Michelangelo (1475–1564)

Michelangelo was Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, who is widely considered as one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance and of all the times.

Michelangelo, old picture

Image source: https://media1.britannica.com

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 Florentine artist, but in fact he lived and worked most of his life in Rome, where he died in 1564 at the age of 88.

Medal of Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leone Leoni, 1560

Image source: https://media.vam.ac.uk

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 which depicts 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.
David, Michelangelo, 1504

Image source: http://www.italianrenaissance.org

Among Michelangelo’s paintings, his Vatican City Sistine Chapel frescoes definitely stand out (1508-1512). The most important scenes of the Sistine Chapel are:

  • Creation of Adam, that is painted on 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 is also painted on ceiling, and  depicts scenes from the book of The 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.
Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo, 1508-1512

Image source: http://chapelsistine.com

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  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.

St. Peter Basilica (back), Rome

Image source: http://stpetersbasilica.info/Pics/AER/SP-sqr-rm-rear.jpg

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  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.

Laurentian Library, Michelangelo, 1559

Image source: https://learnodo-newtonic.com

How can we identify Michelangelo’s style?

  • He preferred to paint frescoes than work with oil paints.
  • In his frescoes Michelangelo never created his forms with a soft focus and believed it was more important to create figures with clear outlines, which was a Florentine tradition.
  • He painted with bright, light colors that daringly harmonized. Michelangelo painted freely and with great dynamism.
  • He mixed Greek and Roman mythology with traditional Christian scenes.
  • Michelangelo worked primarily with the human form. For him the body was the physical embodiment of the soul.
  • Unlike da Vinci, he rarely spent time working with nature.
  • Michelangelo was interested in modeling in three-dimensional space, so even in his paintings he emphasized the musculature of his figures.
  • Michelangelo had a keen eye for light and shadow and grasped that they can represent volume and shape in both a sculpture and a painting.
The Fall and Expulsion of Adam and Eve, Michelangelo, 1508-1512

Image source: https://www.michelangelo.org

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