“enius is eternal patience” – Michelangelo
Michelangelo Buonarroti: the history behind the talent
Italy is known for many different reasons: its beautiful landscapes, rich culture, fashionable trends, and vast food heritage. However, one thing stands among the whole world and represents the real pride of Italian heritage: its wonderful, rich art tradition. In fact, during the centuries, Italy has been the home of many talented artists that offered us some of the most moving, incredible, and breathtaking artworks.
One of these unforgettable artists is Michelangelo Buonarroti. Thanks to his timeless talent, he has become a symbol of Italian pride and the representative of the Italian Renaissance all over the world. He has gifted us with an endless series of different works of art: from sculptures to frescos and paintings, that are still known and loved by many. However, few people know the life and achievement of this remarkable man and the suffering that brought this man to fame as we know him now.
Michelangelo Buonarroti: life and main curiosities
Michelangelo Buonarroti was an Italian sculptor, painter, poet, and architect who was born in 1475 in Caprese, nearby Arezzo, Tuscany. He came from a noble family in Florence, mainly involved in politics. The men in its family have always covered many jobs revolving around government and politicians’ duties. However, when Michelangelo was born, the family was going through many struggles, especially from the economic point of view: his father, in fact, decided to accept the estate in Caprese, which was known as an impoverished area, only to provide some sustainment to its family. In fact, after only a few months from Michelangelo‘s birth, the family decided to move again and return to their true home, Florence.
During his childhood, Michelangelo never really forgot the small town where he grew up: in fact, the place was known for its stonecutters, and their famous marble quarry and this element influenced the young boy all his life. Michelangelo himself always stated to ‘be born’ as a sculptor and that this art was his true calling because of its small but beautiful town.
Even after growing up and moving to Florence to continue studying, he never really applied himself to human studies and felt a close connection only to art. This dream became so strong that he decided to pursue it by joining the ‘Ghirlandaio‘s workshop and studying under its wing. He soon became one of the best students in the workshop, so Michelangelo‘s father asked the Ghirlandaio to pay the young boy, which was such a rare event.
Later, he also attended a prestigious Humanistic academy in Florence called the Platonic Academy. Even though he attended only for a couple of years, he was deeply influenced by the big group of artists he encountered there, such as Marsilio Ficino, Poliziano, and Pico della Mirandola. He also has started sculpting some of his first artworks here, such as Madonna of the Steps ( or Madonna of the Stairs )and the Battle of Centaurs.
The artistic journey of Michelangelo Buonarroti: Bologna, Florence and Rome
From that moment on, his journey through art began to unfold, gifting us, year after year, many incredible artworks that we still cherish as part of our culture and heritage. His career has been very vast and variegated. Still, it has one common denominator: he traveled a lot, discovering new cities and artistic environments, which of course, has influenced his talent. For example, after a long period in Florence, he had to escape and move away after the fall of the de Medici family in 1492, which were some of their patrons at the time.
” The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.” – Michelangelo
He stayed at his father’s estate for a while but then fled away from Tuscany after the rise of Savonarola, going to Venice and Bologna. He will return to its beloved Florence, only after 1499, after the priest’s death and the city’s restoration. From that moment on, he divided himself between Florence and Rome, always supporting the de Medici family and completing some of its most treasured artworks.
Michelangelo’s artwork and the quintessential Italian heritage
Listing all of Michelangelo‘s works is difficult since he dabbled and mastered so many different specialties and different artistic techniques as the well-rounded and talented artist he is. However, a few artworks stuck to our minds and have become more and more popular, still remembered up to these days.
For example, Michelangelo’s David is one of the most well-known and loved sculptures of the Renaissance era. Its solid and deep look pins you and leaves you still. Its beautiful figure has become a symbol of beauty standards and free will, representing the strength of the Florentine population and their freedom from the monarchy. We also have another excellent art piece, attributed to Michelangelo, with the Tondo Doni. It is an oil-on-panel painting representing the Holy Family in an idyllic scenario. Still, it shows the artistic innovation that Michelangelo was trying to evoke, with the figures’ dynamic motions and positions, looking almost like sculptures.
Despite the countless artworks he created, Michelangelo‘s most famous and loved ones are all hidden in one ethereal and magnificent place: the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In fact, in this imperious church, you can find some of the artist’s better operas, such as the Pietà and, of course, the Sistine Chapel‘s vault. The first artwork is a sculpture representing the struggling meeting of the Virgin Holy Mother and Jesus Christ just after the Crucifixion.
The work is an astounding example of majesty and skilled precision by the author, who succeeded to represent the two figures with a terrifying realism, by the pleats of their garments and the vividity of their expressions. Despite the holy subject, Michelangelo realized a scene that reeks familiarity, sentiment, and so much introspection, but at the same time, it doesn’t lose its austerity and almost biblical importance.
The other magnificent artwork that is present at the St. Peter’s Cathedral is the Sistine Chapel, one of the most breathtaking artworks in the whole world. In particular, Michelangelo‘s affrescos create an enchanting and colorful hallway, leading you to the final piece, ‘The Last Judgment. It is almost impossible to quantify the efforts and the passion that the artist put into this project, and it is even more difficult to explain the intricate beauty and countless merits of this magnificent masterpiece. The nine panels in the center unfolds the story behind the Genesis, from the Creation of the Universe, up to the rebirth of the mankind, thanks to Noah family.
In this way, the pictures try to enhance humankind’s history and God’s presence during the whole journey, culminating in the ‘Last Judgement‘ affresco, depicting the ultimate scenario where all the Saints gather around Jesus himself. In the art piece, more than 400 figures are represented with skillful precision. The main focus of the artwork is the idea of the man rising against his own sins and defects to shine with his Holy Father, God. The ideology of the era hugely influenced this concept, the anthropocentrism of the Renaissance, which portrayed a new-found idea of mankind and salvation, reinventing and rewriting the spiritual coding of the holy dogmas.
Michelangelo’s talent: artistic styles and techniques
Michelangelo is often described as the official symbol of the Italian Renaissance, not only for his talent but also because his artistic journey and preferences completely encapsulated the general vision of the era. These years reflected a newfound marriage between Ancient Greek mythology and the Catholic religion to represent the Holy Scriptures’ spiritual scenes in a new way, much more complex and, at the same time, realistic. This concept is well-expressed by focusing on the human body and its representation.
For example, Michelangelo‘s work almost solely focused on the study and recreation of the human body and its energies. He wisely mixed the advanced knowledge of the body that he could have access to in that century with the ancient techniques of Greek art, employed especially in sculptures. His main purpose was to perfect, as much as he could, his masterful skills to channel profound emotions and feelings through the realistic depiction of human movements and muscles, as we can see from the strong expressions that are used in his sculptures and art pieces.
He used innovative concepts, such as light and shadow plays, to represent volume and shape more realistically and better represent the subjects. The final result is a vibrant and realistic art piece that reflects all the glory and strong emotions behind the world’s most fascinating and powerful secret: humankind.