy and vitality. This idea also finds strength in the quality of the non-finito, an aspect and principle Michelangelo loved to incorporate, which was inspired by antiquity; works were left ‘unfinished’ or open ended, in order to better resemble life captured in motion.  Overall, his oeuvre largely aimed to express the universal principles of life and humanity. Focusing on the tragic experience of what it means to be human, the depths of human life itself.

Pietà Bandini (1545-1555) – restored by Tiberio Calcagni (CC BY 2.5, by Marie-Lan Nguyen)

Detail of David (1501-1504)

Delphic Sibyl, Sistine Chapel Ceiling Fresco detail (1508-1512)

Detail from The Last Judgement, Sistine Chapel Ceiling Fresco detail (1508-1512)

Michelangelo had a methodological process. He used various assistants throughout his different projects mainly for manual tasks like preparing surfaces and mixing colors, however he often disliked them and ended up figuring them. A firm believer in patience, and in working hard to attain mastery, (“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”), he believed in continuous labor to gain steady and tremendous results. He used drawing and sketches as early studies for most of his projects, developing the idea in brief studies first. These studies offer a unique insight to his methodology and thought process. He destroyed a lot of his own drawings before he died, either because he was unsatisfied with them or because he wished to hide some of their information.

Studies of a Horse with Two Nude Riders and a Male Torso (c. 1508-1509)

Design for the Tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere (1505-1506)

influences/legacy

As an apprentice at the workshop, Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448-1494) had a profound influence on Michelangelo, both in overall style and in working practise. Furthermore, Michelangelo was greatly influenced by Antiquity, more specifically by the classical culture of Ancient Greece and Rome, and his artistic style was greatly shaped by Florentine tradition from Giotto (1267-1337) onward, as well. In one of his biographies published while he was still alive, Michelangelo established himself as self taught, wishing to be set apart from the existing traditions of his time.

The Nativity (1492) by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Apollo Belvedere (c. 120–140) Unknown artist, after Leochares (CC BY-SA 4.0, by Livioandronico2013)

Michelangelo had a profound impact on the artistic panorama of his time. His rival, Raphael (1483-1520), found in his oeuvre a language he much admired. Simultaneously, his way of representing the physical body and the human form, with the use of vibrant colors and twisting forms captured in movement, played a fundamental role in defining and shaping the beginning of a new artistic movement that would succeed High Renaissance, entitled Mannerism. From Michelangelo, the movement further derived its stylization of form and the idealization of action/life. The complex intertwining forms and compositions had a profound impact not only on Mannerism as a movement, but also on specific artists such as Pontormo (1494-1557) and Bronzino (1503-1572). Pontormo is known to have been  particularly fascinated with the forms of the Last Judgment. During the 17th century, Baroque masters studied his works attentively, such is the case with the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) and the painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Ever since that time, Michelangelo has influenced many different artists across genres, movements, and times. Rembrandt (1606-1669), Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) and Eugene Delacroix (1798-1873), were some of the painters that admired him. In sculpture, it is Rodin (1840-1917) who found in the way he recreated the human body a profound fascination, studying carefully various of his creations. Besides these direct influences, it is difficult to speak of art that wasn’t in some way shaped, influenced or transformed by Micheangelo and and his creations during the High Renaissance.

Ezekiel’s Vision (1518) by Raphael

Visitation of Carmignano (1528) by Jacopo Pontormo

Neptune with a Dolphin (17th century) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (c. 1609) by Peter Paul Rubens, in Saint Paul’s Church, Antwerp

The Thinker (c. 1880-1910) by Rodin

Considered as one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, appraised as one of the greatest artists of all time, Michelangelo’s impact on Art is incalculable. He, alongside Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), shaped the pinnacle of Renaissance, and deeply impacted the course of art history. After his creations, there is not one artist who is not changed by the way Michelangelo created. Appreciation of Michelangelo’s artistic mastery has endured for centuries. His rendition of David (1501-1504) remains the most famous male nude in history, and its replicas populate cities all over the world. Some of his works, such as the Bruges Madonna (1501-1504), the Medici Madonna (1521-1534) and the Genius of Victory (1532-1534), set the precedents for the Mannerist style. His work in St. Peter’s church had a big influence on architectural styles of churches that followed, especially the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. And his masterpieces in the Sistine Chapel were used as reference in many Baroque ceiling paintings. The fact is that his works remain extremely relevant today and continue to fascinate people from all ages and cultures.

  • Henry Moore later said of Pietà Rondanini, “This is the kind of quality you get in the work of old men who are really great. They can simplify, they can leave out… This Pietà is by someone who knows the whole thing so well he can use a chisel like someone else would use a pen.” 
  • Vasari wrote: “The work has proved a veritable beacon to our art, of inestimable benefit to all painters, restoring light to a world that for centuries had been plunged into darkness. Indeed, painters no longer need to seek for new inventions, novel attitudes, clothed figures, fresh ways of expression, different arrangements, or sublime subjects, for this work contains every perfection possible under those headings.”

quotes

“I have never felt salvation in nature. I love cities above all.”

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”

“Genius is eternal patience.”

Michelangelo: Complete Works
By Frank Zöllner, Christof Thoenes, Thomas Pöpper (2014)

Michelangelo: A Life on Paper
By Leonard Barkan (2010)

Michelangelo and his Drawings
By M. Hirst (1988)

significant works

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Madonna of the Stairs
Date: 1491
Medium: Marble
Size: 56.7 x 40.1 cm
Location: Casa Buonarroti, Florence

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Manchester Madonna
Date: c. 1497
Medium: Tempera on wood
Size: 105 x 77 cm
Location: National Gallery, London

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: David
Date: 1501-1504
Medium: Marble
Size: 517 x 199 cm
Location: Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Bacchus
Date: 1496-1497
Medium: Marble
Size: 203 cm (H)
Location: Bargello, Florence

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Moses
Date: 1512-1513
Medium: Marble
Size: 235 x 210 cm
Location: Tomb of Julius II, San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Rebellious Slave
Date: 1512-1513
Medium: Marble
Size: 209 cm (H)
Location: Louvre Museum, Paris
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, by Jörg Bittner Unna

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Dying Slave
Date: 1512-1513
Medium: Marble
Size: 215 cm
Location: Louvre Museum, Paris
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, by Jörg Bittner Unna

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Pietà Rondanini
Date: 1564
Medium: Marble
Size: 190 cm (H)
Location: Sforza Castle
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, by Paolo da Reggio

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Study for the Libyan Sibyl
Date: 1511
Medium: Chalk on paper
Size: 29 x 21 cm
Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Delphic Sybil
Date: c. 1509
Medium: Fresco
Size: 350 x 380 cm
Location: Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Pietà Bandini
Date: 1545-1555
Medium: Marble
Size: 226 (H)
Location: Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence
Image Credit: CC BY 2.5, by Marie-Lan Nguyen

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Entombment
Date: 1500
Medium: Oil on panel
Size: 161.7 x 149.9 cm
Location: National Gallery, London

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Doni Tondo
Date: 1504-1506
Medium: Tempera on panel
Size: 120 cm (diameter)
Location: Uffizi, Florence

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: First Day of Creation
Date: 1536-1541
Medium: Fresco
Size: 137 x 120 cm
Location: Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Pietà for Vittoria Colonna
Date: 1546
Medium: Black chalk on paper
Size: 28.9 x 18.9 cm
Location: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Pietà
Date: 1498-1499
Medium: Marble
Size: 174 x 195 cm
Location: St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Artist: Michelangelo
Title: Battle of the Centaurs
Date: c. 1492
Medium: Marble
Size: 84.5 × 90.5 cm
Location: Casa Buonarroti, Florence
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, by sailko