Michelangelo Buonarroti  1475 - 1564


Italian version


Michelangelo (1475-1564) was one of the most famous artists in history and a great leader of the Italian Renaissance.

Michelangelo was mainly interested in creating large marble statues, but is consistent creative energy also led him to become a great painter and architect, and an active poet. In addition, he was one of the most famous persons of his time. Michelangelo is best known for his treatment of the human body in painting and sculpture. His figures convey a sense of grandeur and power, and arouse strong emotions in many spectators. Both in physical size and strength and in emotional intensity, these figures seem to go beyond real people. The figures have an emotional yet unsentimental quality and their physical strength gives more than the effect of mere bulk. Physical and spiritual strengths build on each other, producing a powerful product that seems to widen human experience. Michelangelo's work pressed toward the extremes of heroism and tragedy, but never seems false or artificial.

Early life

Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475. His full name was Michelangelo Buonarroti. He came from a respectable Florence family, and was born in the village of Caprese, where his father was a government agent. After a brief classical education, he became an apprentice at the age of 12 to the most popular painter in Florence, Domenico Ghirlandajo. But it was work of the sculptor Donatello that had the strongest influence on Michelangelo. Before his apprenticeship was completed, Michelangelo stopped painting and began working as a sculptor under the guidance of a pupil of Donatello. Michelangelo attracted the support of the ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de' Medici, who invited the young artist to stay at his house. Michelangelo's earliest surviving sculpture is a small relief of a battle, completed when he was about 16. This work shows the obvious influence of a collection of fragments of ancient Roman marble sculpture belonging to Lorenzo. But the relief shows the force and movement that became typical of Michelangelo's style. After the Medici family lost power in 1494, Michelangelo began travelling. He lived in Rome from 1496 to 1501. There he had his first marked success when he carved in marble a life-sized statue of the Roman wine god Bacchus. At 23, Michelangelo carved a version of the traditional Pietà subject, the dead Christ on the knees of the mourning Mary. Both figures are larger than life size. This statue, now in St. Peter's Church in Rome, established him as a leading sculptor. The work was plainer and less decorative than most statues of the time, and thus looked stronger and more solemn.


Michelangelo lived in Florence from 1501 to 1505. There he met Leonardo Da Vinci. The new democratic government of Florence wanted to display the talents of the city's two outstanding artists. So it asked both Leonardo and Michelangelo to create large battle scenes for the walls of the city hall. Michelangelo's works, now lost, is known to us through his sketches and through copies by other artists. It displayed his expert ability to render human anatomy. On this project, Michelangelo learned from Leonardo how to show flowing and vibrant movement. Leonardo carried this manner of showing life and action farther than any previous artist. Amazingly, Michelangelo's ability to project solid forms did not decrease. The result was his fundamental style, showing figures that are both massive and full of intense vitality. From about 1505 on, Michelangelo devoted nearly, all his time to large projects. In his enthusiasm for creating grand and powerful works of art, he accepted projects that were far too large for him to complete. The first one was a tomb ordered by Pope Julius II that was to include 40 marble statues. The artist accepted the commission in 1505, but 40 years later, after changes and interruptions, he had completed only a few statues.

The Sistine Chapel

Julius II was a patron of the arts with a sweeping imagination equal to Michelangelo's. He gave the artist a more practical commission, painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. This became Michelangelo's most famous work. The frescoes in the chapel show nine scenes from the Old Testament, three scenes each of God creating the world, the story of Adam and Eve, and Noah and the flood. These are surrounded by 12 larger than life size Old Testament prophets and classical prophetic women called sibyls. Michelangelo began the ceiling in 1508 and finished the first, he approached this task in a style resembling his earlier works. But soon he gained confidence, and developed new ways of showing tension and violence. After a pause, Michelangelo began the second half with scenes that are relaxed though powerful, such as The Creation of Adam. Again he progressed to richer and more active compositions. But in the second half the mood is more restrained.

The tomb of Julius II

Michelangelo finished the ceiling in 1512 and resumed work on the pope's tomb. He carved three famous figures that resemble the painted prophets and decorative figures on the Sistine ceiling. These figures on the Sistine ceiling. These figures are Moses and two prisoners, sometimes called the Heroic Captive and the Dying Captive. The figure of Moses in deep thought was later used as the centrepiece of the tomb. The statue is now located in the Church of St. Peter in Chains in Rome. The Captives did not fit into the final reduced design of the tomb. Its figures are interpreted as symbolizing either lands conquered by Julius II or elements of civilization hurt by his death. They fight their bonds with anxiety and muscular pressure, but the tension has declined in a way that suggest their coming defeat.



"Pietà" 1499


Michelangelo Buonarroti (Caprese 1475 Roma nel 1564) "La creazione dell'uomo" 1508-12 dal soffitto della cappella Sistina, Vaticano.


"Ezechiele" 1510


"Martirio di S.Pietro" 1546-50


"Cristo con la Vergine" 1536-41


"Geremia" 1511


Giudizio Universale


Universal Judgment Desktop


"Sacra Famiglia" 1504


Click on picture to enlarge




The Medici Chapel
Michelangelo spent the years from 1515 to 1534 working mainly for the Medici family, which had regained control of Florence, He designed and carved tombs for two Medici princes, and also designed the Medici Chapel, in which the tombs are placed. This project is more complete than any of his other large sculptural or architectural works. Along with the statues of the two young princes, the tombs include the famous figures of Day and Night on one tomb and Down and Evening on the other.

The figures recline on curving lids, conveying a sense of fate or individual tragedy. They make a great impact on spectators as on intensely significant observation about human destiny. Some read the parts of the monument from floor to ceiling as a symbol of the soul after its release from the body. Others see the four statues on the curved lids as a sign of the endless movement of time, in which life is only an incident. The tomb containing Dawn and Evening. Michelangelo also designed the architecture of the Medici Chapel. He planned the walls like a carved relief, with projections and hollows and long, narrow shapes to give an elongated effect. This approach, resembling carved architecture, is carried farther in the entrance hall and staircase to the Laurentian library in Florence, which he designed at the same time. It was his first architecture to come close to completion.

The Last Judgments

In 1534, the Medici officially became the ruling dukes of Florence. Michelangelo, who favored the republic, left the city and settled in Rome. He spent the next 10 years working for Pope Paul III. Most notable among his painting projects is the fresco The Last Judgment ( 1534-1541). The pope commissioned this work for the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. In a single scene almost as large as his ceiling, Michelangelo showed the souls of mankind rising on one side and failing on the other. These figures move with a slow heaviness that suggest the fateful importance of their action. At the top, Christ controls them with a powerful gesture, like a puppet master. At the bottom, tombs open and the dead are rowed across a river in a scene based on Dante's Divine Comedy.

Later Years

The small amount of sculpture in Michelangelo's later years includes works to complete old commissions and two unfinished Pietà groups. He created both Pietas for his own satisfaction and not for a patron. The Pietà now in the Cathedral of Florence was meant for his own tomb. It is designed as a massive pyramid, with Christ's body slumping down to the ground. In the Rondanini Pietà, now in Milan, the marble limbs are reduced to a ghostlike thinness. The bodies seem to lack substance, while the material of the stone is emphasized by the hacking chisel marks left on the unfinished surface. Because of this technique, many modern sculptors, including Henry Moore, admire this work above all others Michelangelo produced. Michelangelo devoted much time after 1546 to architecture and poetry. In 1546, Pope Paul III appointed him supervising architect of St. Peter's Church, one of Julius It's unfinished projects. Michelangelo started the construction of its dome, still the largest of any church. He also planned a square for the civic centre of Rome and the buildings around it. The square, built after his death, avoids ordinary rectangles and focuses on key points leading to the Senate House. In the works Michelangelo created after he was 70, he showed an ever wider range of interests and capacities, but less stress and violence. He still created works in complex patterns. But beginning with The Last Judgment, the Florentine Pietà, and the Late buildings, he no longer emphasized complicated design. This applies also to his buildings, the interlocking of bodies in his paintings and sculpture, and the sentence structure of his poems. But his earlier work is more popular because it has a more immediate and exciting impact.

Michelangelo's works of art

§ "The Madonna of the Stairs" Casa Buonarroti Florence

§ "Bacchus" 1497 sculpture Museo Nazionale del Bargello Florence

§ "Pietà" 1499 sculpture Vatican

§ "Doni Tondo" c. 1503 Galleria degli Uffizi Florence

§ "David" 1504 Galleria dell'Accademia at Florence

§ "The Creation of the Heavens" 1508-12 Sistine Chapel

§ "The Creation of Man" 1508-12 Sistine Chapel

§ "The Fall from Grace" 1508-12 Sistine Chapel

§ "The Flood" 1508-12 Sistine Chapel

§ "The Erythraean Sibyl" 1508-12 Sistine Chapel

§ "The Libyan Sibyl" 1508-12 Sistine Chapel

§ "The Prophet Zachariah" 1508-12 Sistine Chapel

§ "Dying Slave" (unfinished) c. 1513 sculpture Musée du Louvre Paris

§ "David" started in 1501 and completed in 1504

§ "The Holy Family with the infant St. John the Baptist"
c. 1503-05 tempera on panel Uffizi Florence

§ "Creation of the Sun and Moon"

§ "The Separation of Light from the Darkness" Sistine Chapel 1508 to 1512

§ "Delphes Sylphide" ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City

§ "Sybille de Cummes" ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City



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