Michelangelo lived from 1475-1564. He was arguably one of the most inspired creators in the history of art. As a sculptor, architect, painter, and poet, he had a tremendous influence on his contemporaries and on following Western art in general. Michelangelos father, a Florentine official named Ludovico Buonarroti with connections to the ruling Medici family, placed his 13-year-old son in the workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. After about two years, Michelangelo studied at the sculpture school in the Medici gardens and shortly thereafter was invited into the household of Lorenzo de Medici.
He became acquainted with such humanists as Marsilio Ficino and the poet Politian, who were frequent visitors. Michelangelo produced at least two sculptures by the time he was 16 years old, the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs. This shows that he had achieved a personal style at a very early age. His patron Lorenzo died in 1492, two years later Michelangelo fled Florence, when the Medici family was temporarily expelled.
He settled for a time in Bologna where he sculpted several marble statuettes.
Michelangelo then went to Rome, where he was able to look at many newly discovered classical statues and ruins. He soon sculpted his first large-scale sculpture, Bacchus. At about the same time, Michelangelo also did the marble Piet. One of the most famous works of art, the Piet was probably finished before Michelangelo was 25 years old, and it is the only work he ever signed. The high point of Michelangelos early style is the gigantic marble statue David which he made between 1501 and 1504, after returning to Florence. David, Michelangelos most famous sculpture, became the symbol of Florence and originally was placed in the Piazza Della Signoria in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine town hall. With this statue Michelangelo proved to his contemporaries that he not only surpassed all modern artists, but also the Greeks and Romans.
Michelangelo was called to Rome by Pope Julius II in 1505 for two jobs. The most important one was for the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Working high above the chapel floor, lying on his back on scaffolding, Michelangelo painted, between 1508 and 1512, some of the finest pictorial images of all time. On the arch of the chapel, he devised an intricate system of decoration that included nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, beginning with God Separating Light from Darkness and including the Creation of Adam, the Creation of Eve, the Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Flood. In order to prepare for this enormous work, Michelangelo drew numerous figure studies and cartoons, devising many figure types and poses. These awesome, mighty images, demonstrating Michelangelos masterly understanding of human anatomy and movement, changed the course of painting in the West.
During his long lifetime, Michelangelo was a friend of princes and popes, from Lorenzo de Medici to Leo X, Clement VIII, and Pius III, as well as cardinals, painters, and poets. Neither easy to get along with nor easy to understand, he expressed his view of himself and the world even more directly in his poetry than in the other arts. Much of his poetry deals with art and the hardships he went through.
His dome for Saint Peters became the symbol of authority, as well as the model, for domes all over the Western world; the majority of state capitol buildings in the United States, as well as the Capitol in Washington, D.C., are derived from it.
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