Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

"Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Wednesday 11th January 2012

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet, was born in Caprese in 1475 and died in Rome in 1564. He was the 2nd among five children of the family and his mother died when Michelangelo had only six years. His father Ludovico, podesta of Chiusi and Caprese, descendant of the ancient Florentine family, sent him to study under the guiding of the humanist Francesco da Urbino. He showed the extraordinary artistic talent very quickly; encouraged by the friend Francesco Granacci, Michelangelo won the hospitality of a family and was accepted in the studio of Ghirlandaio (April 1488), with the contract of apprenticeship for 3 years. Starting from the next year, he preferred to visit Medici's gardens of San Marco, where under the monitoring of Bertoldo di Giovanni, he studied ancient sculptures collected here. (Pictured above: portrait of Michelangelo)

His first works were admired by Lorenzo il Magnifico, who was treating him like a son, hosted the young artist in the palace of via Larga, where he received the possibility to be in contact with Poliziano and other humanists of the Medici circle, assimilating the doctrines, that became the basement of his culture and found such a wide reflection in his works. In 1490-1492 were created the first designs and relieves of the Madonna della Scala (see on the below) and Battaglia dei Centauri (Florence, Casa Buonarotti). From the very beginning, Michelangelo was a continuator of the Tuscanian tradition of the 14-15th centuries, trying to connect it with classic art.

After the death of Lorenzo il Magnifico and preaching of Savonarola, he run from Florence in October 1494, staying in Bolonia for nearly 1 year, where sculptured for the arch of San Domenico the figures of San Petronio, San Proclo and Angelo.

Since 1496, the year when Michelangelo came to Rome, began the period of very intensive and successful activity, during which he was confirmed, still young, as one of the greatest artists of the time, not only because of exceptional technical virtuosity and anatomic science, but also for the capacity to invent and find solutions for the compositions, as well as energetic individualization and characterization of the figures. After Pieta' in St Peter's (1501) and Bacco, follow Tondo Pitti (Florence, Bargello), Tondo Taddei (London, Royal Academy) and Madonna con il Bambino (Bruges, Notre-Dame); lost design for the Battaglia di Cascina, Sacra Famiglia (Tondo Doni) (see on the below) (Florence, Uffizi), David (Florence, Accademia).

In March of 1505 Michelangelo accepted an invitation of Julius II to Rome, charging him the construction of grandiose burial monument, which was projected by the artist as an impressive complex of architecture and sculpture, celebrating the triumph of the church more, than the pope to who the monument was dedicated.

For its realization Michelangelo had to go to Carrara for eight months to chose personally the marbles, but in meantime, Julius II occupied with the plans of Bramante for the new St Peter's, set aside the project for the monument. Michelangelo, offended by this fact, left Rome in April 1506 and returned to Florence, where continued work of Battaglia di Cascina and San Matteo (Florence, Accademia). But half a year later, Michelangelo had to join Julius II in Bolonia, just conquered by the troops of pope, to execute in bronze, the huge statue of Julius II, erected on the facade of San Petronio in the February of 1508 and destroyed only 3 years later by the followers of Bentivoglio.

In May of 1508, the artist signed the contract for the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This ruthless and solitary work was finished in a period of 4 years.

After the death of Julius II in May of 1513, Buonarotti signed the second contract for the burial monument of the pope. During 3 years, he sculptured two figures of slaves: Schiavo ribelle and Schiavo morente (Paris, Louvre), and Mose'; but even this second project was not realized. Only in 1545 the last version of the monument (see below), entrusted in greater part to the work of helpers, could be placed in the church San Pietro in Vincoli, putting the end to this long and painful story, which was called by Michelangelo "burial tragedy".

During the 3rd decade of the 16th century, after the works for the facade of San Lorenzo, initiated in 1516, were suspended, Michelangelo was occupied in Florence with the construction of Sagrestia Nuova of the church San Lorenzo (see on the left) and Libreria Mediceo-Laurenziana (see below). Sagrestia Nuova is decorated with the numerous marble monuments: Giorno, Notte, Aurora, Crepuscolo, Vergine con il Babmino.

After the sack of Rome in 1527 and fall of Medici (exiled from Florence), Michelangelo took on of the most important roles in the government of Republic. He was en-charged to create the projects of the fortifications of the city, that were not realized; he also participated in defence of Florence, besieged by the troops of pope and emperor. With the fall of Republic on August 12 of 1530, only forgiveness of Clement VII saved Michelangelo from the revenge of Medici followers. So he could continue the work in Sagrestia Nuova and for the "sepulchre" of Julius II, sculpturing at the same time, 4 Prigioni (Florence, Accademia).

In 1534, again because of turbulent political situation in Florence, Michelangelo left it for good and settled in Rome, accepting from Clement VII the order to depict Giudizio Universale in the Sistine Chapel (1536-1541).

Among the other great works of the 5th decade of the century are figures of Lia and Rachele, created for the tomb of Julius II in San Pietro in Vincoli; frescoes in Cappella Paolina representing Conversione di Saulo and Martirio di San Pietro. In the figures of two Apostles-founders of the Christian church, the artists intended to celebrate the conversion and martyrdom as the decisive moments of the life of a Christian.

michelangelo biblioteca michelangelo sacrestia michelangelo mose
Fig (from left):
michelangelo biblioteca
michelangelo sacrestia
michelangelo mose

During the last 20 years the interests of Michelangelo were concentrated most of all on architecture: the Libreria Mediceo-Laurenziana (see below), which construction continued according to his designs; scenographic arrangement of the piazza del Campidoglio; transformation of tepidarium of the baths of Diocletian in the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli; projects for Porta Pia, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini and Cappella Sforza in Santa Maria Maggiore; Palazzo Farnese, and most of all St Peter's, where Michelangelo transformed the central plan of Bramante and created a project of a huge dome.

The sculptures executed in this period were: Pieta' da Palestrina (Florence, Accademia); Pieta' in Duomo of Florence (now in Mus.del Bargello); Pieta' Rondanini (see on the left) (Milan, Castello Sforzesco).

As a poet, Michelangelo left after him circa 300 pieces of poetry, occupying the considerable place in the Renaissance lyrics.

michelangelo sacra michelangelo madonna michelangelo pietarondanini
Fig (from left):
michelangelo sacra
michelangelo madonna
michelangelo pietarondanini
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