1475 - 1564

"As a trustworthy model for my vocation, at birth I was given the ideal of beauty, which is the lamp and mirror of both my arts."

- Michelangelo, a poem for Vittoria Colonna, c.1541-44

Michelangelo, who dominated the Italian High Renaissance in painting, architecture, and sculpture, represents the archetype of the artist as troubled genius. His original and exceptionally powerful works, especially his sculpture and his frescoes for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, often feature heroically strong men and women. An accomplished poet, he remains one of the most admired and influential artists in history.

Leaving school at 13, in 1488 Michelangelo apprenticed in 1488 with the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio in Florence before training in sculpture at the Medici Garden. His sculpture, reflecting his early study of anatomy, won him the patronage of the Medici family, rulers of Florence. In 1534, he settled in Rome. Michelangelo’s working drawings provide a fuller record of his artistic development than his often-unfinished sculptures, and were sought-after by collectors in his lifetime. He trained no pupils, but inspired contemporaries (including Raphael). From designing Pope Julius’s tomb, Michelangelo developed into the architect of the Biblioteca Laurenziana (begun 1523; Rome), one of the most influential buildings in Western architecture. His redesign of the Piazza del Campidoglio on the Capitoline Hill (from c. 1561) epitomizes Renaissance urban design.

The son of a Florentine burgher, Michelangelo displeased his family by turning to sculpture (a manual trade). His virtuosity as a marble carver became evident with his Pietà of 1497-1500 (Rome, St. Peter’s). He concentrated on individual figures, often heroic male nudes. Though based upon the sculptures of classical antiquity, they express greater emotional vulnerability, e.g. his David of 1501-04 (Florence, Accademia). As a painter, Michelangelo produced few easel pictures. He frescoed the Sistine Chapel vault in 1506-12 for Pope Julius II della Rovere, and the altar wall of the Chapel from 1534 for subsequent popes. While struggling unsuccessfully from 1505 to complete a papal tomb for Julius, Michelangelo abandoned many sculptures unfinished, but produced elaborate ‘presentation’ drawings as gifts for patrons and friends. As an architect, he redesigned St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.


1546Appointed Chief Architect at St. Peter's by Pope Paul III1562 Elected by his fellow artists the first Head of the Accademia del Disegno of Florence, the first academy teaching art theory and practice

© Scala / Art Resource, NY

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Born Italy: Caprese Michelangelo, 06 March 1475


Died in Rome, Italy, 18 February 1564




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