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Michelangelo Essay, Research Paper


Michelangelo is easily one of the greatest artists of all time. His name has been synonymous with the word masterpiece. Other artists works are no match for Michelangelo s amazing creations. He created works of extreme beauty, which expressed the full extent of the human condition. Yet even this great artist had problems. He was caught between the conflicting powers of the Medici family in Florence and the Papacy in Rome. His genius, unlike many other artists of his time, was recognized but at what cost to his personal life?

Early Life

Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475 at Caprese, in Tuscany. His parents were Ludovico di Leonardo di Bunarotto Simoni and Fracesca Neri. The same day Michelangelo was born his father wrote Today March, 6, 1475, a child of the male sex has been born to me and I have named him Michelangelo. He was born on Monday between 4 and 5 in the morning, at Caprese where I am the Podesta.

Michelangelo s mother was too sick and frail to nurse him so he was placed with a wet nurse, in a family of stone cutters. Michelangelo s mother died when he was only six years old adding to his already grim childhood. He was given a lack of affection and he was touchy and would respond with fierce words. He was also extremely intelligent. His father soon reconized his intelligence and sent him to Francesco Galetoa from Urbino.

At the time Michelangelo s father sent him to Francesco Galetoa taught grammar. Michelangelo made friends with a student six years older than himself named Francesco Granacci while learning the principals of Latin. Granacci encouraged Michelangelo to follow his own artistic vocation.

At the age of thirteen years he shocked and enraged his father by becoming an apprentice in the workshop of the painter Domendo Ghirlandaio instead of becoming a successful businessman or merchant. He first learned the art of fresco and then went on to study at the sculpture school in the Medici gardens. He was invited into the household of Corenzo de Medici, the Magnificent. There he became aquatinted with humanists such as Marsilo Ficino and the poet Angelo Poliziano.

When Michelangelo was at the Garden of San Marco he began to study human anatomy. Michelangelo had to give the church of Santo Spirito a wooden crucifix so he could study dead bodies. His contact with dead bodies caused problems with his health forcing him to interrupt his activities periodically.

By the time he was sixteen years old he had produced two statues called the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs. In 1492 Lorenzo the Magnificent died. His death led the people of Florence dividing into several rival factions.

Shortly after the death of Lorenzo Michelangelo decided to go to Rome. In Rome he made his first large-scale sculpture the over-life-size Baccus. A little later Michelangelo created the Pieta. The Pieta is a marble statue that still stands in its original place at the Saint Peter s Basilica. In the Pieta Mary is shown holding the dead body of Christ across her lap.

Just days after the Pieta was placed in Saint Peter s Michelangelo overheard a pilgrim remark that the statue was made by Christoforo Solari. Later that night Michelangelo took a hammer and chisel and placed the following inscription on the sash running across Mary s breasts. Michel Angelus Bonarotus Florent Facibat meaning Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine made this. This is the only piece of artwork Michelangelo signed.

Michelangelo s greatest piece of art in his early life is the gigantic marble David. He produced the David from 1501 to 1504. This gigantic sculpture is 4.34 meter tall or about 14.24 feet tall and was made as a model of heroic courage. Michelangelo choose to represent David as being athletic and always ready for anything.

Middle Life

In April 1508 Michelangelo was summoned back to Rome by Julius II. Julius II wanted him to paint twelve figures of apostles and some decorations on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo, who always considered himself as a sculpture, tried to turn down the job. He wanted to turn down the job because he would now have to perfect the art of fresco. Michelangelo finally accepted the job and by October 31st, 1512 he had painted over three hundred figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo was also commissioned by Julius II to produce his tomb in 1505. When Michelangelo created the tomb he made some of his finest sculptures including the Moses. Two other statues he created for the tomb were the Bound slave and the Dying Slave.

While residing in Florence for an extended period Michelangelo also undertook the commission of the Medici Tombs. He decided to commission the tombs from 1519 to 1534. Even after Michelangelo left the tombs work on the Medici Tombs continued for several years. When Michelangelo left Florence in 1534 he would never again return. In Rome Michelangelo was able to count on the esteem, protection, and affection of Pope Clemet VII. Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint the fresco of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel shortly before he died.

Late Life

Pope Clement VII probably commissioned Michelangelo to create the Last Judgment because of the traumatic events that were undermining the unity of the Christians at the time. The pope died on September 25, 1534, which was only two days after Michelangelo, arrived in Rome. Before the masterpiece was shown it was the target of violent criticisms. When it was finally reviled Michelangelo was accused as a heresy.

The Last Judgment, which was finished in 1541, was the largest fresco of the Renaissance. It depicts what would happen on Judgement Day. It decorated the Pauline Chapel in the 1500 s.

In 1538-39 plans were under way for the remodeling of the buildings surrounding the capital on the Capitoline Hill. This was considered to be the political heart of the city of Rome. Although Michelangelo s program was not carried out until the late 1550s and not finished until the 17th century, he designed the Campidoglio around an oval shape. The Campidoglio had the famous antique bronze equestrian statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the center.

Michelangelo s best achievement as an architect was his work at the St. Peter s Basilica in 1546. The building was being constructed according to Donato Bramante s plan, but Michelangelo ultimately became responsible for the altar end of the building on the exterior and for the final form of the buildings dome. When Michelangelo helped design this building he was in his seventies, but that could not stop this amazing artist. He was able to carry the responsibility of this project which was maybe the heaviest he had ever carried in his great career. Even though Michelangelo worked incredibly hard on this project he did not accept pay for this masterpiece.

Michelangelo s last masterpiece was called the Rondanini Pieta. He made this statue from a very hard piece of marble. He attacked the stone vigorously often sending huge chunks flying in the air. Michelangelo could no longer sleep and as he grew older he wished to be alone.

On February 18th, 1564 Michelangelo died of a slow fever. His body was placed in a sarcophagus in the church of Santi Apostoli. A few days latter one of Michelangelo s nephews took the body and had it buried in Florence, where Michelangelo wanted to be buried.


Michelangelo gave up his life to art. He was never married and never had very many friends. Before he died he wrote that he was alone and miserable. He said his teeth shook, his ears never ceased to buzz. He wrote that he voice was like a wasp caught in a bag of skin and bones. He said the only way he could be rescued was by death. Michelangelo Buonarroti is only one of his names he is also known as the father and master of all the arts.


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