Michelangelo

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Michelangelo di Ludovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) was the great Italian artist known simply as 'Michelangelo.' 

Let's investigate!  If you look carefully at the names you will see a 'secret code' that tells you that Ludovico was his father, Leonardo was his grandfather, Buonarrota was his great grandfather and Simone was his great great grandfather!

Michelangelo was born in the Tuscan village of Caprese on 6th. March, 1475.   His father, Ludovico, was the magistrate of the village and the family considered themselves to be upper-class. The house where he was born and lived for the first months of his life is known as Il Palazzo della Podestà (The Magistrate's Residence.)  Below is a photo of that house.

 

Soon after Michelangelo's birth, the family moved to Florence and for much of the time a nurse looked after the young Michelangelo at her house.  The nurse was the wife of a stonemason.  It is probable that this early contact with stone and marble influenced his love of sculpture.

At first, Michelangelo's father did not really encourage his son's artistic talent.  In the 15th Century, artists were considered working-class.  Nevertheless, at the age of thirteen, Michelangelo became the apprentice of painter Domenico Ghirlandaio.  

In Florence at that time, the city was ruled by the Medici Family.   Lorenzo de' Medici (known in Italian as Lorenzo il Magnifico) was a great lover of art and he kept classical Greek and Roman statues in his garden.  He invited Michelangelo to visit the garden of the Medici home on a regular basis.  It was here that Michelangelo received tuition from the sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni. 

Below is a photo of the palace of the Medici Family and a statue of Lorenzo de'Medici.

Michelangelo created wonderful paintings and sculptures. His two most famous statues are 'David' and 'La Pietà.'  (Below.)

His most famous paintings are on the altar wall and ceiling inside the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican in Rome.  The Sistine Chapel is named after Pope Sisto IV who arranged for various artists to paint the chapel walls between 1481 and 1483.  The method of painting on a wall is called 'fresco' - meaning 'fresh' because the paint is applied to fresh plaster whilst it is still wet on the wall.  In Italian it is called 'affresco.'

It was in 1508, at the request of Pope Julius II, that Michelangelo contributed to the painting of the chapel by painting its ceiling.  In 1512, the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was complete and was revealed for the first time.

Image above by Antoine Taveneaux, Wikimedia.



Most of the ceiling depicts stories from the Old Testament of the Bible.  One of the most famous parts of the ceiling is called 'The Creation of Adam', (below.)  In Italian it is called La Creazione di Adamo.  It is also called La Creazione dell'Uomo - The Creation of Man.

The ceiling is 20 metres high above the floor.  Michelangelo constructed a scaffold to reach it and it is known that he worked in a very uncomfortable position with his head looking upwards.  In fact, Michelangelo wrote a lot of poetry, including a poem about the discomfort in painting the ceiling.  This poem is called: I’ ho già fatto un gozzo in questo stento which means 'I have had enough of this difficult position.'  One of the verses is as follows:

 

La barba al cielo e la nuca sento
My beard up in the sky and I feel the back of my neck
sulla gobba e ho il petto di un'Arpia
on my humped shoulder and my breast like a Harpy
e gocciola il pennello sulla mia
and the paintbrush drips on my
faccia che paio un ricco pavimento.
face that I seem an elaborate floor.



Between 1536 and 1541, Michelangelo painted the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel.  This painting is known as 'The Last Judgement.'  In Italian it is called 'Il Giudizio Universale.' (Below)

In 1546, Michelangelo designed the dome of St. Peter's Basilica (part of the Vatican) in Rome. 

An interesting fact: Michelangelo was left-handed!  The Italian word for 'left-handed' is mancino.

He died in Rome on 18th February, 1564, just a few weeks before his eighty-ninth birthday.  He was laid to rest in his home town of Florence and his tomb (below) can be found in la Basilica di Santa Croce.

Unfinished Statues
 

There are statues by Michelangelo that remain unfinished.  It is work in progress for eternity!  This work is called non finito.  You can see the chisel marks.  The sculpted human form appears trapped and unable to fully emerge from the block of marble.  For this reason the unfinished statues are referred to as i prigionieri - the prisoners, or gli schiavi - the slaves.  They appear to struggle in an attempt to be free.  

 They will be imprisoned and struggling like this forever. 

These statues can be seen at the Galleria dell' Accademia in Florence.  This is the same gallery where the statue of David is displayed.
 





Grazie, Michelangelo!
Thank you so much, Michelangelo, for spending your life creating such wonderful art for us to enjoy!  Your work will be forever precious.
Grazie mille!



Read a story about Michelangelo's dome  (St. Peter's Basilica)


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