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Monday, 16 May 2016



Michelangelo was born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni on March 6, 1475 in Caprese a tiny Florentine village in Tuscany. (Today, Caprese is known as Caprese Michelangelo.)

His father was Ludovico de Leornardo Buonarroti, the resident magistrate and mayor of Caprese.

Several months after Michelangelo's birth, the family returned to Florence, where Michelangelo was raised.

His mother, Francesca di Neri del Miniato di Siena, died when young Michelangelo was six-years-old.

At later times, during his mother's prolonged illness and after her death, Michelangelo lived with his wet nurse and her husband, who was a stonecutter. Their home was in the town of Settignano, where his father owned a marble quarry and a small farm. It was here where Michelangelo gained his love for marble.

As a child, Michelangelo was sent to grammar school in Settignano to be taught by Francesco of Urbino.

Young Michelangelo used to spend much of  his time drawing and as a result he was often beaten by his father and other members of his family.

Michelangelo once said to the biographer Giorgio Vasari, "What good I have comes from the pure air of your native Arezzo, and also because I sucked in chisels and hammers with my nurse's milk."


When the young Michelangelo announced he was going to be a painter he was beaten by his father. When he later announced his wish to become a sculptor his family were even more outraged as it was generally thought that the heavy manual labor involved rendered sculpture inferior to painting.

Against his father's wishes, Michelangelo chose to be the apprentice of the artist Domenico Ghirlandaio for three years starting in 1488. Impressed, Domenico recommended him to the ruler of Florence.  Lorenzo de' Medici. Ghirlandaio said, “This boy knows more than I do”.

From 1490 to 1492, Michelangelo studied at sculpture school in the Medici gardens with the help of the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici. He was influenced there by many prominent people who modified and expanded his ideas on art and even his feelings about sexuality.

While working as an apprentice, a fellow student Pietro Torrigiano took such a dislike to the arrogant Michelangelo that he punched his nose so hard he virtually flattened it. Torrigiano later boasted that he left his signature on the great man's face.

 In his early days, Michelangelo's work was unappreciated by the critics of his day. So he aged a statue of "Eros" he had made and buried it amongst some old ruins. Soon an excavating party found the statute and the critics were enthralled. The general consensus was that it was a priceless work. When Michelangelo confessed he was the man behind it, the critics had to admit they were wrong and Michelangelo was in fact an artist of rare ability. Afterwards the commissions started flowing in.

In 1527, the Florentine citizens, encouraged by the sack of Rome, threw out the Medici and restored the republic. A siege of the city ensued, and Michelangelo went to the aid of the besieged Florence by working on its fortifications. Between 1528 and 1529., he worked by day on the city's fortifications and by night on his paintings and statues.

Michelangelo kept corpses in his studio which he peeled and probed. He made many anatomical sketches using colored chalk and water in order to master anatomy. The sculptor was accused of performing dissections on living people as part of his anatomical studies.

Michelangelo's work celebrated the human body, which for the previous 1000 years had been reviled.

By the end of his life, Michelangelo  had enough money to afford the luxurious lifestyle of other famous artists of the day, but instead he lived like a poor man. Though he rarely accepted gifts, he often gave away artwork to friends and in later years he provided dowries for poor girls otherwise unable to marry.

In 1546, Michelangelo succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter's Basilica. The artist transformed the plan, with the western end being finished to his design, and the dome being completed after his death, with some modification.

Michelangelo's dome of St Peters became the model for domes all over the western world including the majority of American state buildings.

The dome of St Peter's BasilicaThe dome of St Peter's Basilica

A perfectionist, Michelangelo was forever altering his work, the prime example being the tomb of Pope Julius II on which he worked periodically for 40 years and never finished.


The workaholic Michelangelo tended to have just a little bread when working with a proper meal in the evening when finished.

Sometimes, Michelangelo rose in the middle of the night to work, wearing a paper hat with a candle in the middle of it so that he could see while keeping his hands free.

The Pieta sculpture, carved for St Peter’s Basilica between 1498 and 1500, made Michelangelo famous.

Michelangelo's Piet√†, St Peter's Basilica (1498–99)

In 1501, the city government of Florence commissioned Michelangelo to create a statue of the Old Testament king of Israel, David. Michelangelo completed his 13 foot high stone carving in 1504.

Michelangelio's David astounded the public with it's realism. Every muscle and vein of its subject is shown.

In 1505, Michelangelo was invited back to Rome by the newly elected Pope Julius II. He was commissioned to build the Pope's tomb, which was to include forty statues and be finished in five years.

Having paid up front for the marble, Michelangelo was understandably upset when the pope refused to see him about paying him back. Michelangelo stormed off to Florence.

Having made up with Julius II, the sculptor was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was unenthusiastic about the project (he thought of himself as a sculptor), but was unable to refuse the Pope.

Michelangelo engaged five of his colleagues from the shop of Ghirlandajo and began with them to paint the "Drunkenness of Noah" above the entrance to the chapel. However, the sculptor had little patience with his less gifted associates, dismissed them and continued alone.

He spent nearly five years working on the project perched on a high scaffold with his head thrown back and paint dripping in his eyes. It left Michelangelo with a crick in his neck and he was close to be permanently crippled.

Michelangelo completed the Sistine Chapel frescoes on All Saints Day, November 1, 1512. "I've finished that chapel I was painting. The Pope is quite satisfied," the artist wrote in a letter to his father.

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes was unveiled to show God's Creation of the World. He covered the ceiling with mainly nude figures telling the Old Testament story from Genesis to the Flood.

Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo experienced constant interruptions to his work on Pope Julius' tomb in order to accomplish numerous other tasks. Although Michelangelo worked on the tomb for 40 years, it was never finished to his satisfaction.  According to the sculptor an unfinished work like this expressed the struggle between soul and matter.

Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam was completed in 1512 and 478 years later, an American  physician realized that God's shroud is in the shape of the human brain.

Shortly before his death in 1534, Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint a fresco of The Last Judgement on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. His successor, Paul III was instrumental in seeing that Michelangelo began and completed the project. Michelangelo labored on the fresco from 1534 to October 1541.

The Pope's master of ceremonies had irritated Michelangelo by constantly pestering him to let him see The Last Judgement fresco before the artist was ready to reveal it to the world. When he eventually revealed his masterpiece it was noted that Michelangelo had included the irritating official among the damned in hell being tormented by demons.

Michelangelo ignored the usual artistic conventions in portraying Jesus, and showed him a massive, muscular figure, youthful, beardless and naked. The depiction of Christ and the Virgin Mary without clothes was considered sacrilegious, but the Pope resisted having the fresco censored.

The Last Judgement (1534–41)

At the Council of Trent, shortly before Michelangelo's death in 1564, it was decided to obscure the genitals on the Last Judgement fresco. Daniele da Volterra, an apprentice of Michelangelo, was commissioned to make the alterations.

Michelangelo  put his own image in his works, including The Last Judgment fresco, in which St Bartholomew holds a piece of flayed skin, thought to be the artist’s face.

Michelangelo designed the dark blue, yellow and red uniforms that are worn by the Swiss Guards who guard the Vatican. His design is still worn by them to this day.

The Italian sculptor and painter was a fine lyric poet. Michelangelo wrote sonnets and madrigals, which are passionate, sarcastic and funny by turn. Some of them were inspired by his friendship in the last decade of his life with a noblewoman and poet Vittoria Colunnia.


Michelangelo sought to reconcile humanism and classicism with Christian orthodoxy. He believed he had a personal relationship with God, which meant from the Vatican's point of view, his beliefs were dangerously Lutheran.

In his old age, Michelangelo was discussing life, death and the universe with an aged friend. His friend commented "yes after such a good life, it's hard to look death in the eye." "Not at all" replied the sculptor "since life was such a pleasure, death coming from the same source cannot displease us."


Michelangelo was short, 5ft 3 ins, and lean. He had a muscular body and was wide shouldered and puggish. The artist was round faced with short black hair, forked beard. large ears, and a squashed nose.

Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra

Michelangelo cared little about his clothes and often wore the same ones for months at a time.

He often wore his boots for months without taking them off, so that when he finally removed them the outer layer of skin came off as well

Michelangelo smelled vile because he hardly ever washed. Michelangelo had his faults, but personal vanity was not one of them.


Michelangelo never married. His reason was "I have too much of a wife in this art of mine."

He had very little experience of the gentler sex and he never even kissed a woman and never drew from a female model. Some of Michelangelo's figures were shaped very oddly.

Fundamental to Michelangelo's sculpture, drawing and poetry is his love of male beauty, which attracted him both aesthetically and emotionally. Such feelings caused him great anguish, and he expressed the struggle between platonic ideals and carnal desire in his art.

Michelangelo had a number of young gay lovers throughout his life. Some were of high birth, like the sixteen year old Cecchino dei Bracci, a boy of exquisite beauty whose death, only a year after their meeting in 1543, devastated the artist. He spent a year writing passionate epitaphs for Bracci’s tomb.

Others were street wise and took advantage of the sculptor, Gherardo Perini, for instance in 1522, stole from him shamelessly.

Michelangelo distrusted his fellow artists and was jealous of Leonardo Da Vinci. He left Florence because of their rivalry.


Michelangelo lived in a two-storey house facing the great ruins of the Forum next to Trajan's column. There, he kept his marble and tools. His home contained little furniture and no books.

Michelangelo kept chickens and cats in the garden of his Rome home.

He preferred the city to the countryside. Michelangelo said; "I never felt salvation in nature. I love cities above all."


Michelangelo died in Rome on February 18, 1564, at the age of 88. Despite having a faith, Michelangelo refused to have a priest at his deathbed as throughout his life he'd distrusted dogma and hierarchy.

On his deathbed, Michelangelo told his friends "My soul I resign to God, my body to the Earth, my worldly goods to my next of kin."

His body was taken from Rome for interment at the Basilica of Santa Croce, fulfilling Michelangelo's last request to be buried in his beloved Florence.

Michelangelo's tomb in the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence


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