Why is Michelangelo famous?

Michelangelo is one of the most famous Italian artists ever to live, going down in history as one of the top three masters in the Renaissance era. He was a sculptor, painter, architect, as well as a poet who has influenced past and present artists around the world

His wide variety of work demonstrated a blend of psychological insight, physical realism and intensity never seen before. His contemporaries recognised his extraordinary talent, and Michelangelo received commissions from some of the most wealthy and powerful men of his day, including popes and other affiliated with the Catholic Church. Born of humble backgrounds, died an artistic legend.

Early Life of Michelangelo

His full name is Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni and he was born on the 6th of March, in 1475, Caprese, Italy. Before his birth, his family were small bankers in Florence for generations. But the bank failed, forcing his parents to head to Caprese for more work. The family moved back to Florence when Michelangelo was only one month old, a place he would always consider his home. His mother passed away when he was only six, leading him to be placed under the care of a family of stonecutters. His father thought art was below the family’s status and discouraged a young Michelangelo from his keen interest. Despite this, his father set Michelangelo up for an apprenticeship with the most successful painter in Florence, Domenico Ghirlandaio, at age thirteen. After a year working with him, Domenico recommended him to Lorenzo de. Medici, the Florentine ruler, leading Michelangelo to study classical sculpture in the Medici gardens. He was much influenced by his time in the Medici residence, surrounded by other great artists, poets and philosophers, subjects which would appear again and again in his work. Whilst staying at the Medici home, Michelangelo also refined his sculpturing technique under the tutelage of Bertoldo di Giovanni, keeper of Lorenzo’s collection of ancient Roman sculptures and a noted sculptor himself. Although Michelangelo expressed his genius in many forms, he would always consider himself a sculptor first.

With such an upbringing, does it really come as any surprise that Michelangelo grew to be one of the most talented artists of his time? With so many gifted individuals to guide him, Michelangelo had the privilege of being taught multiple disciplines, making him a master of the arts. Let’s take a look at some of his best…

The Career of Michelangelo

  • Sculptures

    Michelangelo was first and foremost, a sculpture. Majority of his early works were sculptures, skilled at this medium since a young age. He was gifted in the human anatomy, using light and dark to give his sculptures a natural presence. He was in Rome in 1498, when he received a career-making commission from the visiting French Cardinal Jean Bilheres de Lagraulas, a representative of the French King Charles VIII. He commissioned a sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her dead son in her arms, which has become known as the Pieta. Michelangelo was only 25 years old at the time and finished this piece in less than one year. The sculpture was seen as a huge success and is the only sculpture that has Michelangelo’s name carved on it.

    Michelangelo’s ‘David’ is recognised throughout the world, created in the year 1501 to 1504. Michelangelo was not the first to try to attempt this piece, with two prior artists who gave up before his attempt. David is an impeccable piece which depicted the strength and vulnerability of a treasured gem in the city of Florence. Standing 17 feet tall, the young David has accurately been depicted as heroic, energetic, powerful and spiritual. The sculpture is considered by scholars to be nearly technically perfect in its dimensions.

  • Paintings

    Being primarily a sculptor, it is amazing that Michelangelo achieved a feat such as the Sistine Chapel, by which we are of course referring to the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. It was both a success and a torment for Michelangelo who had, at that point in his career, never done frescoes before. He preferred to work with materials he could mould. But in 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo an ambitious project of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the most sacred part of the Vatican where new popes were elected and inaugurated. At first he resisted the Pope Julius II’s request until the Pope offered a commission of 40 sculptures for his tomb. The paintings began in 1508 and lasted until 1512. The effort and strain on this work cause great pain to Michelago, with the permanent damage his eyesight from the ceiling frescos. Despite his struggles, the Sistine Chapel is one of the most beloved artworks in all of Italy. His design on the ceiling depicted of three hundred figures, all coming together to illustrate Man’s time on earth before the coming of Jesus Christ.

The Last Judgement was created on the far wall of the Sistine Chapel, between years 1536 to 1541. When it was first unveiled, there was an outcry due to the number of nude figures shown in the holy chapel. Later on, however, it played a significant role in past artists, inspiring and motivating history’s great artists to produce their prize pieces.

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