• Although he did not consider himself a painter, Michelangelo created two of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling
    of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall.

  • One of them, by Giorgio Vasari, proposed that Michelangelo’s work transcended that of any artist living or dead, and was “supreme in not one art alone but in all three.

  • According to Condivi, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, for whom Michelangelo had sculpted St. John the Baptist, asked that Michelangelo “fix it so that it looked as if
    it had been buried” so he could “send it to Rome … pass [it off as] an ancient work and … sell it much better.”

  • [57] In 1520, the Medici came back to Michelangelo with another grand proposal, this time for a family funerary chapel in the Basilica of San Lorenzo.

  • [87] In his “Lives of the Artists”, Giorgio Vasari observed: “But infinitely more than any of the others he loved M. Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, a Roman gentleman, for whom, being
    a young man and much inclined to these arts, [Michelangelo] made, to the end that he might learn to draw, many most superb drawings of divinely beautiful heads, designed in black and red chalk; and then he drew for him a Ganymede rapt to Heaven
    by Jove’s Eagle, a Tityus with the Vulture devouring his heart, the Chariot of the Sun falling with Phaëthon into the Po, and a Bacchanal of children, which are all in themselves most rare things, and drawings the like of which have never
    been seen.

  • On 4 July of the same year, he began work on a commission for the banker Jacopo Galli, for his garden, an over-life-size statue of the Roman wine god Bacchus.

  • [49] Although Michelangelo worked on the tomb for 40 years, it was never finished to his satisfaction.

  • Michelangelo was asked by the consuls of the Guild of Wool to complete an unfinished project begun 40 years earlier by Agostino di Duccio: a colossal statue of Carrara marble
    portraying David as a symbol of Florentine freedom to be placed on the gable of Florence Cathedral.

  • [3][4] Michelangelo achieved fame early; two of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, were sculpted before the age of thirty.

  • This was for the painting of two large frescos in the Cappella Paolina depicting significant events in the lives of the two most important saints of Rome, the Conversion of
    Saint Paul and the Crucifixion of Saint Peter.

  • [54] Michelangelo persuaded Pope Julius II to give him a free hand and proposed a different and more complex scheme,[48][49] representing the Creation, the Fall of Man, the
    Promise of Salvation through the prophets, and the genealogy of Christ.

  • [51] According to Condivi’s account, Bramante, who was working on the building of St. Peter’s Basilica, resented Michelangelo’s commission for the pope’s tomb and convinced
    the pope to commission him in a medium with which he was unfamiliar, in order that he might fail at the task.

  • Florence, 1499–1505 Main article: David (Michelangelo) David, completed by Michelangelo in 1504, is one of the most renowned works of the Renaissance.

  • [10] For several generations, his family had been small-scale bankers in Florence; but the bank failed, and his father, Ludovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, briefly took
    a government post in Caprese, where Michelangelo was born.

  • [38] Michelangelo responded by completing his most famous work, the statue of David, in 1504.

  • The longest sequence, displaying deep romantic feeling, was written to the young Roman patrician Tommaso dei Cavalieri (c. 1509–1587), who was 23 years old when Michelangelo
    first met him in 1532, at the age of 57.

  • [76] His poetry includes the following closing lines from what is known as poem 285 (written in 1554): “Neither painting nor sculpture will be able any longer to calm my soul,
    now turned toward that divine love that opened his arms on the cross to take us in.

  • On 7 December 2007, a red chalk sketch for the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, possibly the last made by Michelangelo before his death, was discovered in the Vatican archives.

  • [32] During the half-year he spent in Florence, he worked on two small statues, a child St. John the Baptist and a sleeping Cupid.

  • [27][28] Between 1493 and 1494, he bought a block of marble, and carved a larger-than-life statue of Hercules, which was sent to France and subsequently disappeared sometime
    in the 18th century.

  • [43][44] He also may have painted the Madonna and Child with John the Baptist, known as the Manchester Madonna and now in the National Gallery, London.

  • [42] Also during this period, Michelangelo was commissioned by Angelo Doni to paint a “Holy Family” as a present for his wife, Maddalena Strozzi.

  • The commission for the tomb forced the artist to leave Florence with his planned Battle of Cascina painting unfinished.

  • [19] The next year, his father persuaded Ghirlandaio to pay Michelangelo as an artist, which was rare for someone of fourteen.

  • [47][48][49] By this time, Michelangelo was established as an artist;[50] both he and Julius II had hot tempers and soon argued.

  • Michelangelo was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive.

  • [12] Several months after Michelangelo’s birth, the family returned to Florence, where he was raised.

  • [68] St Peter’s Basilica, 1546–1564 Main article: St Peter’s Basilica § Architecture The dome of St Peter’s Basilica While still working on the Last Judgment, Michelangelo
    received yet another commission for the Vatican.

  • [43] • The Madonna of the Stairs (1490–1492) • The Taddei Tondo (1502) • Madonna of Bruges (1504) • The Doni Tondo (1504–1506) Male figure Candlestick angel by Niccolò dell’Arca
    The kneeling Angel is an early work, one of several that Michelangelo created as part of a large decorative scheme for the Arca di San Domenico in the church dedicated to that saint in Bologna.

  • [94] Works Madonna and Child The Madonna of the Stairs is Michelangelo’s earliest known work in marble.

  • Like the Last Judgment, these two works are complex compositions containing a great number of figures.

  • [64] Feuds with other artists In a letter from late 1542, Michelangelo blamed the tensions between Julius II and himself on the envy of Bramante and Raphael, saying of the
    latter, “all he had in art, he got from me”.

  • The hypothesis[40] on Michelangelo’s possible involvement in the creation of the profile is based on the strong resemblance of the latter to a profile drawn by the artist,
    datable to the beginning of the 16th century, now preserved in the Louvre.

  • Michelangelo transformed the plan so that the western end was finished to his design, as was the dome, with some modification, after his death.

  • [33] [d] This apparent success in selling his sculpture abroad as well as the conservative Florentine situation may have encouraged Michelangelo to accept the prelate’s invitation.

  • [67] Michelangelo worked on a number of architectural projects at this time.

  • [48][49] On 17 April 1506, Michelangelo left Rome in secret for Florence, remaining there until the Florentine government pressed him to return to the pope.

  • [15] The interiors of the older churches were covered with frescos (mostly in Late Medieval, but also in the Early Renaissance style), begun by Giotto and continued by Masaccio
    in the Brancacci Chapel, both of whose works Michelangelo studied and copied in drawings.

  • [36] It was soon to be regarded as one of the world’s great masterpieces of sculpture, “a revelation of all the potentialities and force of the art of sculpture”.

  • [25] In Bologna, he was commissioned to carve several of the last small figures for the completion of the Shrine of St. Dominic, in the church dedicated to that saint.

  • Despite Michelangelo’s support of the republic and resistance to the Medici rule, he was welcomed by Pope Clement, who reinstated an allowance that he had previously granted
    the artist and made a new contract with him over the tomb of Pope Julius.

  • [10] Apprenticeships, 1488–1492 The Madonna of the Stairs (1490–1492), Michelangelo’s earliest known work in marble As a young boy, Michelangelo was sent to Florence to study
    grammar under the Humanist Francesco da Urbino.

  • Life Early life, 1475–1488 Michelangelo was born on 6 March 1475[a] in Caprese, known today as Caprese Michelangelo, a small town situated in Valtiberina,[9] near Arezzo,

  • He spent three years creating drawings and models for the façade, as well as attempting to open a new marble quarry at Pietrasanta specifically for the project.

  • His successor, Pope Paul III, was instrumental in seeing that Michelangelo began and completed the project, which he laboured on from 1534 to October 1541.

  • [39] In the same period of placing the David, Michelangelo may have been involved in creating the sculptural profile on Palazzo Vecchio’s façade known as the Importuno di

  • Attempts by subsequent artists to imitate[8] The expressive physicality of Michelangelo’s style contributed to the rise of Mannerism, a short-lived movement in Western art
    following the High Renaissance.

  • The Madonna of Bruges was, at the time of its creation, unlike other such statues depicting the Virgin proudly presenting her son.

  • [25] Michelangelo left the security of the Medici court and returned to his father’s house.

  • [71] The dome, not completed until after his death, has been called by Banister Fletcher, “the greatest creation of the Renaissance”.

  • Some of the objects of Michelangelo’s affections, and subjects of his poetry, took advantage of him: the model Febo di Poggio asked for money in response to a love-poem, and
    a second model, Gherardo Perini, shamelessly stole from him.

  • According to Gian Paolo Lomazzo, Michelangelo and Raphael met once: the former was alone, while the latter was accompanied by several others.

  • It is extremely rare, since he destroyed his designs later in life.

  • Michelangelo returned to Florence but received no commissions from the new city government under Savonarola.

  • [14] In the early 15th century, the architect Filippo Brunelleschi, having studied the remains of Classical buildings in Rome, had created two churches, San Lorenzo’s and
    Santo Spirito, which embodied the Classical precepts.

  • “[77][78] Personal habits Michelangelo was abstemious in his personal life, and once told his apprentice, Ascanio Condivi: “However rich I may have been, I have always lived
    like a poor man.

  • At this time Michelangelo studied the robust reliefs carved by Jacopo della Quercia around the main portal of the Basilica of St Petronius, including the panel of The Creation
    of Eve, the composition of which was to reappear on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

  • [16] The sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti had laboured for fifty years to create the north and east bronze doors of the Baptistry, which Michelangelo was to describe as “The Gates
    of Paradise”.

  • Michelangelo used his own discretion to create the composition of the Medici Chapel, which houses the large tombs of two of the younger members of the Medici family, Giuliano,
    Duke of Nemours, and Lorenzo, his nephew.

  • [90] In 1542, Michelangelo met Cecchino dei Bracci who died only a year later, inspiring Michelangelo to write 48 funeral epigrams.

  • The work is part of a larger scheme of decoration within the chapel that represents much of the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

  • [13] The city of Florence was at that time Italy’s greatest centre of the arts and learning.

  • [45] Tomb of Julius II, 1505–1545 Main article: Tomb of Pope Julius II Tomb of Julius II, 1505–1545 In 1505 Michelangelo was invited back to Rome by the newly elected Pope
    Julius II and commissioned to build the Pope’s tomb, which was to include forty statues and be finished in five years.

  • [89] The poems to Cavalieri make up the first large sequence of poems in any modern tongue addressed by one man to another; they predate by 50 years Shakespeare’s sonnets
    to the fair youth: I feel as lit by fire a cold countenance That burns me from afar and keeps itself ice-chill; A strength I feel two shapely arms to fill Which without motion moves every balance.

  • [72] As construction was progressing on St Peter’s, there was concern that Michelangelo would pass away before the dome was finished.

  • The subject, which is not part of the Biblical narrative of the Crucifixion, was common in religious sculpture of Medieval Northern Europe and would have been very familiar
    to the Cardinal.

  • [43] The lively form of the child was later adapted by Raphael in the Bridgewater Madonna.

  • [35] In November 1497, the French ambassador to the Holy See, Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, commissioned him to carve a Pietà, a sculpture showing the Virgin Mary grieving
    over the body of Jesus.

  • With the Rebellious Slave, it is one of two such earlier figures for the Tomb of Pope Julius

  • [46] Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1505–1512 Main article: Sistine Chapel ceiling Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; the work took approximately four years
    to complete (1508–1512) During the same period, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel,[52] which took approximately four years to complete (1508–1512).

  • Several other artists had worked on the scheme, beginning with Nicola Pisano in the 13th century.

  • [10][13][b] He showed no interest in his schooling, preferring to copy paintings from churches and seek the company of other painters.


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• Goldscheider, Ludwig (1953). Michelangelo: Paintings, Sculptures, Architecture. Phaidon.
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Helen; Fred S. Kleiner, Christin J. Mamiya, Gardner’s Art through the Ages. Thomson Wadsworth, (2004) ISBN 0-15-505090-7.
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• Paoletti, John T. and Radke, Gary M., (2005) Art in
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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/seven_of9/4604238410/’]