Michaelangelo Buonarroti was born the second son to an impoverished Florentine gentleman, in Caprese, Italy, on March 6, 1475. He has well been described as “a genius in nearly every medium of art”.
When ordered by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo is said to have replied, “I am a sculptor; painting is not my trade.” And sculptor he was. His figures of Moses and David and the Pieta remain unsurpassed. But painter he also was, despite his protests to the contrary!
Michaelangelo was raised in Florence. At school he had done poorly, says his biographer, “always drawing pictures. And he drew them on the walls at home too. So he was beaten and beaten again. But the artist remained unbroken…”
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At 13 (1488) he was apprenticed to the artist Domenico Ghirlandaio for three years. He was also influenced by the paintings of Giotto and the frescoes of Masaccio, who was the first painter to employ the scientific principles of perspective. Michaelangelo was one of the promising artists chosen to study under the auspices of Lorenzo de’ Medici and to enjoy his collection of classic sculpture, prompting the young artist’s great passion for sculpture, especially in using the human body to convey strong emotion.
From those beginnings Michaelangelo created his significant sculptures and paintings, working alongside such greats as Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael.
Those who have gazed upon the frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and seen the 10,000 square feet covered with hosts of Biblical scenes will realise that Michaelangelo merits a place in Christian history. His depiction of The Last Judgment is “not only the largest painting in the world, but an expression of superhuman force and terror”.
Through the human poses he depicted Michaelangelo sought to convey powerful emotion. His art was in the conception of pose and balance to encapsulate more than a simple physical representation.
In his 60’s his friendship with Vittoria Calonna, widow of the Marquis of Pescara, inspired him to write magnificent sonnets. At the age of 70 he was appointed chief architect for the building of St Peter’s Church. For 50 years it had lain uncompleted. Whilst Michaelangelo did not live to see it completed, it was under his impetus the work recommenced, the great dome being his architectural design, which greatly influenced the emergence of the baroque style.
He died in Rome on 18 February, 1564, just short of his 90th birthday.
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com