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Michelangelo part 2
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Floor 1 / Renaissance / High Italian

 Floor 1 / Renaissance / High Italian

  High Italian Renaissance
1490 to 1520

Michelangelo
(Part 1 of 3)

 

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 Michelangelo: Self Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Ludovico di Leonardo di Buonarotti Simoni

born: Caprese, Republic of Florence [now Italy]; 6 March 1475
died: Rome, Papal States [now Italy]; 18 February 1564

alt spellings: michel angelo

The Early Years:
David, The Vatican Pietà, and Sistine Chapel Ceiling.

Michelangelo was a sculptor, painter, architect, and poet. He was considered the greatest living artist in his own lifetime. He is still considered one of the greatest artists. Although trained as a painter, Michelangelo worked primarily in marble sculpture throughout his life; he worked only intermittently in the other arts. The Sistine Chapel ceiling in the Vatican is his best known work today—probably because the 21st Century is generally more interested in pictorial arts than in sculpture.

For several generations Michelangelo's family had been bankers in Florence. His father had let the family status slide. To keep the family afloat his father held occasional government jobs. At the time Michelangelo was born, his father was the Florentine administrator of the town of Caprese.

 

1488

13

Michelangelo begins his education as an artist at 13. He is apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandajo, for a three-year term. Ghirlandajo lets him leave his apprenticeship after one year with the comment: "I felt I have nothing more to teach him". Actually, this roughly translates into: "Michelangelo is very talented; he won't listen to me, nor do what I say, and I can't get any reasonable work out of him." Michelangelo was strong willed, and he had a low opinion of painting, so he and Ghirlandajo couldn't get along at all. From the beginning Michelangelo felt sculpture was the only art.

1490: 15

Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent, ruler of Florence, surrounded himself with poets and intellectuals. Soon after leaving Ghirlandajo, at age 15, Michelangelo was offered, and accepted, a position in the Medici court and moved into Lorenzo's palace on Via Larga.

There he had access to a good collection of ancient Greek and Roman statuary in the Medici art collection. From Giovanni di Bertoldo he learned how to sculpt. Bertoldo was a student of Donatello and he specialized in making bronze sculptures, and he administered the Medici sculpture collection. One of the two marble works that survive from this period is a copy in marble of an ancient Roman sarcophagus similar to one Bertoldo had produced in bronze. The relief on the side of the sarcophagus depicts the Battle of the Centaurs.

Already at age 16 in the The battle of the Centaurs, Michelangelo shows that his vision of beauty was a violent mixture of nude men.

 

Michelangelo: [sculpture] Madonna of the Stairs

Madonna of the Stairs
about 1491

Michelangelo: [sculpture] Battle of the Centaurs

Battle of the Centaurs
about 1492
Casa Buonarroti
Florence, Italy

Michelangelo: [sculpture wood] Crucifix from Santo Spirito Convent

Crucifix from
Santo Spirito Convent

about 1492
Casa Bonarroti
Florence, Italy

 

1492 17

Lorenzo the Magnificent dies in Florence, and Columbus sets out on his voyage of discovery from Barcelona.

Raphael turns 9 years old; Correggio is about 3, and Titian is about 2 years old.

The Holy Roman Empire run by the Pope from Rome is fighting and generally loosing the war with France for territory in Italy.

In Florence, Fra Savonarola begins his campaign against corruption in the Roman Catholic Church and lights the first glimmer of the reformation. Florence is regarded as the leading center of art, producing the best painters and sculptors in Europe.

 

 

 

Girolamo Savonarola's rhetoric against the pope and kings were probably in keeping with the sympathies of the young, passionate Michelangelo, but Savonarola's crusade against the arts surely frightened him and other artists. Savonarola had an ever increasing following in Florence at this time; he held book and art bonfires—bonfires of the vanities—where citizens would come and throw their valued possession into the fire to save their souls and Savonarola would preach fiery exhortations to match the burning flames.

Bartoolmeo: Savonarola

Fra Bartolmeo:
(1473-1517)

Savonarola

 

1494 19

Michelangelo leaves the Medici and Florence for Venice and then Bologna. The Medici are attacked and defeated by the French in 1494. The rulers flee Florence.

In Bologna, Michelangelo is hired to finish the last small figures for the tomb and shrine of St. Dominic. Deviating substantially from his predecessor's style, he creates several expressive marble figures.

 

 

Michelangelo: [sculpture] Angel with Candelstick

Angel with Candlestick
1494
San Domenico, Bologna, Italy

Michelangelo: {sculpture] Saint Proculus

Saint Proculus
1494-1495
San Domenico, Bologna, Italy

 

1496 21

Michelangelo briefly returns to Florence, where he finds that Savonarola has gained greatly in power. Michelangelo moves on to Rome.

Michelangelo makes a small sculpture, "Cupid Sleeping", which he sells as a Greek original to Cardinal Riario for his collection of Greek sculpture.

 

1497 22 He sculpts his first large statue, "Bacchus".

 

 Michelangelo: [sculpture] Bacchus

Bacchus
1497

 

1498 23

World News: In France Louis XII becomes King. In Florence, Savonarola is captured by the Pope's forces and he is tried and publicly executed in a square in the middle of Florence.

For Michelangelo, "Bacchus" led at once to a commission by the French cardinal for a "Pietà", which is now in St. Peter's Basilica.

 

 Michelangelo: [sculpture] Vatican Pieta

Pietà
Vatican, Rome
1498

 

This sculpture is peculiar in many ways. It comes closer to representing a Madonna and Child. There is little agony in the Madonna, just beauty. Christ seems almost asleep in her arms. While Christ looks his age, the Madonna looks far too young.

 

1500 25

World News: Charles V of France is born.

The St. Peter's Pietà establishes Michelangelo as a major artist. Leonardo returns to Florence after nearly 20 years.

1501 26

Michelangelo receives a commission to do a "David" for the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Michelangelo welcomes the commission because: it will bring him back to Florence, Savonarola is dead, it would allow him to see the latest work of Leonardo, and the commission will be a large sculptural challenge in itself.

For David Michelangelo used a large block of marble left unfinished by another sculptor 40 years before.

 

 

Michelangelo: [sculpture] David from front
Michelangelo: [sculpture] David from rear

 

David
finished 1504
Galleria dell' Accademia
Florence, Italy

 

David took about three years to complete. Michelangelo worked intermittently on the statue. He would work furiously for a week and then not be able to touch it for days or weeks. During the period he worked on David he also produced Madonnas for several private houses. At that time, Madonnas were the staple of an artist's work. These Madonnas include one statue, two circular reliefs that are similar to paintings in suggesting varied levels of spatial depth, and Michelangelo's only completed easel painting, Holy Family with John the Baptist.

 

 

Michelangelo:  [sculpture] Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child
about 1504
Onze Kuewe Vrouw
Bruges, Belgium

Michelangelo: [sculpture] Tondo Taddei

Madonna and Child
with the Infant St. John

about 1503
Royal Academy of Arts
London, England

Michelangelo: Holy Family with John the Baptist

Holy Family with
John the Baptist

about 1503
Uffizi, Florence, Italy

 

After the success of the David in 1504 Michelangelo's work consisted almost entirely of vast projects. He was attracted to these ambitious tasks while at the same time rejecting the use of assistants, so that most of these projects were impractical and remained unfinished.

 

1504

29

The city fathers of Florence decide that their two great artists Leonardo and Michelangelo should compete by each painting a large mural for the Florence City Hall to form a pair. Both murals should commemorate different military victories by the city. Leonardo's design shows galloping horses for The Battle of Anghiari, Michelangelo shows active male nudes -- soldiers stop swimming and climb out of a river to answer an alarm at The Battle of Cascina. Both works survive only in copies and partial preparatory sketches.

 

Rubens: [sketch] after Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari

Peter Paul Rubens:
Sketch of
Episode of the Standard from
the Battle of Anghiari
about 1600
Louvre, Paris, France

 

Sangallo: [sketch] after Michelangelo's Battle of Casina

Antonio da Sangallo:
Sketch of Central Section
the Battle of Cascina

about 1542
Holkham Hall, Norfolk, England

 

1505

30

Michelangelo plans a set of 12 marble Apostles for the Florence cathedral. Only one, the St. Matthew, was ever started, and it was never completed.

 

Michelangelo: [sculpture] St. Matthew -- unfinished

St. Matthew
about 1504
for the Florence Cathedral
unfinished

 

Michelangelo tended to live like a recluse bachelor. He was reportedly dirty and seldom bathed. Sculpting marble is very dirty, muscle-bound work. He was assertive when cornered; there are several recorded fights. To carve marble year after year, Michelangelo had to stay in good physical shape.

 

Michelangelo: [sculpture] Tomb of Machiavelli

Tomb of Machiavelli
about 1505

Michelangelo: [sculpture] Medici Tomb detail

Medici Tomb
about 1510
St. Croce, Florence, Italy

 

1505 30

Pope Julius II summons Michelangelo to Rome. This spells an end to all Michelangelo's Florentine projects.

Julius II was a warrior pope, and rebellious Italian cities and the French King posed plenty of opportunity for a fight. Julius usually obliged. The project that lured Michelangelo back to Rome was a grand tomb that Julius II wanted for himself. It was to have 40 large statues that Michelangelo was to design and sculpt.

 

Raphael: Pope Julius II
Raphael:
Pope Julius II

Soon after commissioning it, the Pope became concerned by the cost of the tomb and cancelled it; he suggested that Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling instead. Michelangelo, however, believed that Bramante, the architect at St. Peter's, had influenced the Pope to cut off his funds. He hated the idea of painting the ceiling and in a fury, he left Rome and went to Florence. The pope demanded that he return. He was put to work on a colossal bronze statue of the pope for Bologna, which the pope had just captured.

The tomb of Julius II must have had a deeply affecting overall theme that fascinated Michelangelo because he returned to the project over and over throughout the next forty years. Big projects were what Michelangelo enjoyed most, and he was capable of organizing them into a coherent visual whole. His vision of the Julius II tomb must have been absorbing, it is sad that little of it remains.

 

1508 33 Michelangelo starts work on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.

 

 

The Sistine Chapel has great symbolic meaning for the papacy. It is the chief consecrated space in the Vatican, and it is used for great ceremonies such as electing and inaugurating new popes. It already contained distinguished wall paintings, and Michelangelo was asked to add frescos for the relatively unimportant ceiling. The original chapel had a geometric vaulting with stars, which had become badly damaged from water and movements caused by the instability of the chapel walls.

Annon: Etching of Sistine Chapel interior -- before  the Michelangelo frescos

Original Sistine Chapel Design

 

 

 

The project was vast. The ceiling is 1000 square meters. Michelangelo planned over 300 figures to fill this space. He worked alone refusing others help. He claimed he hated every moment of it.

Michelangelo hated painting from the beginning of his interest in art. In a letter he wrote: "The more painting resembles sculpture, the better I like it, and the more sculpture resembles painting, the worse I like it."

Michelangelo painted the central spine of the long curved surface with nine scenes from Genesis: three of them depicting the creation of the world, three the stories of Adam and Eve, and three the stories of Noah. These are supported by the prophets and sibyls and small figures of the 40 generations of Christ's ancestors, starting with Abraham. He began the frescos with the Noah scenes over the entrance door, and moved toward the altar in the direction opposite to that of the sequence of the stories.

The pope was impatient for Michelangelo to finish and their relationship was difficult. One day the Pope asked him when he would finish. Michelangelo replied: "When I can!". The Pope was upset and struck him with his stick repeating: "When I can! ... When I can!". Michelangelo ran back to his house and got ready to leave Rome. The Pope realizing his mistake sent Accursio, a good looking young man, with 500 ducats and his sincere apology. Michelangelo accepted the money and the apology and the next day he went back to work on the ceiling.

The ceiling was completed in less than four years. One year, 1511, Michelangelo didn't work on the ceiling.

Following are two views of the Sistine Chapel:

 

annon: [photo] Sistine Chapel floor and altar wall

Towards the Altar

annon: [photo] Sisttine Chapel floor and entry doors

Towards the Entry Door

 

Above stretches the ceiling with Michelangelo's illustrations of three Genesis stories.

 

Michelangelo: Sistine Chapel Ceiling 2

Public Door
Altar Wall

Image Map
to see detailed views.

 

Ceiling Frescos
1508 - 1512
Sistine Chapel
Vatican, Rome

 

1512 37

On 1 August, Julius II conducts mass in the Sistine Chapel and rededicates it. Michelangelo goes back to work on it and finishes it in October. On the 31 October 1512 the newly painted Chapel is officially inaugurated.

World News: Louis XII of France captures Milan.

 

Michelangelo was homosexual, and often he fell in love with men, usually his models. Even though his sexual passions were strong, intellectually he felt that it was a sin against God, and his guilt left him at war with his own feelings.
Scherzo,
or Torments of the Flesh
[self]
about 1512
Doria-Pamphili Collection
Vatican, Rome
Michelangelo: [sketch] Scherzo, or Torments of the  Flesh  -- self portrait

 

 

 

 

 

1513 38 Julius II dies the night of 20-21 February 1513. Michelanglo returns to the task of working on his tomb. In his will Julius specifies that the tomb should be built on a less imposing scale. Michelangelo and the pope's executors have more grandiose plans. The new pope, Leo X, son of Lorenzo de' Medici, encourages him to create a more magnificent tomb. Michelangelo's new design would have 32 large statues that illustrate the triumph of the Church over the pagan world.
1513-15  

Michelangelo carves several sculptures for the tomb of Julius II. "Moses," is probably the most important. It may be regarded as the realization in sculpture of the Michelangelo visual approach to great figures like the prophets on the Sistine ceiling.

In this same time period, he created sculptures of bound prisoners or slaves, also part of the tomb project, but in the end never used for it, since in a subsequent revised design they were of the wrong scale. Michelangelo kept them until old age, when he gave them to a family that had helped him during an illness.

 

 Michelangelo: Moses

Moses
about 1513
[for the tomb of Julius II]
San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome

  Michelangelo: Rebelious Slave

Slave
[for the tomb of Julius II]

 

  Michelangelo: Dying Slave

Dying Slave
[for the tomb of Julius II]
1513
Louvre, Paris

 

Continue with Part 2 the Years of Political Strife.

 

Early Italian Renaissance
High Italian Renaissance
Michelangelo part 2
Michelangelo part 3
Mannerists

 

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2007-05-13