Michelangelo Buonarotti biography
He was a recluse, walking alone on his way, long way of stormy life. Many times he had to carry burden of others, therefore to suffer from mistakes of whole century. He was caught between the two conflicting powers, victim of vain popes. His genius was recognized, but at what cost to his personal life?
Michelangelo was born on March 6th, 1475 at Caprese, Tuscany as the second of five brothers to the family of Ludovico di Leonardo di Buonarotto Simoni and Francesca Neri. The same day as he was born his father noted down: “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.” His mother was too sick to take care of him. So he was placed with a nurse, in a family of stonecutters where he discovered what a stone meant for him. “When I told my father that I wish to be an artist, he flew into a rage, ‘artists are labores, no better than shoemakers’.”
Michelangelo’s childhood had been grim and lacking in affection. Touchy and quick to respond with fierce words he defended himself, shy and lacking of trust in his fellows. His father sent him to the school of a master, Francesco Galeota teaching grammar. Michelangelo could become a successful merchant or bisinessman, but his choice was art. In age of thirteen he decided to join the workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlando. His real school was the Medici gardens, where the Medici family soon took to him. He spent there two years as almost a member of family. By the age of sixteen he produced at least two relief sculptures, the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs, which showed that he had achieved a personal style in such a young age. After death of Lorenzo the Magnificient, his protector, the Medici were forced to flee. The revolution and political conflicts in Florence made Michelangelo to go to Rome. There he was able to study many new classical statues and ruins. He soon produced his first large-scale sculpture, the over-life-size Bacchus, which was one of few works of rather pagan than Christian themes. At about the same time, Michelangelo also did the marble Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica. It was probably finished before Michelangelo was twenty-five years old. Just few days after it was placed in Basilica, Michelangelo overheard a pilgrim remark that the work was done by Christopho Solari.
That night, a bit in a rage, Michelangelo took hammer and chisel and placed the following insription on the sash running across Mary’s breast in lapidary letters: MICHEL ANGELUS BONAROTUS FLORENT. FACIBAT. (Michelangelo Bounarroti, Florentine, made this) This is the only work that Michelangelo ever signed. He later regretted his passionate outburst of pride and determined to never again sign a work of his hands.
In 1501 he returned to Florence and he clearly expressed his own political orientation, unlike in later work. Three years later he finished gigantic marble David, the high point of his early style, just from huge piece of marble almost impaired by another sculptor. The character of David and what he symbolizes, was perfectly in tune with Michelangelo’s feelings. That time Florence was passing a difficult period. He used David as a model of heroism courage, in hope that Florentines would understand his message. This young biblical hero demonstrated that inner spiritual strength could be more effective than arms. His faith in God (as Michelangelo said: “The Lord is my strength and my shield.”) enabled this young man to overcome Israel’s enemies using a mere sling, which is the only element enabling us to identify the figure of David. Michelangelo represent David as athletic, manly character, very concentrated and ready to fight. The meaning of David becomes clear if we take in consideration the historical circumstances of its creation. Michelangelo was devoted to Republic, and wanted each citizen to become aware of his responsibilities and to accomplish his duties.
Michelangelo’s temper was proverbial. In fact all the resources refer to his brusque and rude manners, his difficult character, his touchiness and intransigence, and the difficulties that he often had in his relations with others. He had no pupils or no constant collaborators. And the enmity between him and twenty years older Leonardo da Vinci was famous. Well known is a story about the friction they had in Florence. That time Michelangelo rudely blamed Leonardo for all his faults right in the street. They both were rare souls and that is why they could not understand each other.
Besides his sculptures, Michelangelo was given an opportunity to present himself as a painter. In April 1508, Julius II summoned him back to Rome. He had prepared for him completely different job than Michelangelo expected. Instead of the papal tomb, that caused his sorrows for years, he had to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. At first Michelangelo tried to turn down, but in vain.
Then, during the realization of the work Julius II let himself be swayed by Michelangelo’s creative frenzy, so he was given carte blanche and by the end of October 1512 Michelangelo had painted over three hundred figures on the ceiling instead of twelve as originally planned. Michelangelo started in 1508, calling on assistance also his old friend Francesco Granacci, along with a number of assistants. However the work did not proceed as Michelangelo wished, soon he fired all of his assistants, removed what had already been painted and started on his own. He was extremely jealous of his work, he refused to show it to anyone except the pope and later he was insisting that he finish it quickly. On the ceiling he devised an intricate system of decoration including nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, beginning with God Separating Light from Darkness, Creation of Adam and Eve, the Temptation, Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Flood, surrounded by images of prophet and sibyls, other Old Testament subjects. It was extremely physically and emotionally torturous for him. “After four years, more than four hundred over-life-sized figures, I felt as old and weary as Jeremiah. I was only thirty-seven, yet friends did not recognize the old man I had become.”
Before starting works on Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo had been commissioned by Julius II to produce his tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica, planned to be the most magnificent of Christian times. He projected more than forty figures of Carrara marble. One of the finest sculptures, the central figure is Moses. The muscular patriarch sits holding the tablets of the Ten Commands, looking into the distance as if talking with God. Two other statues, the Bound Slave and the Dying Slave, show Michelangelo’s approach to carving, as imprisoned in the block. He left the statues unfinished, either he was already satisfied with them or he no longer planned to use them. The papal tomb was not the only Michelangelo’s architect activity. In fact, it really started in 1519 with the facade of the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence. In 1520s he also designed the Lauretian Library. After the Medici family driven out of Florence in 1526 and proclaiming of the New Republic, Michelangelo was forced to stop all the projects he had been working on. In 1528 the new government asked him for a military project- defense of the city. He became a member of charging Nove della Milizia as an expert on fortifications. Soon Michelangelo decided to flee to Venice. The republic as a traitor exiled him but later he was allowed to reenter the city. With the return of the Medici he was granted the pardon and was able to resume work on the Medici Chapel and the Lauretian Library.
Interesting on the Medici Tombs are the names he gave to the statues of the sarcophagi: Dawn, Dusk, Day and Night. Work on the tombs continued long after Michelangelo went back to the Rome in 1534, although he never returned to his native city. “I never knew a people more ungrateful and arrogant than the Florentines.”
Michelangelo returned to Sistine Chapel after twenty-five years. Pope Paul III asked him to decorate the altar wall with the Last judgment. Michelangelo finished this largest fresco of the renaissance in 1541. He portrayed all the figures nude, which was later considered controversial and caused a real scandal and another artist a decade added so prudish draperies later.
In 1538 Michelangelo had met Vittoria Colonna, a poetess and highly cultivated woman. Between them a deep friendship developed, one might say a pure love, only platonic, inspirated by poetry and faith. The most intense period of their relationship lasted from 1544 until Colonna’s death in 1547; years filled with long conversations, frequent visits. Michelangelo gave her three drawings, sonnets and madrigals. Her death was another hurt in his life, he saw out his lady, his family, his friends and enemies, he was alone. More and more he fumbled with the thought of death and begun to hate his art, but never lost his believe and love for God. In spite of his melancholy, he designed Campidoglio (capitol), worked on St. Peter’s Basilica and carved the Rondanini pieta. In the last years of his life he produced tenebrous drawings of the Crucifixion and the Lament over the Dead Christ. He carved Florentine Pieta, for his own tomb, but dissatisfied he broke off the legs and arms. Friends that remained him persuaded him to start work on it again. Still perfectly lucid in age of almost ninety, he created one of his most spiritual images. "I live alone and miserable, trapped as marrow under the bark of the tree. My voice is like a wasp caught in a bag of skin and bones. My teeth shake and rattle like the keys of a musical instrument. My face is a scarecrow. My ears never cease to buzz. In one of them, a spider weaves its web, in the other one, a cricket sings all night long. My rattling catarrh won't let me sleep. This is the state where art has led me, after granting me glory. Poor, old, beaten, I will be reduced to nothing, if death does not come swiftly to my rescue. Pains have quartered me, torn me, broken me and death is the only inn awaiting me."
Michelangelo Buonarotti died on February 18th, 1564 in Rome, but he is buried in his real home, in Florence.
He claimed he is only a sculptor, however he worked on the most important architect projects of renaissance Rome; he claimed he is only painter, however he was just working on Sistine Chapel. It is difficult to find such a hard-working artist. He had not any followers, anybody has ever painted or worked with a piece of stone as he had. But still, he created the school where any master has never taught any student, but where everybody has come to study. Michelangelo Buonarotti, the son of Florence.