Michelangelo, born March 6th, 1475 in Caprese and died February 18th, 1564 in Rome, was a Florentine sculptor, painter, architect, poet and urban planner of the High Renaissance.

He was a major influence on his contemporaries, but they changed his style, and the influence spread beyond him to the followers of Mannerism in late Renaissance. The admiration of intellectuals and other artists was reflected in several biographies published during his lifetime. Because painters were not as popular as they would be later, biographies of painters were often included as part of a general collection.

Childhood and youth

Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475 at the castle of Caprese in Caprese (Tuscany) in the Republic of Florence. Lodovico di Lionardo Simoni, a magistrate and podestate of Caprese and Chiusi and also a member of the Florentine noble family of Simoni, had a second son in the 14th century. Once his term as podestate came to an end in 1481, the family returned to their home in Settignano near Florence. He was left alone with his five children after his wife's death. But at the age of six, Michelangelo's father placed him in a local stone mason shop where he learned to remove blocks of stone from the nearby quarry. He was ten before he entered his father's home.

Having been the apprentice of Domenico Ghirlandaio from April 1st 1488, Michelangelo had been against his father and his uncles' wishes.

The sculptor Pietro Torrigiano punched him for his remarks about how he studied Masaccio's frescoes (he had copied them), causing a fracture of the nose which marked his face for life.

Impressed by his work, Ghirlandaio recommended him to Lorenzo de' Medici, who placed him in an open-air sculpture workshop in the gardens of St. Mark's Square, directed by Bertoldo di Giovanni. In 1490, Michelangelo was brought to Lorenzo's palace and became his protégé. He develops his ideas about art and feelings about sexuality in an environment that's free of conventional-minded people. He was inspired by the Medici's collection of ancient Greek statues and so he decided to become a sculptor. He began by sculpting a mask of a faun, but when he showed it to Laurent, he was given five ducats per month. Michelangelo sculpted bas-reliefs of the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs, which reflected his great admiration for Donatello.

Michelangelo collaborated on the illustration of a treatise on anatomy with Realdo Colombo. He used human bodies more subject to art than to the strict respect of human anatomy for his sculptures of the 1500s. After Lorenzo died in 1492, his youngest son became the head of the family. He decided to refuse to be Michelangelo's patron. It was at this time that Savonarola gained popularity in Florence. He condemned artists who embellish religious scenes. These ideas led to the expulsion of the Medici from Florence. Michelangelo left Tuscany and settled for three years in Bologna with his friend Gianfrancesco Aldobrandini. The sculptor will make statues of Saint Petronius and Saint Proculus to be placed in the church of Saint Dominic. In 1496, shortly after returning from his first diplomatic mission as papal legate to the Court of Naples, Raffaele Riario, cardinal of San Giorgio al Velabro, asked him to come to Rome. Under his patronage, he created two statues - Bacchus, commissioned by Cardinal Riario, and La Pietà , commissioned by the French Cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas.

The Pietà, the reflection of an ideal type in art

Before Michelangelo Buonarroti 's thirtieth birthday, he had already sculpted the David and the Pietà, two of the most famous sculptures in history. Michelangelo's skill is demonstrated by the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, but also by the artist's monumental sculptures and his profoundly original architectural creations. In the late 1490s, Michelangelo was living in Rome, where he produced a sculpture that changed his life: a sculpture the French Cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas commissioned. Michelangelo completed the work in 1499 and it aroused enthusiasm. That brought him artistic glory. His work earned him great renown, so much so that it was believed that he was not only far superior to his contemporaries (da Vinci and Raphael in particular), but also to those who had gone before him. During this stay in Rome, Michelangelo modified his aesthetic approach and changed his orientation. He was particularly attracted by the precision and finesse of Florentine execution of the Quattrocento. The Pietà is important to art because it perfectly embodies a certain goal, namely the one the artist has. The line of Jesus's body flows seamlessly into the folds of his mother's dress. The Virgin is very young, much younger than the son she holds in her arms. This has been interpreted as a symbol of the mother's timeless purity. Michelangelo, for instance, said that chaste women are "younger all their life". This sort of return of the two protagonists to an ideal youth fully translates the concept of "divine" that inhabits the entire work, which will remain consistent through Michelangelo's life.

The interest in analyzing this Pietà is to place it in parallel with the Rondanini Pietà, which bears witness to the artist's evolution.

The Pietà was created by Michelangelo out of marble in just over a year. He labored hard to create it. The sculpture was carved out of a single block of marble he chose himself in Carrara.

The iconography of Mary holding the body of the dead Christ in her arms is ultimately based on Byzantine models. It was a German idea that spread to France in the 14th century. The Pietà is a work by Michelangelo. It was commissioned by the French cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas and was destined for the sanctuary of the Kings of France.

The artist of Florence and the papacy

Four years later, Michelangelo returned to Florence to create his most famous work, the David, carved from marble quarried by sculptor Agostino di Duccio. He also painted the Holy Family in Tondo Doni. The Seigniory (government body) asked him to paint a fresco in the Council Chamber. He did make the cardboard (preparation), but he never made the fresco. Leonardo also had to paint another mural in the same room, the Battle of Anghiari, without more of a success.

In 1505, Michelangelo was called back to Rome by the new Pope Julius II, who commissioned him to build his tomb, a grand mausoleum in the Basilica. Michelangelo searches through Carrara and then tinkers with the marble until he finds blocks of the most perfect marble. After a forty year working period, Michelangelo finalized his work on the tomb of Julius II with only seven statues. The pope Julius II decided in 1506 to set aside his priorities to finance the reconstruction of St. Peter's basilica, and he put Bramante down for this task, even though Bramante had worked against Raphael (Raphael's master). Michelangelo fled Rome in 1506 to take refuge in Florence. He had to pay allegiance to Pope Julius II in Bologna in November 1506 after several papal injunctions. He realized then that he would need to make a bronze statue of Julius in front of the cathedral of Bologna. This statue would be destroyed when Bentivoglio returned to Bologna.

Michelangelo resumed the project of the tomb, but he had to stop every time Julius II gave him another job. The most famous of these is the monumental painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which took four years of his life (1508-1512) and earned him such a high reputation that he was later named a cardinal. The bad blood between Bramante and Michelangelo led Bramante to suggest this project to Michelangelo, which he was sure would end in failure. The artist signed the contract on May 8, 1508. Under the contract, he would paint the Twelve Apostles in the pendentives and ornamental motifs in the remaining parts. At the request of Michelangelo, who considered the subject too poor, and with the help of the theologians of the papal court, he created the frescoes of the nine central stories representing the episodes of Genesis. He refers to these four years as extremely trying in his Poems. The chapel was opened on All Saints' Day, 1512, to general enthusiasm. The event was widely publicized by church leaders.

Pope Julius II died in 1513. Despite their frequent disputes, he was a great friend of Michelangelo and had a deep respect for him. Leo X, a Medici, asked Michelangelo to make sculptures for the exterior facade of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. The facade of the building remained bare to this day because he reluctantly accepted, made the plans, but was unable to comply with this request. After the death of Leo X, the austere Pope Adrian VI had no commissions for him.

In Florence, from 1519-1531, Michelangelo sculpted the tombs of Lorenzo and Giuliano for the Medici in his new sacristy. He let his pupils finish it. During his stay in Florence, the Florentine family commissioned him to build the Laurentian Library, which would keep the books of Lorenzo the Magnificent: it was begun in 1524 by Michelangelo and remained unfinished at the time of his departure.

In 1527, inspired by the Sack of Rome, the citizens of Florence overthrew the Medici and restored the Republic. In 1528 and 1529, Michelangelo worked on the city's fortifications to defend Florence from a siege. The city fell in 1530 and the Medici family regained control of Florence.

When Michelangelo returned to Rome after a stay of several years in Florence during which he had taken sides against the pope in the conflict with the emperor Charles V, Clement VII asked him to paint the two side walls of the Sistine Chapel. The artist wanted to paint the Fall of the Rebel Angels and the Last Judgment. After a short period of time, he began working on this ambitious project. The fresco of the Last Judgment on the altar wall was the only one executed and was not finally completed until 1541, when Raphael's friend Pope Paul III opposed it and appointed him in 1535 architect, painter and sculptor of the Vatican.

In as early as 1535, Michelangelo wrote a poem about his relationship with Tommaso dei Cavalieri. He also had long conversations with Vittoria Colonna that inspired him. It was she who introduced him to the irenic orientations of the group of Spirituals, whose inspiration came from Cardinal Reginald Pole.

The pope's tomb project became a mausoleum containing a simple cenotaph in the Basilica of St. Peter forty years after the initial order was placed.

From 1546 he was appointed (architect of St. Peter's Basilica). He returned to the Greek Cross plan proposed by Bramante and simplified the dome. Pius IV entrusted him with the construction of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs in the Baths of Diocletian, which he then delegated to others.

Michelangelo remained involved in the art world until the end of his life, remaining active in some way, advising and recommending his disciples, as if he were an ancestor that already had a myth surrounding him. Michelangelo died on February 18, 1564. He was working on the Pietà Rondanini six days before his death. He was still alive when he reached eighty-eight years of age. His body was repatriated to Florence on March 29, and he was buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce with national honors. The funeral of Michelangelo (organized by a Medici commission composed of painters Bronzino and Vasari and sculptors Cellini and Ammanati) consecrated his status as one of the giants of art. In Giorgio Vasari's Le Vite and Ascanio Condivi's Life of Michelangelo, Michelangelo's life is described. Gaspard Becerra and Bastiano da Sangallo were students of Michelangelo.

Private life

If the sexuality of an artist is no longer a mystery today, it was not so for a long time. While Michelangelo's artwork was covered modestly, the sexuality of the bodies in the Sistine Chapel's Last Judgment was more openly expressed. According to Ascanio Condivi, his first biographer,20 Leonardo left no doubt in the minds of those who knew him that he was a lover and follower of Plato in matters of love and sex. Although I don't know what Plato says, I do know that having spent a lot of time with Michelangelo and having watched him work on his art, I never once heard him say something that would encourage people to put themselves above others. Tommaso dei Cavalieri was the only person that he loved "above all others, without comparison." He made a life-size portrait on cardboard, because he hated copying living people and, unless it was of an incomparable beauty, didn't like drawing them.

Deliberate incompletion or the influence of Neoplatonism

Pope Julius II, 1505, wants to give back to the capital of Christendom its magnificence and its importance. This one then calls upon the most gifted men of Italy of which Michelangelo.

In addition to the Moses, Michelangelo had sculpted a group of six male slaves, four of which are now located at the Accademia in Florence and two at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Of these sculptures, the Dying Slave is the most frontal and probably stood in front of a pilaster (a pillar set in a wall, a support; a flat column forming a slight projection), directly to the left of the future tomb's center. Behind his back is a monkey holding a round object. The interpretation of the wording in this detail is particularly numerous. Art that imitates nature; symbol of man's inferiority to animals; sign of the chaining of the human soul to the body, and many other more complex things. In reality, this character is far from dying, but he is absorbed in a dream that places him between two states: one of languorous sensuality and the other of a prisoner where bonds are visible on the chest and shoulders. If the body seems to be in imbalance, then you can often find it in contrapposto. This sculpture refers to a story about an artist who was imprisoned by the government and forced to create art. It refers to a situation characterized by great limitation, one from which it is necessary to free oneself. The one which seems to exhort not just the artist himself, but also to all those who are prisoners of earthly, human and social contingencies, and who yet strive with all their might to be insubordinate.

Michelangelo was a leading artist during the Renaissance because of the greatness of his works, which were influenced by Neoplatonism. First of all, it refers to the philosophical tradition claimed by Plato (an ancient Greek philosopher).

Michelangelo's artistic practice was entirely devoted to the expression of thought whose aspects are necessarily changing. In Michelangelo's non finito (never finished) style, the work is entirely subordinated to the thought. The artist is free to suspend the work of the work as soon as the thought that was at the origin is sufficiently expressed. Plato's philosophy takes up and radicalizes some of the themes of Socrates' philosophy, notably in its distrust of the body. For the Neoplatonists, the body is a prison that binds us to the material world. This idea can be found in some of Michelangelo's sculptures. Concentrating on the essential forms, the sculptor considers the ideal shape to be already given, and plans to extract it from the stone just as it is. Because marble is smooth and cold, it gives man a feeling of power. After the death of Julius II, Michelangelo took over the sculptures of the tomb project. We observe that the similarities in the distinctive postures of Michelangelo's figures in the Sistine Chapel seem to have been reproduced.

The massive marble statue above, which remains unfinished, was offered in 1546 by Michelangelo to his friend Roberto Strozzi, who in exile donated it to the French king Francis. Since August 28, 1794, it has been on display in the Louvre.

The Dying Slave is an example of Michelangelo's most harmonious and sensual sculptures. The young man's unstable balance is evoked by the way he is posed. Indeed, a force goes down from the head, through the slightly bent arm, then goes up on the opposite side, to the top of the bent elbow. The fabric that encloses his chest seems to symbolize the weight which oppresses his soul. At his feet, in the simple rustic way that stones are carved, is a monkey. There is no end to the power that comes from this tortured soul.

Oil painting reproduction of Michelangelo