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Michelangelo (1475-1564 CE) was an Italian artist, architect and poet, who is considered one of the greatest and most influential of all Renaissance figures. His most celebrated works, from a breathtaking portfolio of masterpieces, include the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome and the giant marble statue of David, which resides in the Galleria dell'Accademia of Florence.
Esteemed by his contemporaries as the greatest of living artists, Michelangelo was hugely influential on the artistic styles of High Renaissance, Mannerism, and Baroque. Still today, the great man's works continue to wrench from art lovers worldwide the feelings he expressly intended to produce in all of his art no matter the medium: admiration of form and motion, surprise and awe.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti was born in 1475 CE in Caprese, a small town near Florence, Italy. Unlike many other famous artists, Michelangelo was born into a prosperous family. When he reached 13 years of age, he was sent off to study in Florence under the celebrated fresco painter Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1449-1494 CE). The young artist spent two years as Ghirlandaio's apprentice but also visited many churches in the city, studying their artworks and making sketches. Michelangelo's big break came when his work was noticed by Lorenzo de Medici (1449-1492 CE), head of the great Florentine family of that name and a generous patron of the arts. It was in Lorenzo's impressive sculpture garden that the young artist was able to study firsthand the works of the great sculptors of antiquity, especially Roman sarcophagi decorated in high relief, and learn from the garden's artistic curator and noted sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni (c. 1420-1491 CE). Michelangelo would later create Lorenzo de Medici's marble tomb in the Medici family church of San Lorenzo in Florence.
Michelangelo strove to create a world more beautiful than actually existed in reality.
The influence these Classical works had on Michelangelo is evident in the writhing figures in one of his first great masterpieces, the relief sculpture known as The Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths which is now on display in the Casa Buonarroti in Florence. The artist's preoccupation with antiquity in the first half of his career is amply evidenced in his work but also in his numerous deliberate attempts to pass off sculptures as actually ancient. In 1496 CE, for example, he sculpted the Sleeping Cupid (now lost) which he purposely aged to make it appear an authentic ancient work and which he successfully sold to Cardinal Raffaele Riario.
Michelangelo was, then, already focussing on the technique known as disegno where an artist concentrated above all in trying to capture the form, musculature, and poses of the human body through sketches on paper of Classical works which were then transformed into an entirely new sculpture or painting. Michelangelo also added to this artistic heritage a passion for rendering his figures with dramatic poses and doing so on a monumental scale, which perhaps explains his own preference for sculpture over other media. The combination of realist execution, grandeur, and dynamism would become the hallmark of the master's works in all media as he strove to create a world more beautiful than actually existed in reality.
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Michelangelo's great works spoke for themselves & those who could not see them in person could admire or study them in the many engravings made.
The Leading Renaissance Artist
In 1496 CE Michelangelo moved on to Rome which gave him yet more opportunities to study examples of Classical art and architecture. It was in this period he created another masterpiece, the Pietà (see below). Returning to Florence c. 1500 CE, the artist was now well established and he was commissioned to create a figure for no less a place than the Cathedral of Florence. Michelangelo was given a massive block of highly-prized Carrara marble that nobody quite knew what to do with. The result was another masterpiece, probably the artist's most famous sculpture of all: David (see below). Next up was a chef-d'oeuvre using paints, demonstrating Michelangelo was by no means limited to sculpture. The Holy Family was painted in 1503 CE and the work is now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Next came an intriguing meeting of great minds when Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519 CE) both worked on frescoes in the Council Hall of Florence. The subject of Michelangelo's work was the Battle of Cascina but, like Leonardo's effort here, it was left unfinished. It can only be speculated what each great artist might have learned from the other at this time.
Michelangelo returned to Rome to work on the tomb of Pope Julius II (r. 1503-1513 CE), and then he was given perhaps his most challenging commission - to paint the ceiling of the Vatican City's Sistine Chapel (see below). Despite working largely alone and very often in an uncomfortable position on top of a scaffold, the ceiling was completed remarkably quickly. Finished by 1512 CE, the work may not have pleased everyone in the Church, but its central vision of God amongst the clouds reaching out to touch the finger of Adam has become one of the most reproduced images of all time.
Michelangelo would continue to sculpt and, much more rarely, paint for the rest of his life. He continued to write his much-admired sonnets which were frequently dedicated to the poetess Vittoria Colonna (1490-1547 CE), although many were scribbled on the backs of sketches and bills. In this example, Sonnet 151 (c. 1538-1544 CE), the artist compares art's failure to prevent death with the search for true love:
Not even the best of artists has any conception
that a single marble block does not contain
within its excess, and that is only attained
The pain I flee from and the joy I hope for
are similarly hidden in you, lovely lady,
lofty and divine; but, to my mortal harm,
my art gives results the reverse of what I wish.
Love, therefore, cannot be blamed for my pain,
nor can your beauty, your hardness, or your scorn,
nor fortune, nor my destiny, nor chance,
if you hold both death and mercy in your heart
at the same time, and my lowly wits, though burning,
cannot draw from it anything but death.
There were, too, many important architectural projects, such as the Laurentian Library, San Lorenzo, Florence (1525 CE) with its 46-metre (150 ft.) long reading room, a triumphal combination of aesthetics and function. Other projects included the new-look Capitoline Hill in Rome (begun in 1544 CE), the soaring dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome (from 1547 CE but not completed until 1590 CE) for which Michelangelo refused to accept a salary, and the Medici sepulchral chapel in Florence. Fittingly, throughout the 16th century CE, the Medici chapel became a place frequently visited by aspiring artists who came to admire and learn from this master of the arts' unique and visionary combination of architecture and sculpture. Michelangelo died on 18 February 1564 CE in Rome and was buried with much ceremony in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence.
Reputation & Legacy
The great artist was himself captured in several surviving works of art. One striking example is the bronze bust by his compatriot Daniele da Volterra (1509-1566 CE), which, created c. 1564 CE, now resides in the Bargello of Florence. The sculpture is realistic and shows the bearded Michelangelo with wrinkles aplenty and with the slightly flattened nose he had carried ever since the artist Pietro Torrigiano (1472-1528 CE) had broken it when the pair were youths (Torrigiano was exiled from Florence as a consequence).
A more detailed record of Michelangelo survives in two biographies written during the artist's lifetime by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574 CE) and Ascanio Condivi (1525-1574 CE). The Tuscan artist Vasari completed his The Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Architects, Painters, and Sculptors in 1550 CE but then extensively revised and expanded the work in 1568 CE. The history is a monumental record of Renaissance artists, their works and the anecdotal stories associated with them, and so Vasari is considered one of the pioneers of art history. Fellow Italian artist Condivi, meanwhile, was a pupil of Michelangelo's in Rome, and he wrote his Life of Michelangelo in 1553 CE, a work which was supervised by the great master himself (which perhaps explains a number of fictitious or exaggerated elements).
These two biographies helped establish Michelangelo's reputation as a living legend as fellow artists recognised his genius and contribution to the revival of art during the Renaissance. Naturally, Michelangelo's great works spoke for themselves, and those who could not see them in person could admire or study them in the many engravings made which were distributed across Europe. His fame also went beyond Europe. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Bayezid II (r. 1481-1512 CE) heard of the artist's skills and invited him, without success, to his court. Michelangelo's works were even being collected, especially in France. In short, Michelangelo was considered nothing less than divine - a term frequently used for the artist during his lifetime - and a possessor of awesome artistic power, what his contemporaries termed terribilità. The light the great man cast on Western art and architecture continued to shine long after his death and his work was especially influential on the development of Mannerism and the subsequent Baroque style.
The Pietà is a depiction in marble of the Virgin Mary who mourns over the body of Jesus Christ which rests across her lap. Completed between 1497 and 1500 CE, the work was commissioned by a French cardinal for his tomb in a chapel in Rome. Standing 1.74 metres (5 ft. 8 inches) tall, it now resides in St. Peter's Basilica. The work combines all aspects of the sculptor's art: a hyper-realistic depiction of the human body, complex folds of drapery, the serene and contemplative face of Mary, the languid corpse of Jesus, and a composition that reminds of northern devotional statues but offers something never before seen in Italian art. That Michelangelo was highly satisfied with the result is evidenced in the anecdote that he subsequently added his signature after a rival artist had claimed to have been its creator.
As mentioned above, Michelangelo's offering to the Cathedral of Florence was a marble sculpture of the Biblical king David who, in his youth, famously killed the troublesome giant Goliath. The figure is much larger than life-size - around 5.20 metres (17 feet) tall - and so big that it could not be placed on the roof of the cathedral as intended but was stood instead in the facing square. Michelangelo received around 400 florins for a work he had started in 1501 CE and completed in 1504 CE. David now stands in the Accademia Gallery of Florence while a full-size replica stands in the open air of the Palazzo della Signoria.
The figure is all white now but originally had three gilded elements: the tree stump support, a waist belt of leaves and a garland on his head. The only identification that this is a figure of David is the sling over the figure's left shoulder. Further, the maturity of the body for what really should be a youth, together with the nudity of the figure, strongly remind of the colossal statues of antiquity, especially of Hercules. It cannot be coincidental that Hercules also appeared on the official seal of the city of Florence. Here, then, was a message in art that the city believed itself the equal, perhaps even the better of any city in antiquity. Michelangelo has clearly gone beyond the restraints of Classical sculpture and created a figure which is palpably tense, an effect only accentuated by David's furrowed brow and determined stare.
The Sistine Chapel
As noted, Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, a building only just completed in 1480 CE. The ceiling had cracked badly in 1504 CE and was repaired. This, then, was an opportunity to add to the chapel's already impressive interior decoration. Michelangelo was far from keen on the project which would occupy him from 1508 to 1512 CE - and there were frequent heated quarrels with the Pope - but it is today considered one of his signature works. The frescos are painted in very bright colours and, to aid the viewer who must stand some metres below, Michelangelo used the technique of contrasting colours next to each other.
The entire ceiling covers an area measuring 39 x 13.7 metres (128 x 45 ft.). The separate panels show a cycle of episodes from the Bible narrating the Creation to the time of Noah. Interestingly, the creation of Eve is the central panel, not the creation of Adam, although this may simply be because the scenes are chronological starting from the altar wall. There are also seven prophets, five sibyls, and four ignudi which have nothing whatsoever to do with the religious narrative but which show Michelangelo's love of boldly rendered figures in dramatic poses.
The work was an immediate success with almost everyone who saw it but there were some rumblings of discontent. The main objection was the amount of nudity and the depiction of genitalia in a handful of figures. In addition, The Last Judgement section of the chapel, which was added to the altar much later by Michelangelo between 1536 and 1541 CE, was also not well-received by some members of the clergy. The fact that Jesus did not have his conventional beard and looked a bit younger than usual were particular points of contention. The artist's grasp of essential theology, or perhaps his lack of concern with it for he was noted for his piety, and the appearance of yet more genitalia led to some clergy going so far as to declare the work a heresy. There were even calls to destroy it. Fortunately for posterity, the more moderate strategy was adopted of covering the offending nude elements. The task of retouching the frescoes was given to Daniele da Volterra, and this artist consequently gained the rather unfortunate nickname of Il Braghettone or 'the breeches-maker'.
As mentioned, Michelangelo was commissioned by Julius II in 1505 CE to design an imposing tomb for the leader of the Roman Church. Starting out on paper as a grandiose monument, the tomb was finally completed in 1547 CE after many of the planned extravagances were abandoned. One survivor is the seated statue of Moses sculpted by Michelangelo which has the biblical figure holding his staff and pulling on an impressively long beard, apparently to demonstrate his awe of God. The statue was meant to be seen from below and hence Michelangelo incorporated several optical corrections. The figure, measuring 2.35 metres (7 ft. 9 inches) in height, was completed around 1520 CE and resides in the San Pietro in Vincoli church in Rome.
Battle of the Centaurs (Michelangelo)
Battle of the Centaurs is a relief by Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo, created around 1492. It was the last work Michelangelo created while under the patronage of Lorenzo de' Medici, who died shortly after its completion. Inspired by a classical relief created by Bertoldo di Giovanni, the marble sculpture depicts the mythic battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs. A popular subject of art in ancient Greece, the story was suggested to Michelangelo by the classical scholar and poet Poliziano. The sculpture is exhibited in the Casa Buonarroti in Florence, Italy.
|Battle of the Centaurs|
|Dimensions||84.5 cm × 90.5 cm (33.3 in × 35.6 in)|
Battle of the Centaurs was a remarkable sculpture in several ways, presaging Michelangelo's future sculptural direction. Michelangelo had departed from the then current practices of working on a discrete plane to work multidimensionally. It was also the first sculpture Michelangelo created without the use of a bow drill and the first sculpture to reach such a state of completion with the marks of the subbia chisel left to stand as a final surface. Whether intentionally left unfinished or not, the work is significant in the tradition of "non finito" sculpting technique for that reason. Michelangelo regarded it as the best of his early works, and a visual reminder of why he should have focused his efforts on sculpture.
Michelangelo - History
David is one of the most exquisite Renaissance sculptures made during the early 1500s. This famous work of art was created by Michelangelo, a famous Italian artist. The statue measures 5.17 meters tall, and it is a marble figure of the biblical hero named David. This young man was also the most common subject in Renaissance art, particularly in Florence.
The sculpture was originally intended as among the statues of prophets that were positioned at the roofline of the eastern section of the Florence. Furthermore, it was placed in the public square at Palazzo della Signoria, which was the center of Florence’s civic government. Because of the courageous nature of this biblical hero, it eventually became the symbol of defense of the civil liberties depicted in the Florentine Republic.
The artwork is much different from the previous statues made by other famous artists such as Verrocchio and Donatello. David by Michelangelo depicted the young David before he went on to his battle with the mighty Goliath. Hence, the figure’s face appeared tense and set for combat instead of victorious because of his foe’s defeat.
Michelangelo’s artwork is his interpretation of the typical Ancient Greek theme of a heroic biblical figure. It features the contrapposto pose, which is a distinctive aspect of antique sculptures. The brave David stands in a tense manner, with one leg relaxed while the other holds its total body weight. Hence, this causes his shoulders and hips to rest at an opposite angle. Moreover, David’s head turns towards his left, and he is carrying a sling at his back. With all these features, many people regard the sculpture as a symbol of youthful beauty and human strength.
The statue is also quite large, as compared to the artist’s contemporaries during that era. In fact, most art scholars consider the statue as miraculous, as Michelangelo was able to bring back to life a renowned figure who was already dead. Although there were numerous colossal statues ever created in history, David by Michelangelo has remained as one of the finest and most impressive.
It is also important to note that some of the features of this statue seemed quite large, particularly the hands and head. However, the artist did this on purpose since the statue was intended to be positioned on the roofline of the cathedral. Thus, he needed to find a way to accentuate certain parts that would make them visible when viewed from below.
This figure appears rather slender from the front to back when compared to its height. According to scholars, this may be caused by the work done on the block even before the artist started carving it. In addition, the statue was regarded as a political image prior to his decision to work on it.
Evidently, David has long been the preferred political image throughout Florence, as several artworks that featured the biblical hero were commissioned in most of the significant locations in the city.
Conservation and Preservation
In 1991, the statue’s foot was badly damaged when a deranged man smashed it with a hammer. Based on the collected samples from that incident, scientists were able to discover that the marble was obtained from Miseglia’s Fantiscritti quarries, which was in one of Carrara’s small valleys. With the degradation of the marble, the statue has undergone its very first major cleaning, from 2003 to 2004. Four years after, there were plans to insulate the sculpture from the vibration caused by the tourists’ footsteps, in order to prevent further and more severe damages of the marble.
Several reproductions of the statue has been made throughout the years. For instance, the plaster cast of this biblical hero is currently displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum. However, this statue has a plaster fig leaf, which was created when Queen Victoria was shocked about the statue’s nudity. The plaster fig leaf is hung on the figure using two hooks, prior to any royal visits.
In the 20th century, the sculpture has become an iconic term for the city’s culture. The statue has also been reproduced frequently such as in imitation marble fiberglass and plaster, which symbolized an ambience of refinement and culture in various settings such as model railroads, gambling casinos and beach resorts. Thus, the artwork is indeed the finest in history because of its grand size, interesting details and features.
Legacy and influence of Michelangelo
For posterity Michelangelo always remained one of the small group of the most exalted artists, who were felt to express, like William Shakespeare or Ludwig van Beethoven, the tragic experience of humanity with the greatest depth and universal scope.
In contrast to the great fame of the artist’s works, their visual influence on later art is relatively limited. This cannot be explained by hesitation to imitate an art simply because it appeared so great, for artists such as Raphael were considered equally great but were used as sources to a much greater degree. It may be instead that the particular type of expression associated with Michelangelo, of an almost cosmic grandeur, was inhibiting. The limited influence of his work includes a few cases of almost total dependence, the most talented artist who worked in this way being Daniele da Volterra. Otherwise, Michelangelo was treated as a model for specific limited aspects of his work. In the 17th century, he was regarded as supreme in anatomical drawing but less praised for broader elements of his art. While the Mannerists utilized the spatial compression seen in a few of his works, and later the serpentine poses of his sculpture of Victory, the 19th-century master Auguste Rodin exploited the effect of unfinished marble blocks. Certain 17th-century masters of the Baroque perhaps show the fullest reference to him, but in ways that have been transformed to exclude any literal similarity. Besides Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the painter Peter Paul Rubens may best show the usability of Michelangelo’s creations for a later great artist.
The Italian Line began planning new ships in 1958. Originally they were to be slightly larger than SS Leonardo da Vinci, which was then being built, but jet aircraft had not yet had a notable effect on the Mediterranean area and a pair of genuine superliners seemed desirable, both from a commercial point of view and to provide jobs to sailors and shipyard workers. It was decided that the new ships would be the largest built in Italy since the SS Rex in 1932.
It was decided that accommodations aboard the ships would be divided into three classes. For some reason it was also decided that the three bottom-most passenger decks would not have any portholes. It has been claimed that this made the ship's sleek hull shape, but that seems unlikely to be true as ships of similar length/width ratio have been built with windows along the entire hull. Whatever the shortcomings in their initial design, though, the new sisters were advanced on the technological side. The most striking feature in the ships was their Turin polytechnic-designed funnels, which consisted of an intricate trellis-like pipework (instead of the traditional even surface) to allow wind to pass through the funnel, and a large smoke deflector fin on the top. Although criticised, the funnel design proved to be highly effective in keeping smoke off the rear decks. The smoke deflectors became popular in ship design during the 1970s and 1980s, whereas the idea of allowing wind to pass through the funnel was picked up again in the late 1980s and is almost the norm in modern shipbuilding.
The Michelangelo ' s interiors were designed by naval architects Nino Zoncada, Vincenzo Monaco and Amedeo Luccichenti, who gave the ship a less adventurous, more traditional look than the designers of her sister Raffaello.
After several delays the Michelangelo, under command of Senior Captain Mario Crepaz, was finally ready for service in May 1965. During the sea trials some vibrations were detected on the stern of the ship. Michelangelo was drydocked in December 1965 and received new propellers and some modifications to her transmission. She clocked 31.59 knots during her post-refit trials, making her the fifth-fastest passenger ship in the world at the time.
On Tuesday morning, April 12, 1966, five days after having departed Genoa, Michelangelo, under command of Senior Captain Giuseppe Soletti, was hit by an unusually large wave during a storm in the mid-Atlantic, which caused the forward part of her superstructure to collapse, or to be pushed backwards, and killed passengers Dr. Werner Berndt of Hamburg, Germany and John Steinbach of Chicago. One crew member, Desiderio Ferrari, died a few hours later and over 50 people were injured. Among the 1,495 passengers on board this crossing were Admiral Ernesto Giurati, President of the Italian Line and former Chief of the Italian Navy, Italian Chief of Protocol, Angelo Corrias, who was heading for a vacation in the States, German novelist Günter Grass and his wife Anna, as well as Bob Montana with his wife and four children. When repairs were carried out after the accident, the aluminum plating in the superstructure was replaced by steel plates. Similar reconstruction was carried out on the Raffaello and other contemporary ships such as SS United States and SS France. 
In May 1972, Alfred Hitchcock took a voyage on this ship from New York to his screening of Frenzy at the Cannes Film Festival.
During the following years passenger numbers in the Transatlantic trade declined steadily due to competition from the air, and more and more ships were withdrawn. The Michelangelo spent more time cruising to warmer waters, but she made a poor cruise ship with her windowless cabins and three-class layout. She had large lido decks that were superior to even most purpose-built cruise ships of the time, but that was not enough to compensate for the ship's shortcomings, and Italian Line did not have enough funds to rebuild the ship to make her a more usable cruiser. Additionally, she was considered to be too large to be a cruise ship by that time's standards.
Italy's flagship SS Michelangelo made her last Atlantic crossing in July 1975, under command of Senior Captain Claudio Cosulich. Afterwards she was laid up at La Spezia alongside her sister. Several buyers (including Knut Kloster of Norwegian Cruise Line) inspected the ships but did not wish to buy them due to the costs required to modernise them to cruise ship standard. There was one serious buyer, Home Lines, who wished to buy the ships and keep them under Italian flag for cruising in the Caribbean. The Italian Line refused to sell the sisters, reportedly because they felt keeping the Italian flag would have associated the "embarrassing money-losers" with them.
In 1976 a buyer was found that agreed to the terms sought by Italian Line. The Shah of Iran purchased the ships, to be used as floating barracks. The ships that had cost $45 million each were now sold at the price of $2 million per ship. The Michelangelo ended up in Bandar Abbas where she was to spend the next fifteen years.
In 1978 plans were made to reconstruct her as the luxury cruise ship Scià Reza il Grande (in honour of Rezā Shāh). However, an expert team sent from Italy to inspect the ship came to the conclusion she was too badly deteriorated to make rebuilding a viable option. Similar plans were made again in 1983, but they too fell short.
Finally, in June 1991 she was scrapped in Gadani ship-breaking yard, Pakistan. 
Michelangelo - Biography and Legacy
Michelangelo was born to Leonardo di Buonarrota and Francesca di Neri del Miniato di Siena, a middle-class family of bankers in the small village of Caprese, near Arezzo, in Tuscany. His mother's unfortunate and prolonged illness forced his father to place his son in the care of his nanny. The nanny's husband was a stonecutter, working in his own father's marble quarry.
When Michelangelo was six years old, his mother died yet he continued to live with the pair and legend has it this unconventional situation from childhood would lay the foundation for his later love affair with marble.
By the time he was 13 years old, it was clear to his father that Michelangelo had no aptitude for the family vocation. The young boy was sent to apprentice in the well-known studio of Domenico Ghirlandaio . After only a year in the studio, Lorenzo de' Medici of the renowned Florentine art patronage family asked Ghirlandaio for two of his best students. Michelangelo, along with Francesco Granacci, were chosen to attend the Medici family's Humanist academy. It was a thriving time in Renaissance Florence when artists were encouraged to study the humanities, accentuating their creative endeavors with knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman art and philosophy. Art was departing from Gothic iconography and devotional work and evolving into a grand celebration of man and his importance in the world. Michelangelo studied under the famous sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni, earning exposure to the great classical sculptures in the palace of Lorenzo.
During this time, Michelangelo obtained permission from the Catholic Church of Santo Spirito to study cadavers in their hospital so that he would gain an understanding of anatomy. In return, he carved them a wooden cross. His ability to precisely render the realistic muscular tone of the body resulted from this early education as evidenced in two sculptures that survive from that time Madonna seated on a Step (1491) and Battle of the Centaurs (1492).
Early Training and Work
Following the death of Lorenzo di Medici in 1492 Michelangelo remained with relative security in Florence. But when the Florentine city became embroiled in political turmoil, the Medici family was expelled and the artist moved to Bologna. It was in Bologna that he received a commission to finish the carving of the Tomb of St. Dominic, which included the addition of a statue of St. Petronius, a kneeling angel holding a candlestick, and St. Proculus.
Michelangelo returned to Florence in 1494 after the threat of the French invasion abated. He worked on two statues, St. John the Baptist, and a small cupid. The Cupid was sold to Cardinal Riario of San Giorgio, passed off as an antique sculpture. Although annoyed at being duped, the Cardinal was impressed enough by Michelangelo's workmanship to invite him to Rome for another commission. For this commission, Michelangelo created a statue of Bacchus, which was rejected by the Cardinal who thought it politically imprudent to be associated with a pagan nude figure. Michelangelo was indignant - so much so that he later asked his biographer Condivi to deny the commission was from the Cardinal and instead to record it as a commission from his banker, Jacopo Galli. The artist's impetuous nature was already garnering him the reputation of being one who indignantly did what he wanted, oftentimes eschewing his patron's wishes or failing to complete work once started.
Michelangelo remained in Rome after completing the Bacchus, and in 1497 the French Ambassador, Cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas commissioned his Pietà for the chapel of the King of France in St Peter 's Basilica. The Pietà was to become one of Michelangelo's most famous carvings, which the 16th-century biographer Giorgio Vasari, described as something "nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh." His acuity with emotional expression and lifelike realism in the piece, garnered the artist much awe and attention.
Although his status as one of the period's most talented artists following the completion of the Pietà was secure, Michelangelo didn't receive any major commissions over the next two years. Financially, however this absence of work wasn't of much concern. Wealth didn't seem to affect the artist's lifestyle. As he would say to Condivi towards the end of his life, "However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man."
In 1497, the puritanical monk Girolamo Savonarola became famous for his Bonfire of the Vanities, an event in which he and his supporters burned art and books in Florence, causing a cease to what had been a thriving period of the Renaissance. Michelangelo would have to wait until Savonarola's ousting in 1498 before returning to his beloved Florence.
In 1501, his most notable achievement was born through a commission from the Guild of Wool to complete an unfinished project begun by Agostino di Duccio some 40 years earlier. This project, finally completed in 1504, was a majestic, 17-foot tall nude statue of the biblical hero David. The work was a testament to the artist's unparalleled excellence at carving breathtakingly precise depictions of real life out of inanimate marble.
Several painting commissions followed after David's completion. In particular, Michelangelo's only known finished painting that has survived, Doni Tondo (The Holy Family) (1504).
During this time of the High Renaissance in Florence, rivalries between Michelangelo and his artist peers abounded, each fighting for prime commissions and revered social status as noted masters of their fields.
Leonardo da Vinci had quickly risen to fame and the competition between he and Michelangelo was legendary. In 1503, Piero Soderini, the lifetime Gonfalonier of Justice (senior civil servant akin to a Mayor), commissioned them both to paint two opposing walls of the Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio. Both paintings were never finished and are unfortunately lost. Leonardo's The Battle of Anghiari was painted over when Vasari later reconstructed the Palazzo. Michelangelo's work on The Battle of Cascina was interrupted in the preparatory drawing stage when Pope Julius II summoned him to Rome. Michelangelo was seduced by the flamboyant reputation of the patron Pope who was luring other artist peers such as Donato Bramante and Raphael to create exciting new projects. Never one to be bested by his rivals, he accepted the invitation.
In Rome, Michelangelo started work on the Pope's tomb, work that was to be completed within a five-year timeline. Yet, the artist would abandon the project after being cajoled by the Pope for another commission. The project was the painting of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling and rumor has it that Bramante, the architect in charge of rebuilding St. Peter's Basilica, was the one to convince the Pope that Michelangelo was the man for the job. Bramante was notoriously consumed by envy, and knowing that Michelangelo was better known for his sculptures rather than paintings, was certain that his rival would fail. He hoped this would cause the artist to fall out of popular favor. Michelangelo reluctantly accepted the commission.
Michelangelo would work on the Sistine Chapel for the next four years. It was a difficult job of extraordinary endurance, especially since the tempestuous artist had sacked all of his assistants save one who helped him mix paint. What resulted was a monumental work of great genius illustrating stories from the Old Testament including the Creation of the World and Noah and the Flood. Contrary to Bramante's hopes, it became (and remains) one of the greatest masterpieces of Western Art.
Another noted rival was the young 26-year-old Raphael who had burst upon the scene and was chosen in 1508 to paint a fresco in Pope Julius II's private library, a commission vied for by both Michelangelo and Leonardo. When Leonardo's health began to fail, Raphael became Michelangelo's greatest artistic adversary. Because of Raphael's acuity with depicting anatomy and his finesse for painting nudes, Michelangelo would often accuse him of copying his own work. Although influenced by Michelangelo, Raphael resented Michelangelo's animosity toward him. He responded by painting the artist with his traditional sulking face in the guise of Heraclitus in his famous fresco The School of Athens (1509-1511).
Following Pope Julius II's death in 1513 Michelangelo was commissioned by the new Pope Leo X to work on the façade of the Basilica San Lorenzo, the largest church in Florence. He spent the next three years on it before the project was cancelled due to lack of funds. In 1520, he received another commission for a Medici chapel in the Basilica of San Lorenzo on which he worked intermittently for the next twenty years. During those two decades, he would also complete an architectural commission for the Laurentian Library.
After the sack of Rome by Charles V in 1527, Florence was declared a republic and stayed under siege until 1530. Having worked prior to the siege for the defense of Florence, Michelangelo feared for his life and fled back to Rome. Despite his support for the republic, he was welcomed by Pope Clement and given a new contract for the tomb of Pope Julius II. It was also during this time he was commissioned to paint the fresco of the Last Judgement on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, a project that would take seven years.
Although a late bloomer relationship wise, at age 57, Michelangelo would establish the first of three notable friendships, sparking a prolific poetic output to add to his cadre of artistic talents. The first in 1532 was a 23-year-old Italian nobleman, Tommaso dei Cavalieri, who was not only the artist's young lover but remained a lifelong friend. The art historian, Howard Hibbard, quotes Michelangelo describing Tommaso as the "light of our century, paragon of all the world." The passionate affair provoked Michelangelo to produce a number of love poems so homoerotic in nature that his grandnephew, upon publishing the volume in 1623, changed the gender pronouns to disguise their homosexual context.
In 1536, Michelangelo found another lifelong object of affection, the widow, Vittoria Colonna, the Marquise of Pescara, who was also a poet. The majority of his prolific poetry is devoted to her, and his adoration continued until her death in 1547. He also gave her paintings and drawings, and one of the most beautiful to have survived is the black chalk drawing Pietà for Vittoria Colonna of 1546. She was the only woman who played a significant part in Michelangelo's life and their relationship is generally believed to have been platonic. During this period, he also worked on a number of architectural commissions including the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Sforza Chapel in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, as well as the Capitoline Hill. He also received commissions for two frescos in the Cappella Paolina the Conversion of St Paul, and the Crucifixion of St Peter.
In 1540, Michelangelo met Cecchino dei Bracci, son of a wealthy Florentine banker, at the Court of Pope Paul III, who was only 12 years old. The epitaphs Michelangelo wrote following Cecchino's death four years later reveal the extent of their relationship, suggesting they were lovers. In particular one, which includes the graphic allusion, "Do yet attest for him how gracious I was in bed. When he embraced, and in what the soul doth live."
It was Pope Julius II who, in 1504, proposed demolishing the old St Peter's Basilica and replacing it with the "grandest building in Christendom." Although the design by Donato Bramante had been selected in 1505, and foundations lain the following year, not much progress had been made since. By the time Michelangelo reluctantly took over this project from his noted rival in 1546 he was in his seventies, stating, "I undertake this only for the love of God and in honor of the Apostle."
Michelangelo worked continuously throughout the rest of his life on the Basilica. His most important contribution to the project was his work upon the dome in the eastern end of the Basilica. He combined the design ideas of all the prior architects who had given input on the work, which imagined a large dome comparable to Brunelleschi's famous dome in Florence, and coalesced them with his own grand visions. Although the dome was not finished until after his death, the base on which the dome was to be placed was completed, which meant the design of the dome could not be altered significantly in its completion. Still the largest church in the world, it remains a testament to his genius and his devotion. He continued to sculpt but did so privately for personal pleasure rather than work. He completed a number of Pietàs including the Disposition (which he attempted to destroy), as well as his last, the Rondanini Pietà, on which he worked until the last weeks before his death.
It's been said that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become world class in any field. Michelangelo epitomized this ideal as he started his career as a mere boy and continued working until his death at 88 years old.
His great love Tommaso remained with him until the end when Michelangelo died at home in Rome following a short illness in 1564. Per his wishes, his body was taken back to Florence and interred at the Basilica di Santa Croce.
The Legacy of Michelangelo
Along with Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, Michelangelo is regarded as one of the three giants of the Renaissance, and a major contributor to the Humanist movement. Humanity, in both its relationship to the divine and non-secular reality was central to his painting and sculpture. He was a master at depicting the body with such technical accuracy that marble was seemingly transformed into flesh and bone. His adeptness with human emotionality and expression inspired humility and veneration. The psychological insight and physical realism in his work had never been portrayed with such intensity before. His Pieta, David, and the Sistine Chapel have been maintained and preserved and continue to draw crowds of visitors from all over the world. His lifetime achievements give credence to the title commonly bestowed to him of Il Divino (The Divine).
Michelangelo's influence on other artists was profound and has continued from Raphael in his time to Rubens, through to Bernini, and the last great sculptor to follow his tradition of realism, Rodin.
His fame, established when he was in his early twenties, has continued to our time. As for his genius look to Galileo, who claimed he was born a day earlier, to coincide with the day Michelangelo died, alluding to the assertion that genius never dies.
How Did Michelangelo Change the World?
Michelangelo changed the world by helping people view art and artists differently. His art was remarkable because of this, the world began to recognize artists and their art as important additions to society.
Prior to Michelangelo, artists did not receive individual attention or notoriety for their work. They were seen as nothing more than journeymen.
Michelangelo changed the world's opinion of artists through his extraordinary works of art. With groundbreaking art, he created some of the most revered pieces known to man his attention to detail made these works remarkable. Michelangelo was best known as a sculptor, and his infamous David, with lifelike characteristics carved in marble, is still considered a masterpiece. Other notable sculptures include Pieta, Moses, and Madonna and Child.
Michelangelo was not just a sculptor he was an important painter and prolific architect as well. His paintings are considered some of the world's greatest showpieces. These paintings include the elaborate and detailed Sistine Chapel ceiling, which includes various painted elements to form a large scheme within the Chapel. As an architect, he designed the final plans for the St. Peter's Cathedral in the Vatican.
His work is considered the beginning of the High Renaissance, a period of time where the world came to recognize and appreciate the value of visual arts.
- His early studies of classical Greek and Roman sculpture, coupled with a study of cadavers, led Michelangelo to become an expert at anatomy. The musculature of his bodies is so authentically precise that they've been said to breathe upon sight.
- Michelangelo's dexterity with carving an entire sculpture from a single block of marble remains unparalleled. He once said, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." He was known as one who could conjure real life from stone.
- The artist's feisty and tempestuous personality is legendary. He often abandoned projects midway through or played out his pride or defiance of conventionality through controversial means such as painting his own face on figures in his work, the faces of his enemies in mocking fashion, or unabashedly portraying sacred characters in the nude.
- Michelangelo's most seminal pieces: the massive painting of the biblical narratives in the Sistine Chapel, the 17-foot tall testament to male perfection David, and the heartbreakingly genuine Pietà are considered some of the world's most genius works of art, drawing large numbers of tourists to this day.
Madonna of Bruges
The Madonna of Bruges is a marble sculpture by Michelangelo of the Virgin and Child.
|Madonna and Child|
|Dimensions||200 cm (79 in)|
|Location||Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, Bruges|
|Coordinates||Coordinates: 51°12′17″N 3°13′28″E / 51.20472°N 3.22444°E / 51.20472 3.22444|
Michelangelo's depiction of the Madonna and Child differs significantly from earlier representations of the same subject, which tended to feature a pious Virgin smiling down on an infant held in her arms. Instead, Jesus stands upright, almost unsupported, only loosely restrained by Mary's left hand, and appears to be about to step away from his mother. Meanwhile, Mary does not cling to her son or even look at him, but gazes down and away. It is believed the work was originally intended for an altar piece. If this is so, then it would have been displayed facing slightly to the right and looking down. The early 16th-century sculpture also displays the High Renaissance Pyramid style frequently seen in the works of Leonardo da Vinci during the late 1400s.
Madonna and Child shares certain similarities with Michelangelo's Pietà, which was completed shortly before – mainly, the chiaroscuro effect and movement of the drapery. The long, oval face of Mary is also reminiscent of the Pietà.
The work is also notable in that it was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime. In 1504, it was bought by Giovanni and Alessandro Moscheroni (Mouscron), who were wealthy cloth merchants in Bruges,  then one of the leading commercial cities in Europe. The sculpture was sold for 4,000 florins.
The sculpture was removed twice from Belgium after its initial arrival. The first was in 1794 after French Revolutionaries had conquered the Austrian Netherlands during the French Revolutionary Wars the citizens of Bruges were ordered to ship it and several other valuable works of art to Paris. It was returned after Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in 1815. The second removal was in 1944, during World War II, with the retreat of German soldiers, who smuggled the sculpture to Germany enveloped in mattresses in a Red Cross truck.  It was discovered a year later in Altaussee, Austria within a salt mine and again returned. It now sits in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges, Belgium. This is represented in the 2014 film The Monuments Men.
The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo
Of all the marvelous images that crowd the immense complex of the Sistine Ceiling, The Creation of Adam is undoubtedly the one which has most deeply impressed posterity. No wonder, for here we are given a single overwhelming vision of the sublimity of God and the potential nobility of man unprecedented and unrivaled in the entire history of visual art. No longer standing upon earth with closed eyes and mantle, the Lord floats through the heavens, His mantle widespread and bursting with angelic forms, and His calm gaze accompanying and reinforcing the movement of His mighty arm. He extends His forefinger, about to touch that of Adam, who reclines on the barren coast of earth, barely able as yet to lift his hand. The divine form is convex, explosive, paternal the human concave, receptive, and conspicuously impotent. The incipient, fecundating contact about to take place between the two index fingers has often been described as a spark or a current, a modern electrical metaphor doubtless foreign to the sixteenth century, but natural enough considering the river of life which seems about to flow into the waiting body.
Genesis tells how the Lord created Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This story is never illustrated literally in Renaissance art. Usually, as in Jacopo della Quercia's beautiful relief on the facade of the church of San Petronio in Bologna, which must have impressed the young Michelangelo deeply, the Creator stands on earth and blesses the already formed body of Adam, read together with the ground, since his name in Hebrew means earth. Michelangelo's completely new image seems to symbolize a still further idea - the instillation of divine power in humanity, which took place at the Incarnation. Given Cardinal Vigerio's reiterated insistence on the doctrine of the two Adams, and the position of the scene immediately after the barrier to the sanctuary, at the spot where the Annunciation customarily appeared, and after Ezekiel with his vision of the Virgin Birth, this would seem natural enough. The scene recalls the famous verses from Isaiah, "Who hath believed our report ? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground . . " invariably taken by theologians to foretell the Incarnation of Christ, shoot of Jesse's rod. Two striking visual elements make clear that this was one of the passages that actually recommended to Michelangelo by his probable adviser, Cardinal Vigerio. First, the mighty right arm of the Lord is revealed, naked as in no other of His appearances on the Sistine Ceiling, nor anywhere else, as far as I have been able to determine, in all of the Christian art prior to this time. (The left arm is clothed, at least to the elbow, by a white sleeve.) Second, directly under Adam, the arm of the veiled youth to the left above the Persian Sibyl projects into the scene - a matter that involved considerable advance planning - coming as close to touching Adam's thigh as the Creator does his finger. This hand holds a cornucopia bursting with Rovere leaves and acorns, appearing to grow from the dry ground, as full of potency as Adam ("ground") is empty of it. Such an image is characteristic not only of Michelangelo, who insofar as possible preferred to show male figures, including that of Christ, completely naked, but of the Roman High Renaissance and of Julius II himself, whose language as recorded by his astonished contemporaries overflows with boasts of his own physical strength and potency.
This statue of Bacchus depicts the Roman god of wine precariously perched on a rock in a state of drunkenness. He wears a wreath of ivy and holds a goblet in one hand, brought up toward his lips for a drink. In the other hand, he holds a lion skin, which is a symbol for death derived from the myth of Hercules. From behind his left leg peeks a satyr, significant to the cult of Bacchus often representing a drunken, lusty, woodland deity.
The work, one of Michelangelo's earliest, caused much controversy. It was originally commissioned by Cardinal Riario and was inspired by a description of a lost bronze sculpture by the ancient sculptor Praxiteles. But when Riario saw the finished piece he found it inappropriate and rejected it. Michelangelo sold it to his banker Jacopo Galli instead.
Despite its colored past though, the piece is evidence of Michelangelo's early genius. His excellent knowledge of anatomy is seen in the androgynous figure's body which Vasari described as having the "the slenderness of a young man and the fleshy roundness of a woman." A high center of gravity lends the figure a sense of captured movement, which Michelangelo would later perfect even further for David. Although intended to mimic classical Greek sculpture and distressed toward an antique appearance, Michelangelo remained true to what in visual human terms it means to be drunk the unseemly swaying body was unlike any depiction of a god in classical Greek and Roman sculpture. Art historian Claire McCoy said of the sculpture, "Bacchus marked a moment when originality and imitation of the antique came together."
Marble - Museo del Bargello, Florence
This was the first of a number of Pietàs Michelangelo worked on during his lifetime. It depicts the body of Jesus in the lap of his mother after the Crucifixion. This particular scene is one of the seven sorrows of Mary used in Catholic devotional prayers and depicts a key moment in her life foretold by the prophet, Simeon.
Cardinal Jean de Bilhères commissioned the work, stating that he wanted to acquire the most beautiful work of marble in Rome, one that no living artist could better. The 24-year-old Michelangelo answered this call, carving the work in two years out of a single block of marble.
Although the work continued a long tradition of devotional images used as aids for prayer, which was developed in Germany in the 1300s, the depiction was uniquely connotative of Italian Renaissance art of the time. Many artists were translating traditional religious narratives in a highly humanist vein blurring the boundaries between the divine and man by humanizing noted biblical figures and taking liberties with expression. Mary was a common subject, portrayed in myriad ways, and in this piece Michelangelo presented her not as a woman in her fifties, but as an unusually youthful beauty. As Michelangelo related to his biographer Ascanio Condivi, "Do you not know that chaste women stay fresh much more than those who are not chaste?"
Not only was Pietà the first depiction of the scene in marble, but Michelangelo also moved away from the depiction of the Virgin's suffering which was usually portrayed in Pietàs of the time, instead presenting her with a deep sense of maternal tenderness for her child. Christ too, shows little sign of his recent crucifixion with only slightly discernible small nail marks in his hands and the wound in his side. Rather than a dead Christ, he looks as if he is asleep in the arms of his mother as she waits for him to awake, symbolic of the resurrection.
A pyramidal structure signature to the time was also used: Mary's head at the top and then the gradual widening through her layered garments to the base. The draped clothing gives credence to Michelangelo's mastery of marble, as they retain a sense of flowing movement, far removed from the typical characteristic of stone.
This is the only sculpture Michelangelo ever signed. In a fiery fit of reaction to rumors circulating that the piece was made by one of his competitors, Cristoforo Solari, he carved his name across Mary's sash right between her breasts. He also split his name in two as Michael Angelus, which can be seen as a reference to the Archangel Michael - an egotistical move and one he would later regret. He swore to never again sign another piece and stayed true to his word.
The Pietà became famous immediately following its completion and was pivotal in contributing to Michelangelo's fame. Despite an attack in 1972, which damaged Mary's arm and face, it was restored and continues to inspire awe in visitors to this day.
Marble - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
This 17 foot tall statue depicts the prophet David, majestic and nude, with the slingshot he used to kill Goliath, slung victoriously over one shoulder.
The piece was commissioned by the Opera del Duomo for the Cathedral of Florence, a project that was originally meant to be a series of sculptures of prophets for the rooftop. Although David's familiarity stems from the classic religious tale, the statue became not only a rendition of the tale, but a symbol for the new Florentine Republic of its defiant independence from Medici rule.
Considered one of Michelangelo's great masterpieces. An exquisite example of his knowledge of anatomy can be seen in David's musculature, his strength emphasized through the classical contrapposto stance, with weight shifting onto his right leg. A sense of naturalism is conveyed in the way the body stands determined, a confident glare on the young man's face. The top half of the body was made slightly larger than the legs so that viewers glancing up at it or from afar would experience a more authentic perspective. The realism was seen as so powerful that Vasari praised it as Michelangelo's "miracle. to restore life to one who was dead."
During the Early Renaissance, Donatello had revived the classical nude as subject matter and made a David of his own. But Michelangelo's version, with its towering height, is unmistakably the most iconic version. As was customary to Michelangelo and his work, this statue was simultaneously revered and controversial.
The plaster cast of David now resides at the Victoria and Albert Museum. During visits by notable women such as Queen Victoria, a detachable plaster fig leaf was added, strategically placed atop the private parts.
On another occasion, a replica of David was offered to the municipality of Jerusalem to mark the 3,000th anniversary of King David's conquest of the city. Religious factions in Jerusalem urged that the gift be declined because the naked figure was considered pornographic. A fully clad replica of David by Andrea del Verrocchio, a Florentine contemporary of Michelangelo, was donated instead.
Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence - Marble
Doni Tondo (Holy Family)
Holy Family, the only finished panel painting by the artist to survive, was commissioned by Agnolo Doni for his marriage to Maddalena Strozzi, daughter of a powerful Tuscan family, which gives it its name. It portrays Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and an infant John the Baptist. The intimate tenderness of the figures governed by the father's loving gaze emphasizes the love of family and divine love, representing the cores of Christian faith. In contrast, the five nude males in the background symbolize pagans awaiting redemption. The round (tondo) form was customary for private commissions and Michelangelo designed the intricate gold carved wooden frame. The work is believed to be entirely by his hand.
We find many of the artist's influences in this painting, including Signorelli's Madonna. It is also said to have been influenced by Leonardo's The Virgin and Child with St Anne, a cartoon (full scale drawing) that Michelangelo saw while working on his David in 1501. The nude figures in the background are said to have been influenced by the ancient statue of Laocoön and His Sons (the Trojan priest) attributed to the Greek sculptors Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus, which was excavated in Rome in 1506 and publicly displayed in the Vatican.
Yet influences aside, the piece is distinctly Michelangelo, an example of his individualism, which was considered very avant-garde for the time. It was a significant shift from the serene, static rendition of figures depicted in classical Roman and Greek sculpture. Its twisting figures signify enormous energy and movement and the vibrant colors add to the majesty of the work, which were later used in his frescos in the Sistine Chapel. The soft modelling of the figures in the background with the focused details in the foreground gives this small painting great depth.
This painting is said to have laid the foundations of Mannerism which in contrast to the High Renaissance devotion to proportion and idealized beauty, preferred exaggeration and affectation rather than natural realism.
Tempera on panel - Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
The Creation of Adam
This legendary painting, part of the vast masterpiece that adorns the Sistine Chapel, shows Adam as a muscular classical nude, reclining on the left, as he extends his hand toward God who fills the right half of the painting. God rushes toward him, his haste conveyed by his white flaring robe and the energetic movements of his body. God is surrounded by angels and cherubim, all encased within a red cloud, while a feminine figure thought to be Eve or Sophia, symbol of wisdom, peers out with curious interest from underneath God's arm. Behind Adam, the green ledge upon which he lies, and the mountainous background create a strong diagonal, emphasizing the division between mortal he and heavenly God. As a result the viewer's eye is drawn to the hands of God and Adam, outlined in the central space, almost touching. Some have noted that the shape of the red cloud resembles the shape of the human brain, as if the artist meant to imply God's intent to infuse Adam with not merely animate life, but also the important gift of consciousness.
This was an innovative depiction of the creation of Adam. Contrary to traditional artworks, God is not shown as aloof and regal, separate and above mortal man. For Michelangelo, it was important to depict the all-powerful giver of life as one distinctly intimate with man, whom he created in his own image. This reflected the humanist ideals of man's essential place in the world and the connection to the divine. The bodies maintain the sculptural quality so reminiscent of his painting, carrying on the mastery of human anatomy signature to the High Renaissance.
Many subsequent artists have studied and attempted to imitate parts of the work for what art historians Gabriele Bartz and Eberhard König called its "unprecedented invention." It is also one of the most parodied of Michelangelo's works, seen as humorous inspiration for The Creation of Muppet by artist James Hance in homage to Muppets creator Jim Henson used in the title sequence of the television arts program The Southbank Show borrowed from for the promotional poster for Steven Spielberg's movie ET and derived from for artist TasoShin's The Creation of Mario in homage to Miyamoto's contribution to Nintendo games.
Fresco - Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Rome
This grand epic sized statue depicts Moses seated regally to guard the tablets written with the Ten Commandments. His expression is stern, reflecting his anger at seeing his people worshipping the golden calf on his return from Mount Sinai.
Michelangelo's reputation following the sculpture of David reached Pope Julius II in Rome who commissioned the artist to come and work on his tomb. The ambitious artist initially proposed a project of over 40 figures. Yet In the final structure the central piece became this sculpture of Moses. Not only has he rendered the great prophet with a complex emotionality, his work on the fabric of Moses' clothes is noted for its exquisite perfection and look of authenticity. Again, he managed to craft a visage of seeming real life out of stone.
Pope Julius II famously interrupted Michelangelo's work on the tomb so that he could paint the Sistine Chapel. The final tomb wasn't finished until after the Pope's death in 1513, to be finally completed in 1545.
This sculpture has been at the center of much analysis, with Sigmund Freud having purportedly spent three weeks in 1913 observing the emotions expressed by the sculpture, concluding it was a supreme vision of self-control. Part of the controversy hinged around what appear to be horns protruding from Moses' head. While some see them as symbolic of his anguish, others believe them to hearken to a Latin mistranslation of the Bible in which instead of rays of light illuminating the radiance of Moses, he appears to be growing horns. This can stem from the Hebrew word Keren, which can mean 'radiated light' or 'grew horns.'
The work was eventually housed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome where Pope Julius II had been Cardinal.
Marble - San Pietro Vincoli, Rome
The Last Judgement
This fresco covers the entire altar wall of the Sistine Chapel and is one of the last pieces in the seminal building that was commissioned by Pope Clement VII when Michelangelo was 62. In it we see the Second Coming of Christ as he delivers the Last Judgement. The monumental work took five years to complete and consists of over 300 individual figures. The scene is one of harried action around the central figure of Christ, his hands raised to reveal the wounds of his Crucifixion. He looks down upon the souls of humans as they rise to their fates. To his left, the Virgin Mary glances toward the saved. On either side of Christ is John the Baptist and St Peter holding the keys to heaven. Many of the saints appear with examples of their sacrifices. Particularly interesting is St Bartholomew, martyred by the flaying of his skin, the face on which is said to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo. The saved souls rise from their graves on the left helped by angels. On the right, Charon the ferryman is shown bringing the damned to the gates of Hell. Minos, assuming the role Dante gave him in his Inferno, admits them to Hell. Another noteworthy group are the seven angels blowing trumpets illustrating the Book of Revelation's end of the world.
In usual Michelangelo fashion, the artist depicted the traditional scene with elements of controversy, particularly by rendering its subjects nude with extremely muscular anatomies. His rendition of a beardless Christ was unusual for the time, as was the use of figures from pagan mythology. Vasari reports that the Pope's Master of Ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena, called it a disgrace "that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully." Michelangelo, angry at the remark, is said to have painted Cesena's face onto Minos, judge of the underworld, with donkey's ears. Cesena complained to the Pope at being so ridiculed, but the Pope is said to have jokingly remarked that his jurisdiction did not extend to Hell.
materials - Fresco, Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
This piece is not only sculpturally complex and indicative of Michelangelo's genius, but it carries layers of meaning and has sparked multiple interpretations. In it, we see Christ the moment after the Deposition, or being taken down from the cross of his crucifixion. He is falling into the arms of his mother, the Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene, whose presence in a work of such importance was highly unusual. Behind the trio is a hooded figure, which is said to be either Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus, both of whom were in attendance of the entombment of Christ, which would follow this event. Joseph would end up giving his tomb for Christ and Nicodemus would speak with Christ about the possibility of obtaining eternal life. Because Christ is seen falling into the arms of his mother, this piece is also often referred to as a pieta.
The multiple themes alluded to in this one piece: The Deposition, The Pieta, and The Entombment are further emphasized by the way Michelangelo carved it. Not only is it life like and intense with realism, it was also sculpted so that a person could walk around to observe and absorb each of the three narratives from different perspectives. The remarkable three-dimensionality allows the group to interact within each of the work's meanings.
The work is also a perfect example of Michelangelo's temperament and perfectionism. The process of making it was arduous. Vasari relates that the artist complained about the quality of the marble. Some suggest he had a problem with the way Christ's left leg originally draped over Nicodemus, worrying that some might interpret it in a sexual way, causing him to remove it. Perhaps Michelangelo was so particular with the piece because he was intending it for his own future tomb.
In 1555, Michelangelo attempted to destroy the piece causing further speculation about its meaning. There is a suggestion that the attempted destruction of the piece was because Nicodemus, by reference to his conversation with Christ about the need to be born again to find everlasting life, is associated with Martin Luther's Reformation. Michelangelo was known to be a secret sympathizer, which was dangerous even for someone as influential as he was. Perhaps a coincidence, but his Lutheran sympathies are given as one of the reasons why Pope Paul IV cancelled Michelangelo's pension in 1555. One of Michelangelo's biographers Giorgio Vasari also mentions that the face of Nicodemus is a self-portrait of Michelangelo, which may allude to his crisis of faith.
Although Michelangelo worked on this sculpture over a number of years he was unable to complete it and gave the unfinished piece to Francesco Bandini, a wealthy merchant, who commissioned Tiberio Calcagni, a friend of Michelangelo's, to finish it and repair the damage (all except for replacing Christ's left leg).
Marble - Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence
Pietà Rondanini is the last sculpture Michelangelo worked on in the weeks leading up to his death, finalizing a story that weaved through his many Pietas and now reflective of the artist's reckoning with his own mortality. The depiction of Christ has changed from his earlier St. Peter's Pieta in which Christ appeared asleep, through to his Deposition, where Christ's body was more lifeless, to now, where Christ is shown in the utter pain and suffering of death. His mother Mary is standing in this piece, an unusual rendition, as she struggles to hold up the body of her son while immersed in grief.
What's interesting about this work is that Michelangelo abandoned his usual perfection at carving the body even though he worked on it intermittently for over 12 years. It was a departure that so late in his prolific career signified the enduring genius of an artist whose confidence would allow him to try new things even when his fame would have allowed him to easily rest upon his laurels. The detached arm, the subtle sketched features of the face, and the way the figures almost blend into each other provide a more abstracted quality than was his norm, and all precursors of a minimalism that was yet to come in sculpture. The renowned sculptor Henry Moore later said of this piece, "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."
This sculpture's importance was ignored for centuries, including its disappearance from public discourse until it was found in the possession of Marchese Rondanini in 1807. It has since excited many modern artists. The Italian artist Massimo Lippi is quoted as saying that modern and contemporary art began with this Pietà, and the South African painter, Marlene Dumas, based her Homage to Michelangelo (2012) on this work.