The Divine Rebel
was born in 1475 in Caprese (Arezzo). His parents, Ludovico di
Lionardo di Buonarroto Simoni and Francesca Neri di Miniato del Sera
introduced him to the art. When he was thirteen, he started to work
in the office of Domenico and David Ghirlandaio.
Those small offices
called “Botteghe” during the Renaissance were the best place where
young people could learn the art of painting and many other cultural
activities. Michelangelo learned the tecnique of frescoes and the
tecnique of acquaforte. Those small offices where the places where
talented people could work and practice. The legend says that
Michelangelo studied at Ghirlandaio’s and was a very good student.
The truth is that the artist left Ghirlandaio very soon and he
followed anothe artist, Bertoldo di Giovanni. This new mentor used
only ancient marbles. In that period Michelangelo understood his
love for the sculpture and created one of his best work: the “Eros
alato con faretra”. The Duchess of Ferrara bought the scuplture and
put it in the Gallery of Urbino. The work has never been found among
all the works of the same collection, it seemed lost for a while,
but then at the beginning of 1900 the statue was found in a building
in New York. Michelangelo learned the art of the sculpture very
fast, he was so talented that he was invited at the Court of Lorenzo
il Magnifico in Florence. He met a lot of famous artists like:
Marsilio Ficino, Agnolo Poliziano Cristoforo Landino, Pico della
Mirandola. Michelangelo Buonarroti is known as a solitary, silent
and reserved man. He hated the family of Lorenzo de’ Medici, but
not him, because he was sublime and well-educated. Lorenzo loved
watching Michelangelo while he worked. One day, while Michelangelo
was working, Piero Torreggiani a rude young man started to annoy him,
but he was ignored. Suddenly Piero Torreggiani punched the artist
and broke his nose, then he left to England. Michelangelo worked
hard in Florence. but when Lorenzo de’Medici died, he went to Venice
and then Bologna, where he met Francesco Aldrovandi. In 1495 he went
back to Florence, he met Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco, a member of de’
Madicis a man who followed the political ideas of Giacomo
Savonarola. Michelangelo worked on a new sculpture the “Cupido
Dormiente”. Unfortunately the sculptore could not be sold in a city
that followed the rules of the “Repubblica di Cristo”, because it
represented a pagan subject. Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco told
Michelangelo to make the sculptore a little more ancient and to send
it to Rome. Eventually the Cardinal Riario loved it. In between 1498
and 1499, he created the famous “Pietà”, which reported this
sentence at the bottom: “Micailangelus Bonarotus Florent faciebat”.
The Pope Alessandro Vl Borgia absolutely loved the sculpture. When
he moved to Rome, he lived near the Campidoglio. He built a house in
Via delle Tre Pile with a tuscan style, as a memory of his land.
In1930, after the construction of the Via del Mare, Michelangelo’s
house was destroyed. After his staying in Rome, Michelangelo reached
fame and glory: he decorated the altar Piccolomini in Siena, he
created a big David for the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore in
Florence and 12 statues of the Apostoles.
In 1503 the Pope Giulio
ll della Rovere asked Michelangelo to build a huge and beautiful
tomb for him and also to finish the volta in the private Chapel of
Sisto lV della Rovere. The artist accepted the first work, but he
was kind of concerned for the Chapel. In fact the Chapel was very
big and it already had some paintings of other artists inside, so
Michelangelo was afraid to destroy everything.
Michelangelo could not
refuse the most important work of his life. In between 1508 and 1512
the Volta was finished, the artist hired many co-workers, but he
still had to work very hard and in bad conditions sometimes. He felt
twice from the scaffoldings. He argued a few times with the Pope,
because they were both proud and reserved; Michelangelo tried to
quit his job many times, but at the end of the work the obtained the
complete admiration and respect from the Pope. In October 1512
everyone in Rome went to see the Chapel and they were all shocked to
see something so beautiful and solemn. A lot of religious stories
appeared in the painting: Noè, the Deluge,the Original Sin, the
Banishment of Adam and Eva, the Prophets, the Sibille and the Slaves.
All the subjects formed together like a human sculpture that was
Michelangelo started again to work for the tomb of Giulio ll. He
drew the first drafts , chose the marbles, while the Pope died and
the new Pope, Leone X, did not want a big monument like that.
Michelangelo had to use the statues made by his student Tommaso
Boscoli to show a decent work. He regretted to have not finished the
tomb for the rest of his life.
Leone X wanted to
create a link between Rome and Florence, so he asked Miachelangelo
to work in Florence and Raffaello to work in Rome. Buonarroti
started to work on the front side of the Church of San Lorenzo (a
Brunelleschi’s work). He personally chose the marbles, but suddenly
the Pope (who commissioned the work) changed his mind. The Pope
ordered Michelangelo to realize a new sacristy in the same church.
The new sacristy woul have been for the tombs of Lorenzo il
Magnifico, his brother Giuliano (killed during the Congiura
de’Pazzi) and the Dukes Lorenzo and Giuliano. When the Cardinal
Giulio de’ Medici (Clemente Vll) took the power, he ordered
Michelangelo to start the construction of the Biblioteca
In 1527 when Rome was
invaded by the Lanzichenecchi and Florence became a Republic again,
all the works commisioned by de’Medicis were interrupted.
In 1532 Michelangelo
moved back to Rome, he met a young man (Tommaso de’Cavallieri) with
whom started a deep friendship. In the same year he started to paint
the “Giudizio Universale”. By that time Michelangelo had a serious
religious crisis. he could not find a woman to love. He spent
sometime with Vittoria Colonna, that was a great poet, but she did
not have feelings for the artist.
While painting the
“Giudizio Universale” he represented Jesus Christ in a very new way.
In this new interpretation Jesus appeared whith short hair, in a
elegant pose. He almost looked like an emperor.
The other characters in
the painting looked like giants and were all naked. As a matter of
facts Michelangelo thought that the elimination of any clothes could
have represented the abolition of any difference. In the painting
Peter gives Jesus the Keys of the Paradise. When the Pope and the
other Cardinals saw the painting, they seriously talked about
destroying it, because there were too many naked characters. The
Council of Trento ordered to cover some parts of the painting.
Daniele da Volterra was in charge to do the changes, he worked on
the bodies of the women, the face of San Biagio and Santa Caterina.
When he was in Rome Michelangelo worked also on some changes of
Piazza del Campidoglio, Palazzo Farnese and the yard of the
Belvedere in Vaticano.
He worked intensely
untile he died. The Pope wanted him to be buried in Rome, but
Michelangelo’s family stole his corp and brought it to Florence.
important works are:
Bacco Firenze-Museo Naz. del Bargello
Pietà Roma-Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano
oppure 1506/07 Sacra famiglia con S. Giovannino e ignudi
(Tondo Doni) Firenze–Galleria degli Uffizi
David Firenze-Galleria dell’Accademia
Tondo Pitti Firenze-Museo Naz. del Bargello
Tondo Taddei Londra-Royal Academy
Volta della Cappella Sistina Città del Vaticano-Cappella
Mosè Roma-San Pietro in Vincoli
Tombe medicee Firenze
Biblioteca Laurenziana Firenze
Giudizio universale Città del Vaticano-Cappella Sistina
Primo progetto per la Piazza del Campidoglio Roma
Conversione di Saulo Città del Vaticano-Cappella Paolina
Crocifissione di San Pietro Città del Vaticano-Cappella
Completamento di Palazzo Farnese e di S. Pietro Roma
Pietà di Santa Maria del Fiore Firenze
Pietà Rondanini (prima versione) Milano-Castello Sforzesco
Some of Michelangelo’s works have been lost during
the centuries. The most important are:
1492 - Crocifisso in wood realized for the Priore di
1492/94 - a marble staute that represented Ercole. The statue
was ordered by Francesco I di Francia to be put in the
garden in Fontainebleau; in 1713 the garden was destroyed and
the statue lost.
1492/95 – Marble statue of the patron of Florence, San
Giovannino, ordered by de’ Medicis.
1496 – Marble statue that represented the Cupido dormiente.
Cesare Borgia bought the statue. In 1632 the statue was send
to the King of England Carlo l and somehow it was lost .
1497 Marble statue that represented Apollo or Cupido
ordered by the banker messer Jacopo Galli; in the second
half of 1500 de’ Medicis bought it and eventually it was lost.
1502 – Bronze statue of David ordered by Pierre de Rohan
for the Castle of Bury;in 1650 it was brought to the Castle of
Villeroy and since then it disappeared.
1507 - Statue of the Pope Giulio II . In 1508 was in the
Church of S. Petronio in Firenze.