Considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel and sculpted the David in Florence. His contemporaries either revered his talent or were jealous of it, something both. Some of the most wealthy and powerful men of the day commissioned Michelangelo to create art for them.
Michelangelo was born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni in Caprese, Italy. The family moved to Florence shortly after Michelangelo’s birth in 1475. During the Renaissance, Florence had a bustling art scene and the place where Michelangelo’s talents flourished. At thirteen, the young Florentine artist apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio, a painter known for his murals. After a year apprenticing, his work received the attention of Lorenzo de’ Medici of the infamous Medici family. By spending time in Lorenzo’s circle of intellectual and philosophical-minded friends, Michelangelo’s work would be influenced by these conversations and teachings.
Why is Michelangelo still so popular?
Michelangelo remains one of the most popular artists today even centuries after his death. His most iconic works range from sculptures to paintings, all in the theme of Catholicism. These are the Pieta, the David, and The Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was so popular with the Italian people that two autobiographies were written while he was still alive. He was known as ‘Il Divino”, or the Divine, and remained a popular figure until his death.
What is Michelangelo famous for?
Michelangelo is most famous for his sculpture of David, which can be found in Florence, Italy, his hometown. His supreme craftsmanship in sculpture and painting has him widely considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time. Along with Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo is considered to be one of the top three masters in the Renaissance.
Michelangelo’s artistic career was launched after he successfully forged a sculpture called Sleeping Cupid, which he then sold to Cardinal Riario. Michelangelo was chosen to paint the Sistine Chapel after the original artist attached to the project, Raphael, was provoked by rivalry and convinced Pope Julius II to pick the young sculptor, believing Michelangelo would fail in the art of painting.
Michelangelo was the quintessential Renaissance man, having created stunning sculptures, paintings, written poetry, and taking on architectural projects. The Italian artist worked with genius. He sketched feverishly in notebooks, copying the bodies of the dead and attempting to get everything from the anatomy to the external perfectly. For the Medici family’s chapel, Michelangelo created the sculptures Day, Night, Dawn, Dusk, four individual sculptures representing the time of day. Despite the popularity of his work, both while he was alive and long after he passed, Michelangelo considered himself first and foremost a sculptor. Let’s take a look at some of his best-known works.
At twenty-four years old, Michelangelo completed the divine sculpture the Pieta and earned recognition from Florence’s elite. The commission came from French cardinal Jean Bilheres de Lagraulas for someone to create a Pieta, the depiction of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ in her arms.
Michelangelo’s David was inspired by the biblical story of David and Goliath. It was created out of a single block of marble that had been discarded for forty years. For the sculptors who came before Michelangelo, they believed their attempts to carve anything out of this block was futile as the sculpture was weak and would crack and break. Michelangelo was given the David commission on condition that he use this marble block. Two years later, he unveiled the statue, and it was recognised as an instant masterpiece. The sculpture remains a huge tourist attraction in Florence.
Sistine Chapel (1508-1512)
For his next massive-scale project, Michelangelo was commissioned to depict the twelve apostles across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling of this part of the Vatican is a sacred spot where new popes are elected and inaugurated. Michelangelo spent four years on the project, painting the twelve figures and then adding scenes from Genesis in the central space. This artwork is well-known and there are many recreations of The Creation of Adam, where Michelangelo depicts Adam reaching out to touch God’s hand. While the Sistine Chapel remains immensely popular with the public, Michelangelo once famously wrote about the piece, “I am not a painter.”