|Description: Artist, poet & architect
Michelangelo (1475-1564), sculptor, architect, painter, designer and Italian poet. |
Artist of the Italian Cinquecento (sixteenth century), Michelangelo represents, along with Leonardo da Vinci, the genius type of Renaissance. His achievements - esentially Florentine and Roman orders - have a lasting mark on the history of western art. B the composition of his works, the sculptural plastic his ignudi ( "nudes") to the franchise of colors, Michelangelo has paved the way for the Mannerist and Baroque.
Born in the village of Caprese, near Arezzo, Michelangelo Buonarroti - said Michelangelo - is linked to the Medici family by his father Ludovico, who works for the Republic of Florence. At 13, he is placed in an apprenticeship in the studio of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio where he copied paitings of Giotto and Masaccio. Then in 1489, he entered the Bertoldo di Giovanni school - sculptor committed to the collection of antique of the garden of the Medici, near the convent of San Marco in Florence - where he studied ancient sculpture. Lorenzo de Medici, said the Magnificent, does not take long to notice the ease of the young man to create and conceive new forms and soon invites him home . Michelangelo then has the opportunity to meet the youngest Medici (including two future popes, Leo X and Clement VII) and also a common circle of humanists and scholars (such as Marsilio Ficino, Francesco Landini and Poliziano) who will strongly influence him: Michelangelo, also a poet, has left verses on art, but also on the neo- plqtonist philosophy and his personal relationships.
At 16, Michelangelo has already produced at least two low-reliefs, including the Combat of Lapithes and Centaurs (1490-1492, Casa Buonarroti, Florence), which refers to the sarcophagi of Late Antiquity. His patron, Lorenzo de Medici, died in 1492 and in the end of November 1494, Michelangelo left Florence, when the Medici were temporarily expelled from the city. He reaches Venice and Bologna, where he completed several marble statuettes (St. Petronius and holy Procule, 1494-1495) the shrine of St. Dominic carried out in the thirteenth century by the workshop of Nicola Pisano and continued between 1469 and 1473, by the sculptor Niccolo dell'Arca (church of San Domenico, Bologna).
In 1496, Michelangelo went for the first time in Rome, where he may consider many statues and ancient ruins recently uncovered. He soon produces his first large sculpture, Bacchus (height: 2.03 m, 1496-1498, National Museum of the Bargello, Florence). This sculpture, which is part of his rare works of pagan inspiration competes with statues of the imperial Rome that we admire very much at this time since the excavations made at the Villa Adriana.
At the same time, Michelangelo accomplished in a block of marble the Pietà (1498-1499), today retained in its original location in St. Peter's Basilica. This Pietà, one of the most famous works of art of all time, is probably completed by Michelangelo before the age of 25 years and this is the only work he signed. Represented sitting with dignity, holding the dead Christ on her knees, the Virgin Mary is the very image of the "mater dolorosa", a Virgin of sorrow and resignation.
In the spring of 1501, the artist returned to Florence. His youth style then reahces its apogy with the giant marble, the David (4.34 m high, galleria dell'Accademia, Florence), that he completed between 1501 and 1504, for the Florentine Lordship . The character of the Old Testament is represented by a young man naked, muscular and glancing away as if he assessed his enemy Goliath. Rather than emphasize the action itself, the artist prefers to show the moment of internal reflection that precedes the act of violence. The David, understood as a symbol of the invincibility of the Florentine Republic, is first installed on the Piazza, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (the city hall of Florence). With this statue, Michelangelo proves his contemporaries - in combining the formal beauty and a great expressiveness and a powerful meaning - that he surpasses all modern artists but also those of the Greco-Roman antiquity.
While working on his statue of David, Michelangelo has an opportunity to demonstrate his abilities as a painter in the execution of an order in 1504, the Battle of Cascina, for the Council Chamber of the Five-Hundrerds of the Palazzo Vecchio. This work faces the Battle of Anghiari entrusted to his great rival Leonardo da Vinci. Finally, neither of the two artists carried out this project.
The first painting finally directed by Michelangelo is the Doni Tondo or Holy Family (c. 1507, Uffizi Gallery, Florence) that he achieves in parallel with two sculptures, Tondi Pitti (c. 1504-1505, National Museum of the Bargello, Florence) and Taddei Tondo (c. 1505-1506, Royal Academy, London). In this first pictorial work, he tries to exceed the limits of painting and give it the mastery of the subject that his sculptures have .
In 1505, Michelangelo was recalled to Rome by Pope Julius II for carrying out two orders. The most prominent is the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which occupies him from May 1508 until October 1512. Working lying on thei back, mounted on a scaffold above the chapel, Michelangelo painted some of the finest performances of all time. On the roof of the papal chapel, he designed a complex system of decoration, including nine scenes from the book of Genesis, starting with God separating light from darkness and including the Creation of Adam, the Creation of Eve, the Temptation, The Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Universal Flood. For the preparation of this gigantic work, Michelangelo draws many studies, designing dozens of characters and poses. These impressive and powerful representations, demonstrating a mastery of human anatomy and movement, have radically changed the course of evolution of painting in the West.
Before starting the vault of the Sistine Chapel, in 1505, Michelangelo has received an order from Julius II for the completion of his tomb to be included in the new St. Peter's Basilica, then under construction. The project - which occupies the artist for some forty years - he envisaged it as the monument of Christian classicism, which must combine architecture and sculpture. It represents a real challenge, since it was originally planned to include more than forty statues. Michelangelo spends months in a quarry to select the Carrare marble he needs. But for various reasons, the pope intimates to the artist the order to abandon this titanic labour to work on the vault of the Sistine Chapel. On several occasions, Michelangelo returned to his work until he eventually resigned to the minimum solution that we know today.
However, he had the time to make for this tomb some of his most beautiful sculptures, including Moses (1513-1516, church Saint-Pierre-aux-Links, Rome), the central figure of this monument substantially reduced, today visible again after undergoing a major restoration in the early twenty-first century. The two statues were not selected for the final draft and belonging to the series Slave (c. 1513-1515, Musée du Louvre, Paris) are indicative of the method used by Michelangelo. He sees his character as if it were trapped in the block. His job is to extract the excess piece to liberate the form of the statue. Many statues of Michelangelo, however, remained unfinished (as the other four Slaves of the galleria dell'Accademia in Florence).
Towards 1524, Michelangelo receives an order from the new Pope Clement VII (of the Medici line) for a library that can accommodate the many volumes of the Florentine family. He made drawings of the Laurentian Library and its elegant entrance, adjacent to San Lorenzo. For this work, the artist takes as its starting point the outline of his Florentine predecessors, but he knows how to infuse this boundless energy, characteristic of his sculpture and his painting. Instead of following the example of the Greco-Roman, Michelangelo uses the grounds of columns and pediments for purposes of personalization and expressiveness.
During his visits to Florence, Michelangelo also carries the Medici funeral chapel which is commissioned by the new sacristy of San Lorenzo (1524-1534). The initial project included four tombs - for Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giuliano de 'Medici (his brother), Julien, duke of Nemours (his son) and Laurent, Duke of Urbino (his nephew) - and two graves - those of popes Leo X and Clement VII. The work, complex, is ultimately composed of two major cenotaphes on walls facing each other, that of Lawrence, Duke of Urbino, and that of Julien, duke of Nemours. Michelangelo place allegories of Dawn and Dusk on each side of the seated statue of Laurent (a man with a contemplative and introverted personality), and those of Day and Night on each side of Julien (active character and extrovert); four rivers of hell - statues of lying gods - should have been included at a lower level but they have never been executed. Work on the Medici funerary chapel continued well after the final return of Michelangelo in Rome in 1534.
In November 1536, Michelangelo began in Rome the execution of the Last Judgement for the wall of the altar of the Sistine Chapel. This fresco, the largest of the Renaissance, is the episode of the apocalyptic day of Judgement. On both sides of Christ, elected officials (on the left) are swept away by an upward movement, while the damned (on the right side of the fresco) fall to Hell. Towards 1541, when he was completing the Last Judgement, the artist receives a new order to decorate the private chapel of Paul III, the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican (1542-1550). The frescoes that he will create for it emerge as a deepening of the Last Judgement of the Sistine Chapel. However, despite this new order of painting, he prefers to devote his energy to create architectural designs.
In 1537, Michelangelo the architect, was entrusted with the redevelopment of the Place of the Capitole, civic and political heart of the city of Rome. The work as it is known today was completed in the seventeenth century, but in the spirit of Michelangelo: it was he who designed the place in its oval shape, just around the Ancient statue of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. In 1546, when the architect Sangallo the Young died, Michelangelo was given the task of continuing the work of the Farnese Palace and the St. Peter's Basilica. The latter, whose initial draft of Bramante had been heavily reworked, comes back to its first spirit with the desings of Michelangelo, who also suggests a large dome to alleviate the building.
During his long life (he died at the age of 89), Michelangelo entered in the privacy of great princes as Laurent de Medicis, as popes Leo X, Clement VIII and Pius III, as well as cardinals, painters and poets. One of his contemporaries, the poet Ariosto, celebrated the artist in these terms: "Michel, more than mortal, an angel of God." Two generations of Italian painters and sculptors- among them Raphael, Annibale Carracci, Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino, Sebastiano del Piombo and Titian - have been particularly influenced by his treatment of human representation. But the work of Michelangelo also privileged certain artistic issues, including the question of light in sculpture and the role of plastics in architecture.