||Florentine sculptor, painter,
poet and architect. Michelangelo was born at Caprese where his father was the
chief Florentine official. He was trained in Florence, first in the
technique of fresco painting by D. Ghirlandaio; then under the
patronage of Lorenzo the Magnificent, in the Medici school.
Here he became a sculptor. Here too, his mind was formed by the
companionship of the Neo-platonic philosophers, artists, poets
and men of letters Lorenzo had drawn to his household. Michelangelo's own
genius was recognized and encouraged from the beginning.
Michelangelo carved the large marble David for the city of Florence along with other works of this period are the Bruges Madonna, the painting of the Holy Family, and the large cartoon or design for a fresco,
The Battle of Cascina, done in competition with Leonardo Michelangelo.
This important work was destroyed, but not before the studies of the
nude in violent action had influenced many artists in a way that led
ultimately to the style of Mannerism. In 1508, Michelangelo was assigned
the job of decorating the whole of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in
the Vatican with frescoes. This enormous undertaking took him over
4 years, working virtually single-handed. He was recalled to Rome in 1534
to paint his 2nd great fresco, The Last Judgement, which covers
the whole area of the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel.
In 1546 Michelangelo was appointed architect-in-chief of St Peter's and
architect for the new plan and building of the Roman Capitol.
Despite all this, designing the dome of St Peter's, supervising
the actual building of the church and work on other architectural
projects, Michelangelo executed three of his most profoundly imagined sculptures at this time, Pieta, the Palestrina Pieta, and the Rondanini Pieta.
Many of his finest sonnets were also written in these last years.
Probably no artist has ever exerted a greater influence than Michelangelo.
To his contemporaries he was 'The Divine Michelangelo', and though the
greatness of the man was apparent and recognized, the creative
power within him inspired an awe in worldly popes, scholars, and
soldiers. For over 4oo years
the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel have been studied by painters,
their patrons and all who judged the art of their own times.
('Until you have seen' the Sistine Chapel, you can have no
adequate conception of what man is capable of accomplishing',
Goethe wrote.) Michelangelo's influence as a poet might have been equally
great if his sonnets had not had to wait until 1863 before they
were published in their original form. It is often difficult
to grasp the total meaning of the sonnets but Michelangelo's genius is as
clear in such sonnets as 'On the Brink of Death' a title given by J. A. Symonds as it is in those last Pietas in which the struggle in search of meaning almost destroys meaning.