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Artist English ] Andrea Mantegna English ] Antonello da Messina English ] Bernini English ] Borromini English ] Caravaggio English ] Giotto English ] Giulio Romano English ] Leonardo da Vinci English ] Masaccio English ] [ Michelangelo English ]

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Van Gogh





Storia dell'arte - Story of Art



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Da Messina





Giulio Romano




Michelangelo Buonarroti

The Divine Rebel

versione italiana

David of Michelangelo Buonarroti in Florence Bargello Museum

He 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 perfect.

After that, 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 Laurenziana.

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.


His most important works are:

    •      1496 Bacco Firenze-Museo Naz. del Bargello

    •      1498 Pietà Roma-Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano

    •      1503/04 oppure 1506/07 Sacra famiglia con S. Giovannino e ignudi (Tondo Doni) Firenze–Galleria degli Uffizi

    •      1504 David Firenze-Galleria dell’Accademia

    •      1504 Tondo Pitti Firenze-Museo Naz. del Bargello

    •      1504 Tondo Taddei Londra-Royal Academy

    •      1508-1512 Volta della Cappella Sistina Città del Vaticano-Cappella Sistina

    •      1516 Mosè Roma-San Pietro in Vincoli

    •      1521 Tombe medicee Firenze

    •      1524 Biblioteca Laurenziana Firenze

    •      1535-1541 Giudizio universale Città del Vaticano-Cappella Sistina

    •      1537 Primo progetto per la Piazza del Campidoglio Roma

    •      1542-1545 Conversione di Saulo Città del Vaticano-Cappella Paolina

    •      1546-1550 Crocifissione di San Pietro Città del Vaticano-Cappella Paolina

    •      1546 Completamento di Palazzo Farnese e di S. Pietro Roma

    •      1550 Pietà di Santa Maria del Fiore Firenze

    •      1552 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 Santo Spirito.

  • 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.