Michelangelo Buonarroti was the greatest artist of the sixteenth century. His work includes paintings, sculptures, and architecture, all of which are very famous. Some of his more famous pieces of art are the Sistine chapel; sculpture of David, the “Last Judgment”, and his four Pietas. Almost all of his works he did by himself and rarely had someone help him. Michelangelo had a different style than another artist of the time. His work always looked more defined, almost as if they were real. They took hard work and determination, which Michelangelo had a lot of.
Michelangelo was born in a small village of Caprese on March 6, 1475. He was the second of five sons. He had a passion for art ever since he was a baby. He grew up in Florence where the early period of renaissance was just beginning. Many great masters such as Masaccio, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Donatello surrounded him. He loved to draw and paint despite his father’s objections (Mariani, 13). When he was thirteen he went off to study under the watch of Domenico Ghirlandaio. He had many conflicts and his training ended after only one year. While he was studying with Domenico, he learned the art of fresco painting and was greatly influenced by the methods of Domenico (Venezia, 2). From there Michelangelo went on to live in the house of Lorenzo de’ Medici. The Medici house was a gathering place for all artist, philosophers, and poets. Michelangelo used it to study the gardens and practice fresco paintings (Michelangelo, 3). Where he soon mastered the art of fresco. After political events led to the exit of the powerful Medici family, Michelangelo traveled to Venice, Bologna, and then finally to Rome. Here he produced his first large-scale sculpture of a drunken Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. After the introduction of the sculpture, many artists had a great respect for him (Michelangelo B, 4)
Many of Michelangelo’s work revolved around the church. He was a very religious man, but expressed his personal beliefs mostly in his later works. One of his more famous earlier works is a Pieta. The Pieta is a sculpture of Christ in his mother’s lap, just after he is taken down from the cross. The high degree of finish is rarely seen in any of Michelangelo’s work (Life, 5). Another one of his earlier works were Madonna of the Stairs, and Battle of Centaurs. Both of which he did while he was under the age of 19. These were huge accomplishments for him and he had great pride in the way they were seen by others (Artist, 2).
The Sistine chapel was one of the biggest accomplishments that Michelangelo achieved. This is probably his most famous work of all. This project took him nearly four years to complete. Julius of Rome commissioned the project. Michelangelo created some of the most memorable images of time on the vaulted ceiling of the papal chapel. The painting tells the story of Genesis, beginning with God separating light and dark, progressing to the story of Adam and Eve, and concluding with the story of Noah. Scenes from the biblical stories of David, Judith, Esther, and Moses are set in the corners, while images of prophets, sibyls, and the ancestors of Christ are set in painted architectural framework above the windows. The nine scenes that cover the top of the chapel ceiling are Drunkenness of Noah, the Flood, the Sacrifice of Noah, the Fall, the creation of Eve, the creation of Adam, the Separation of the Waters, the Creation of the Heavenly Bodies and God separating Light from Darkness. It covers more than 1000 sq. meters and includes more than 300 figures. Along with the nine main scenes are eight spandrels with lunette below them, four corner double spandrels, twelve painted niches, and various other spaces filled with figures (Di Cagno, 38). Every angle of imaginary frame surrounding scenes is a naked figure seated on a pedestal; there are twenty in all. At the arches are naked crowned children who act as caryatids and are accompanied by two little geniuses the figures are Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Zachariah, Isaiah, Daniel, Jonah, the Persian, Erythraean, Cumaean, Delphian, Libyan, and Sibyls (Rolland, 40). The work on the Sistine chapel took a lot out of Michelangelo and you could tell by the way he looked and acted. In his diary, he wrote: After four tortured years, more than 400 over life-sized figures, I felt as old and weary as Jeremiah. I was only thirty-seven, yet friends did not recognize the old man I had become.” (Michelangelo B, 2). Many times while he was painting the chapel ceiling, he wanted to give up. He thought that his work was bad and not beautiful. When it was taking to long the pope had threatened to fire him so he revealed it early but still kept working on it. He worked on the chapel all by himself most of the time and never had anyone but young boys from the workshops. This was partly because he had a terrible temper (Rolland, 43-44).
In 1536, he took the job to finish the Sistine Chapel. The painting covers the entire wall at the end of the chapel. It is a biblical scene of Angels bearing the book of Merits and Faults. They are calling the reborn to the supreme Judge (Mariani, LVIII). It is one of his most brutal paintings. It has no soul, force alone takes over; it has a very powerful message and is hard to understand. Many people feet offended by it. In 1564, the church covered up parts of it because of indecency. This was the work of an old man who didn’t have strength to paint (Di Cagno, 62).
The last project that Michelangelo ever worked on was the church and dome of St. Peters Basilica. Pope Julius the II commissioned him to finish the task if the already started church. Julius first gave commission to Donato Bramante (Michelangelo’s rival), in 1506. He died in 1514 without finishing it so Julius asked Michelangelo to finish it for him. Michelangelo took the job and put his life to finishing it. While doing the church he though only of god and knew god had put him there to do it. He wrote to his nephew: “ many people believe, as I do myself, that I have been placed at this post by god. I will not lave it because I am serving for the love of god and put all my hope in him.” (Venezia, 108-109). He had great pride in everything that went into that building and made sure that everything was perfect.
Although Michelangelo only did eight architectural designs, he is known as one of the greatest architects of the sixteenth century. He would pout all his ideas into one great big building that would be one of the best things ever made. His architectural work was so great because it was a different style than any other. He took all his sculpture and painting techniques and made a building that had so much detail and looked realistic.
In 1501, Michelangelo began the work of David. This statue expresses not only the daring of the young hero, but also of Michelangelo himself, who established himself as a master with this work. The statue, which stands seventeen feet tall, was carved from a block of stone that another sculptor had left unfinished. David stands with his weight on one leg, the other at rest. This pose suggests impending movement, and the entire sculpture shows tense waiting, as David sizes up his enemy and considers his course of action (Michelangelo, 9). The way David was sculpted shows Michelangelo’s great knowledge of anatomy.
Right after Michelangelo finished the sculpture of David, he started on the tomb of Julius II. His plan was to construct a freestanding structure with three levels: at the bottom, figures representing victory alternating with slaves; above them, four huge seated figures including Moses and Saint Paul; and finally angels supporting either a coffin or an image of the pope. In all, there would have been 40 figures (Life, 3). In the end only, three of Michelangelo’s pieces were included. Of these, Moses is the most powerful figure in the entire structure (Artist, 6).
At the age of 88 Michelangelo passed away, he was nearly blind, and in poor health, but still retained the desire to hold a chisel and a hammer in his hand. Knowing he was near death, he called his nephew to Rome to prepare his will for him. He gave his soul to god, his body to earth, and his personal belongings to his family (Life, 7). His nephew took his body to Florence and then transported to Santa Croce where the artist desired to be buried with his ancestors. The coffin was open 25 days after his death so that people could come and pay their respects to him. The funeral was held in the Medici Church of San Lorenzo on July 14,1564. The coffin was then returned to Santa Croce where a monument was erected, paid for by his nephew with donated marble.
Michelangelo accomplished many things during his life and produced many fine works of art. He is very respected by many artists of all generations and will always be. He had a different style of art that many people respected he made it possible for people to really see what art really was. He really loved what he did and put his whole life to try to make all his dreams come true. He knew he had a real talent and he used his talent in such a way that no one else would ever do.
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