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  • Writer's pictureVishakha

The Life of a Legendary Polymath Michelangelo

Updated: Jun 4

Since the beginning of time, many artists have walked the face of the earth and created artworks that garnered praise from all over the world. However, we have only witnessed a handful of such legends who could imbue their art with an essence of life and Michelangelo was one of them. 

A picture of Michelangelo

Many know him as the creator of the frescos on the Sistine Chapel, but that was just a fragment of his brilliance. Michelangelo truly associated himself as a sculptor at the core and took other commissions just for the monetary benefits associated with them. 

Early Life and Childhood in Florence

Born into a Florentine family of bankers, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni developed his love for marbles through his nanny’s husband who was a stonecutter. Even when the young Michelangelo was sent to study grammar, he preferred to channel his focus on copying paintings from the churches. He loved to keep himself surrounded by other painters, who encouraged him to pursue his art education. 

At the age of 13, Michelangelo went on to become an apprentice of the greatest fresco painter of the time, Domenico Ghirlandaio for three years. However, he returned just after one year, claiming he had nothing more to learn. His association with Ghirlandaio took him to the Medici court where he resumed his studies and created reliefs like Madonna of the Stairs and Battle of the Centaurs. These two are the earliest surviving sculptors of Michelangelo

The Kickstart of Michelangelo’s Career with Failed Forgery

During his stay at the Medici court, Michelangelo created a Sleeping Cupid statue which was the child version of the God of Love. He then treated it with sour earth to make it appear “antique” and sold it to Cardinal Raffaele Riario. Even though the cardinal eventually discovered the little scam pulled off on him, he was so impressed with Michelangelo’s craftsmanship that he invited him to Rome.  

An image of the sleeping cupid created by Michelangelo

The Cardinal then went on to become Michelangelo’s first patron and offered him a commission for the statue of Bacchus. It is a unique sculpture with a blend of masculine muscles and feminine roundness in one marble block. However, the highly intoxicated depiction  — even of the God of wine – didn’t sit well with the Cardinal and he rejected it.

The Almost Alive Sculptures of Michelangelo 

Soon after, Michelangelo got the commission for La Pietà and it was his only work to go out of the country during his lifetime. The artist also recreated it in different versions of paintings and sculptures later in his life such as the Deposition, aka Florentine Pietà, and the Pietà of Vittoria Colonna, etc. Even though the original Pietà was vandalized once, it has now been restored and can only be seen through a bulletproof glass screen.

The Florentine Pieta or Disposition Created by Michelangelo

As work kept flowing, Michelangelo carved the statue of David soon after by implementing contrapposto to balance the massive figure. Both La Pietà and David are the epitome of perfect stone carving and two of Michelangelo’s best sculptures to date. They are also perfect representations of the Renaissance art style that always emphasized depicting natural beauty and humanism.

Unparalleled Beauty of the Frescos on Sistine Chapel

One of the most popular paintings of Michelangelo has to undoubtedly be his frescos of the Sistine Chapel. The complex work represents the entire creation of Man as described in the Book of Genesis. It has been divided into nine scenes with more than 300 figures painted throughout the work. The Last Judgement is his biggest painting in the Chapel. The elaborate work took him four years to finish and he hated doing it because he didn’t consider himself a painter.  

The frescos of the sistine chapel ceiling designed by Michelangelo

His other notable paintings include the Manchester Madona which is now present in the collection of National Gallery in London. Over the course of time, we have also lost two of his great paintings which include the Battle of Cascina, and The Leda and the Swan. 

A Self-critic Who Created a Timeless Symphony of Marble and Colors

In his later years, Michelangelo shifted to architecture and wrote letters and poetry throughout his life. Even when a lot of his architectural works remained unfinished, it can not undermine the legacy he has left behind. He was the biggest critic of his own work and hardly felt satisfied with any of them. 

This famous figurative artist of the High Renaissance inspired generations of upcoming artists who have tried to study and copy his work and some even went to the extent of stealing his drawings to learn from them. Michelangelo created such a timeless symphony of marble, words, designs, and colors that he became the first artist to ever get a biography written on him during his lifetime and he managed to get two of them. Even if we do not take the words of those biographies, his work is proof of his skills and brilliance that have made him an eternal name in the art world.

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