Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, popularly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet. He is considered to be one of the greatest artists of the High Renaissance period. Born in Florence, he lived with the family of a stonecutter from the age of six after the death of his mother. Michelangelo never paid attention to schooling and instead expressed an interest in painting and later became an apprentice to a painter before studying in the sculpture gardens of the powerful Medici family. Thereafter, he started focusing on his work, creating for himself a remarkable career as a painter and sculptor in the Italian Renaissance. Two of his most significant initial works that helped him rise to eminence were the statues of ‘Pieta’ and 'David’ which were recognized for their artistic technique. Subsequently, he was commissioned by Pope Julius II to design his tomb, a project on which he worked on for four decades. Meanwhile, after receiving much appreciation for his sculpted works, he was commissioned to design the ceiling of Rome's Sistine Chapel, a project which fueled his imagination to produce one of the most influential works in the history of Western Art. Some of his other major works include the design of ‘Medici Chapel’ and ‘Laurentian Library’, and the painting of ‘Last Judgment’ on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel which is considered a masterpiece. Michelangelo was the greatest artist of his time and his name has become synonymous with the best of the Italian Renaissance
- He was born as Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy, to Leonardo di Buonarrota Simoni, a magistrate in the small village, and his wife, Francesca Neri. Michelangelo was the second of five sons in the family.Due to his mother's prolonged illness and subsequent death, he was placed under the care of a family of stonecutters at the age of six. With little interest in academics, he enjoyed drawing and was later introduced to painter Domenico Ghirlandaio.At the age of 13, his father arranged for him to be apprenticed at Ghirlandaio’s workshop where he was exposed to the technique of fresco. After a year at the workshop, Ghirlandaio recommended him to the palace of the Florentine ruler, Lorenzo the Magnificent, where he studied classical sculpture in the Medici gardens.From 1489 to 1492, he spent time with the Medici family which helped him meet the social elite of the city, exposing him to prominent poets and scholars. During this period, he sculpted the reliefs ‘Madonna of the Steps’ (1490–1492) and ‘Battle of the Centaurs’ (1491–1492).Career
- In 1492, after the death of Lorenzo, the Medici family fell from power, causing him to flee to Bologna where he continued his studies. In 1494, he carved three saints for the church of San Domenico.In 1495, he returned to Florence and began his work as a sculptor. During the half year he spent in Florence, he worked on two small statues, a child ‘St. John the Baptist’ and a sleeping Cupid.Impressed by the quality of his design, Cardinal Raffaele Riario invited him to Rome and commissioned him to work on a statue of the Roman wine god Bacchus.In 1497, he was commissioned by Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas to work on ‘Pieta’, a sculpture showing the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus, which is currently located in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.In 1499, he returned to Florence again but this time as an art star. He was recognized as the most talented sculptor of Italy and was commissioned to carve a statue of ‘David’. He turned a huge piece of marble into a dominating figure which was placed on the gable of Florence Cathedral.In early 1505, he was called back to Rome by the Pope Julius II to design his tomb which included about 40 life-sized statues. He worked on the project for the next 40 years, facing constant interruptions to accomplish other tasks.In 1508, Julius commissioned him to decorate the ceiling of Sistine Chapel, a project which took about four years to complete. After the ceiling was completed in 1512, Michelangelo continued to work on the tomb of Julius II for the next several decades.During this time, he also designed the Medici Chapel in Florence and the historical Laurentian Library at San Lorenzo's Church, Florence. In 1534 he finally settled in Rome and later on met Vittoria Colonna who became the subject and recipient of many of his more than 300 poems and sonnets.In 1534, he was commissioned to paint a fresco of ‘The Last Judgement’ on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, a project he labored on until 1541.In 1546, he was appointed the chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, and devoted himself entirely to architecture and poetry during his later years.Major Works
- At the age of 25, he carved ‘Pieta’, a sculpture in which Mary supports the dead Christ across her knees. Created from a single piece of Carrara marble, the fluidity of its fabric and the positions of the subjects were awe-inspiring for its early spectators and still remains one of his most admired works.His most ambitious project was the design of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling which contains over 300 figures. Although the original plan was to paint 12 apostles, he proposed a more complex scheme which resulted in a supreme work of High Renaissance art incorporating the Christian symbology and prophecy.Personal Life & Legacy
- He died after a brief illness on February 18, 1564, at his home in Rome, at the age of 88. As per his wish, he was buried in Florence.
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