Do you believe every human life born on this earth has an innate talent? May you believe it or not, this young boy had the potential to liberate the angels that he visualized on every piece of marble stone that he chiselled with his naturally deft and artistic pair of hands. Michelangelo Buonarroti took Lorenzo De Medici by surprise with his skilled sculpting as a young man, who later made the world turn around to him with his exquisite ability to transform mortified stones into immortal sculptures. He is a painter and a poet too.
Medici employed this young man as a sculptor in his court offering five ducats as salary a month. He learnt classical sculpture there under the supervision of Bertoldo Di Giovanni, another well-known Italian sculptor. During this period, Michelangelo spent time with scholars and intellects of the Medici court and eventually the knowledge he gained along with his wisdom later became reflections in his sculptures and paintings.
Thus, what made Michelangelo’s sculptures truly outstanding was not just their finesse and perfection, but his acumen, attention to detail and his depiction of what he understood as the philosophy of life.
Born in Caprese, Italy on 6th March 1475, young Michelangelo’s family moved to Florence, a center of artistic excellence during the Renaissance era in Italy. When sent to a grammar school at the age of 6, Michelangelo showed little interest in his studies, but paid attention to the painters working in the churches nearby.
He is considered to be a tough, querulous adult who is highly uncompromising and complaining by nature. He would listen to those kind words rather than authoritative orders and has refused to work when he disliked imperatives. He loved to work alone on his sculptures.
The Master’s Masterpieces
Pietá, the only sculpture Michelangelo signed his name in his lifetime, was commissioned in 1499, as requested by French cardinal Jean de Bilhéres for his tomb, when he dies. The 1.75-meter tall sculpture portrays mother Mary carrying the body of Jesus after his crucifixion. Mother Mary is depicted as a young woman as Michelangelo wanted to signify her sense of purity through the juvenescence. Moreover, the face of Jesus doesn’t show any signs of pain or crucifixion as the artist didn’t want it to signify mortality or death. This structure is currently in St. Peter’s Basilica, attracting thousands of visitors.David is another masterpiece creation of Michelangelo that took its form between 1501 and 1504. This 5.17-meter tall statue portrays the biblical character David- who was then considered as a political figure in the city of Florence- before his fight with Goliath. The sculpture signifies the youthful and powerful persona of David, who looks tensed after deciding to fight Goliath. The mega structure is in Galleria dell’Accademia today and it was moved from Palazzo della Signoria, a prominent place of governance in Florence then. The statue portrayed power and strength with its fiery eyes looking towards Rome at a time when Florence was surrounded by hostile neighbors.
When Pope Julius II couldn’t let Michelangelo complete a grand statue for his tomb in 1505, he invited the artist after 3 years to undertake another painting project: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo filled the boundaries of the ceiling with the paintings of 12 apostles and its center with nine scenes from Genesis, including the creation of heaven, earth, Adam and Eve, their disobedience and their subsequent eviction from the Garden of Eden and the story of Noah. What the pope then wanted was only the twelve figures of the Apostles, but Michelangelo wanted to do it his own way and finally there were 343 figures painted on the ceiling. Michelangelo sat on a scaffolding to reach the ceiling that is 68 feet above the ground looking up for hours throughout the day for nearly four years to paint a total area of 11,000 square feet.Michelangelo has worked for 10 popes and has been very particular about his style and freedom of work. Thus, he was a revolutionary architect of his time. He has written poems out of which some 300 are still available. Recent studies of his portraits suggest that the sculptor was suffering from osteoarthritis and his continued effort to work on sculptures and paintings would have helped him evade the symptoms until his death at the age of 89. Upon his request, his body was buried in Florence.
His artistic grandeur and skill has let free many angles tethered within the stones. In his own words,
‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free’
Related Video: The many meanings of Michelangelo’s Statue of David
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