Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, who is widely considered as one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance and of all times.
About his life
Michelangelo Buonarroti was born on March 6, 1475, in the family of a middle-class banker in Caprese, Italy. As a child, he became an apprentice artist and later studied in the sculpture gardens of the powerful Medici family. Michelangelo had a remarkable career as an artist and was recognized for his virtuosity as one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance. Michelangelo always considered himself a Florentine artist, but he lived and worked most of his life in Rome, where he died in 1564 at the age of 88.
What were his major works?
Michelangelo’s most famous marble statues:
- Bacchus. This statue was completed around 1497, it depicts the Roman god of wine Bacchus which shows particular traces of the Hellenistic sculpture.
- Pietà (1499) – another masterpiece that depicts the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus who is lying on her lap after the Crucifixion.
- Madonna of Bruges (1504), which shows a somewhat detached Mary which looks away.
- David (1504), which showcases Michelangelo’s exceptional technical skill as well as his strength of symbolic imagination and establish him as one of the greatest sculptors of all time
- Moses (1505), which was commissioned by Pope Julius II.
Among Michelangelo’s paintings, his Vatican City Sistine Chapel frescoes stand out (1508-1512). The most important scenes of the Sistine Chapel are:
- Creation of Adam, that is painted on the ceiling and which is a cornerstone of Renaissance art and the most famous fresco panel of the chapel;
- Fall and Expulsion of Adam and Eve are also painted on the ceiling and depict scenes from the book of Genesis.
- Last Judgement is painted on altar and depicts the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity.
As an architect, Michelangelo worked on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome between 1546 and 1564. He removed the dispensaries and the facade of the tower. Bramante’s plan was restored in the form of a Greek cross as well as a uniform order of the external columns. Michelangelo used the Corinthian order as a unifying theme, connecting pilasters at the bottom of the church and columns in the peristyle and lantern of the dome. He designed a Florentine ribbed dome, instead of the Bramante hemisphere, dividing it into sixteen ribs instead of eight, and these ribs and the ribs of the dome are joined together. Thanks to this solution, the whole church looks harmoniously and gives the impression of a monolith.
Michelangelo also worked on the Laurentian Library (1559) in Florence. He designed the interior of the library itself, as well as its lobby. He was the first to apply the Mannerist Style to the design of the library, which is one of Michelangelo’s most important architectural achievements. The organization of space and constructive innovation in the library was revolutionary.
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How can we identify Michelangelo’s style?
- He preferred to paint frescoes than to work with oil colors.
- In his frescoes, Michelangelo believed it was more important to create figures with clear outlines, which was a Florentine tradition.
- He painted freely and with great dynamism, using bright, and clear colors that harmonized boldly.
- He mixed Greek and Roman mythology with traditional Christian scenes.
- Michelangelo worked mainly with the human form, as he considered the body as the physical embodiment of the soul.
- Unlike da Vinci, he didn’t spend much time in contact with nature.
- Michelangelo was interested in modeling in three-dimensional space, so also in his paintings, he emphasized the musculature of his figures.
- Michelangelo was very attentive to light and shadow, understanding that they can represent volume and form in both a sculpture and a painting.