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Michelangelo was without doubt one of the most inspirational and talented artists in modern history. During his life, the western world underwent what was perhaps the most remarkable period of change since the decline of the Roman Empire. The Renaissance saw changes in all aspects of life and culture, with dramatic reforms sweeping through the worlds of religion, politics, and scientific belief. Michelangelo was one of the most fervent advocates of this exciting new philosophy, working with a remarkable energy that was mirrored by contemporary society. One of the leading lights of the Italian Renaissance, his extraordinary talents emerged in early works such as the Pieta for the Vatican, and the statue of David commissioned for the city of Florence. His paintings and frescoes were largely taken from mythological and classical sources works. He manage to combine his high level of technical competence and his rich artistic imagination to produce the perfect High-Renaissance blend of aesthetic harmony and anatomical accuracy in his works.
Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475 in Caprese near Arezzo, Tuscany. He was the first artist who was recognized during his life time. He is also the first western artist whose biography was published when he is still alive. Two biographies for him was written, one was by Giorgio Vasari, who praised Michelangelo as the greatest artist since the beginning of renaissance. He is the best documented artist in 16th Century and has influenced so many areas of art developement in the West. Together with Leonardo Da Vinci, the two stood out as strong and mighty-personalities with two irreconcilably opposed attitudes to art , yet with a bond of deep understanding between them.
At age of 6, Michelangelo was sent to a Florence grammar school but he showed no interest in schooling. He would rather watch the painters at nearby churches, and draw what he saw there. His father realized he had no interest in family’s financial business and agreed to send him to the painter Ghirlandaio to be trained as an apprentice. He was 13 years old at time. In this fashionable Florentine painter’s workshop, Michelangelo learned the technique of Fresco and draftsmanship.
Genius is eternal patience. ” – Michelangelo
Michelangelo spent only a year at the workshop the moved into the palace of Florentine ruler Lorenzo the Magnificent, of the powerful Medici family, to study classical sculpture in the Medici gardens. He studied under famous sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni there and exposed himself to many of the great artists of past centuries, Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, as well as the masterpiece antiquities of ancient Greece and Rome: works that were held in Medici’s vast collection. He also met many living artists, philosophers, writers and thinkers of the day, including Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. It was while he was with the Medicis that Michelangelo completed his first two commissions as a sculptor: marble reliefs, Madonna of the Stairs, and Battle of the Centaurs. Both amazingly sophisticated and complex works for a teenager. Michelangelo became, during this time, an expert in portraying the human form, drawing from life and studying anatomy. He also obtained special permission from the Catholic Church to study human corpses to learn anatomy, though exposure to corpses had worsened his health condition.
After the death of Lorenzo de Medici, Michelangelo left the Court and, soon after, the arrival of Savonarola and the expulsion of the Medicis from Florence brought huge change for the young artist. After a short return to his father’s house, Michelangelo left Florence during the political upheaval and, maintaining his links to his patrons, the Medicis, he followed them to Venice, then on to Bologna.
In Bologna, Michelangelo continued his work as a sculptor. He carved three statues for the Shrine of St. Dominic, an angel with a candlestick, and saints, Petronius and Proculus. Continuing to be heavily influenced and inspired by classical antiquities, Michelangelo also became involved in a scheme to pass off one of his sculptures, a marble cupid, as an ancient work. Allegedly, he was told by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici to make it look as though it had been dug up, so he could sell it in Rome. Cardinal Raffaele Riario, who bought the piece, discovered the deception, but was so impressed by the quality of the sculpture that he invited the artist to Rome.
Michelangelo arrived in Rome in 1496 when he was 21 years old. It was while in Rome, in his early twenties, that Michelangelo sculpted Pieta, now in St. Peters in the Vatican, in which the Virgin Mary weeps over the body of Jesus. Michelangelo went to the marble quarry and selected the marble for this exquisite piece himself. It was frequently said that Michelangelo could visualise the finished sculpture just be gazing at a block of stone.
He was now a man at the height of his creative powers, and, in 1504, back in Florence, he completed his most famous sculpture, David. David, depicted at the moment he decides to battle Goliath, was a symbol of Florentine freedom. It is said to be a masterpiece of line and form. A committee, including Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli, was created and decided on its placement, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. ” – Michelangelo
Michelangelo accepted many commissions, sculptures and paintings during his time in Florence, many of which went unfinished when, in 1505, he was called back to Rome to work on a Tomb for Pope Julius II. It was planned to be finished within 5 years but he worked on it (with frequent interruptions) for over forty years, and it seems it was never finished to his satisfaction. Fortunately, Michelangelo also completed some of his best, and most well-known work, during this time, most notably the fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which took him four years to finish.
This grand fresco contains over three hundred figures over five hundred square meters of ceiling. It took Michelangelo four years, lying on his back, to complete this masterful work, which stands even today as a testament to this one man’s dedicated and accomplished artistry. The scenes depicted are from the Book of Genesis, the most famous of which is The Creation of Adam. The outstretched hands of God and Adam are an iconic image, perhaps the most widely known and imitated detail from any renaissance piece. Michelangelo, in this work, demonstrated his deep understanding of the human form, and how to depict it in a huge array of different poses.
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The complex, twisting figures and vibrant colors of this work, and the sculptures with their writhing forms, played a huge role in the birthing of an entire artistic movement. Mannerism, largely derived from the work of Michelangelo, is a deliberately stylized form of sophisticated art, in which the human body is idealized. It can be characterized by often complex, and sometimes witty, composition and unnatural use of vibrant colors. Without Michelangelo, the works of later Mannerist artists like, for example, Pontormo and Bronzino, would not exist. Raphael was also strongly influenced by Michelangelo, as were later ceiling painters in the Baroque period, and many others since. His influence on art over the past centuries cannot be estimated. He is rightly viewed as a genius, and as the archetypal Renaissance man.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. ” – Michelangelo
Michelangelo’s art has far reaching historic influence. His world is genetically a two-fold system continually expanding. Measuring his internal development from the Pieta through David to The Last Judgement, we view the path of an experience in which each stage provides the foundation for the next, from sculpture to painting, painting to architecture, architecture to the art of poetry. How can we not be moved by this will, anxious to express the new by using traditional means? At the same time we are aware of the power of his influence. First mannerism, then Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, Eugene Delacroix, Rodin, Pollock and De Kooning found in him a model on which they could base their own creations. But the “divine” Michelangelo is more than that. In western world, he was the first – Picasso the last – to regard himself as an absolute and mythic cultural experience. He managed to combine his high level of technical competence and his rich artistic imagination to produce the perfect High Renaissance blend of aesthetic harmony and anatomical accuracy in his work.
Michelangelo dominated his time, the Renaissance. He is part of its myth. Like all mythic creation, he appears with same vigor, the same impact, the mystery of origins, the comprehension of the moment and the interpretation of final endings. It is hard to imagine a more attentive and ambitious creation on these three points united by the energy of the most universal expression possible of that fulfillment we call destiny.
Just like William Shakespeare on literature, and Sigmund Freud on psychology, Michelangelo’s impact on art is tremendous. Michelangelo not only outshines all his predecessors; he remains the only great sculptor of the Renaissance at its best. What most Late Renaissance artists lacked was not talent but the ability to use their own eyes and share a vision with either their contemporaries or posterity. Michelangelo’s extreme genius left little scope for works that escaped his influence, damning all his contemporaries to settle for aping him. Appreciation of Michelangelo’s artistic mastery has endured for centuries, and his name has become synonymous with the best of the Renaissance Art.
Who Was Michelangelo?
Michelangelo Buonarroti was a painter, sculptor, architect and poet widely considered one of the most brilliant artists of the Italian Renaissance. Michelangelo was an apprentice to a painter before studying in the sculpture gardens of the powerful Medici family.
What followed was a remarkable career as an artist, famed in his own time for his artistic virtuosity. Although he always considered himself a Florentine, Michelangelo lived most of his life in Rome, where he died at age 88.
Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy, the second of five sons.
When Michelangelo was born, his father, Leonardo di Buonarrota Simoni, was briefly serving as a magistrate in the small village of Caprese. The family returned to Florence when Michelangelo was still an infant.
His mother, Francesca Neri, was ill, so Michelangelo was placed with a family of stonecutters, where he later jested, “With my wet-nurse’s milk, I sucked in the hammer and chisels I use for my statues.”
Indeed, Michelangelo was less interested in schooling than watching the painters at nearby churches and drawing what he saw, according to his earliest biographers (Vasari, Condivi and Varchi). It may have been his grammar school friend, Francesco Granacci, six years his senior, who introduced Michelangelo to painter Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Michelangelo’s father realized early on that his son had no interest in the family financial business, so he agreed to apprentice him, at the age of 13, to Ghirlandaio and the Florentine painter’s fashionable workshop. There, Michelangelo was exposed to the technique of fresco (a mural painting technique where pigment is placed directly on fresh, or wet, lime plaster).
From 1489 to 1492, Michelangelo studied classical sculpture in the palace gardens of Florentine ruler Lorenzo de’ Medici of the powerful Medici family. This extraordinary opportunity opened to him after spending only a year at Ghirlandaio’s workshop, at his mentor’s recommendation.
This was a fertile time for Michelangelo; his years with the family permitted him access to the social elite of Florence — allowing him to study under the respected sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni and exposing him to prominent poets, scholars and learned humanists.
He also obtained special permission from the Catholic Church to study cadavers for insight into anatomy, though exposure to corpses had an adverse effect on his health.
These combined influences laid the groundwork for what would become Michelangelo’s distinctive style: a muscular precision and reality combined with an almost lyrical beauty. Two relief sculptures that survive, “Battle of the Centaurs” and “Madonna Seated on a Step,” are testaments to his phenomenal talent at the tender age of 16.
Move to Rome
Political strife in the aftermath of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s death led Michelangelo to flee to Bologna, where he continued his study. He returned to Florence in 1495 to begin work as a sculptor, modeling his style after masterpieces of classical antiquity.
There are several versions of an intriguing story about Michelangelo’s famed “Cupid” sculpture, which was artificially “aged” to resemble a rare antique: One version claims that Michelangelo aged the statue to achieve a certain patina, and another version claims that his art dealer buried the sculpture (an “aging” method) before attempting to pass it off as an antique.
Cardinal Riario of San Giorgio bought the “Cupid” sculpture, believing it as such, and demanded his money back when he discovered he’d been duped. Strangely, in the end, Riario was so impressed with Michelangelo’s work that he let the artist keep the money. The cardinal even invited the artist to Rome, where Michelangelo would live and work for the rest of his life.
Though Michelangelo’s brilliant mind and copious talents earned him the regard and patronage of the wealthy and powerful men of Italy, he had his share of detractors.
He had a contentious personality and quick temper, which led to fractious relationships, often with his superiors. This not only got Michelangelo into trouble, it created a pervasive dissatisfaction for the painter, who constantly strived for perfection but was unable to compromise.
He sometimes fell into spells of melancholy, which were recorded in many of his literary works: “I am here in great distress and with great physical strain, and have no friends of any kind, nor do I want them; and I do not have enough time to eat as much as I need; my joy and my sorrow/my repose are these discomforts,” he once wrote.
In his youth, Michelangelo had taunted a fellow student, and received a blow on the nose that disfigured him for life. Over the years, he suffered increasing infirmities from the rigors of his work; in one of his poems, he documented the tremendous physical strain that he endured by painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Political strife in his beloved Florence also gnawed at him, but his most notable enmity was with fellow Florentine artist Leonardo da Vinci, who was more than 20 years his senior.
Poetry and Personal Life
Michelangelo’s poetic impulse, which had been expressed in his sculptures, paintings and architecture, began taking literary form in his later years.
Although he never married, Michelangelo was devoted to a pious and noble widow named Vittoria Colonna, the subject and recipient of many of his more than 300 poems and sonnets. Their friendship remained a great solace to Michelangelo until Colonna’s death in 1547.
Soon after Michelangelo’s move to Rome in 1498, the cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas, a representative of the French King Charles VIII to the pope, commissioned “Pieta,” a sculpture of Mary holding the dead Jesus across her lap.
Michelangelo, who was just 25 years old at the time, finished his work in less than one year, and the statue was erected in the church of the cardinal’s tomb. At 6 feet wide and nearly as tall, the statue has been moved five times since, to its present place of prominence at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
Carved from a single piece of Carrara marble, the fluidity of the fabric, positions of the subjects, and “movement” of the skin of the Piet — meaning “pity” or “compassion” — created awe for its early viewers, as it does even today.
It is the only work to bear Michelangelo’s name: Legend has it that he overheard pilgrims attribute the work to another sculptor, so he boldly carved his signature in the sash across Mary’s chest. Today, the “Pieta” remains a universally revered work.
Between 1501 and 1504, Michelangelo took over a commission for a statue of “David,” which two prior sculptors had previously attempted and abandoned, and turned the 17-foot piece of marble into a dominating figure.
The strength of the statue’s sinews, vulnerability of its nakedness, humanity of expression and overall courage made the “David” a highly prized representative of the city of Florence.
Originally commissioned for the cathedral of Florence, the Florentine government instead installed the statue in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. It now lives in Florence’s Accademia Gallery.
Pope Julius II asked Michelangelo to switch from sculpting to painting to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which the artist revealed on October 31, 1512. The project fueled Michelangelo’s imagination, and the original plan for 12 apostles morphed into more than 300 figures on the ceiling of the sacred space. (The work later had to be completely removed soon after due to an infectious fungus in the plaster, then recreated.)
Michelangelo fired all of his assistants, whom he deemed inept, and completed the 65-foot ceiling alone, spending endless hours on his back and guarding the project jealously until completion.
The resulting masterpiece is a transcendent example of High Renaissance art incorporating the symbology, prophecy and humanist principles of Christianity that Michelangelo had absorbed during his youth.
‘Creation of Adam’
The vivid vignettes of Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling produce a kaleidoscope effect, with the most iconic image being the “Creation of Adam,” a famous portrayal of God reaching down to touch the finger of man.
Rival Roman painter Raphael evidently altered his style after seeing the work.
Michelangelo unveiled the soaring “Last Judgment” on the far wall of the Sistine Chapel in 1541. There was an immediate outcry that the nude figures were inappropriate for so holy a place, and a letter called for the destruction of the Renaissance’s largest fresco.
The painter retaliated by inserting into the work new portrayals: his chief critic as a devil and himself as the flayed St. Bartholomew.
Although Michelangelo continued to sculpt and paint throughout his life, following the physical rigor of painting the Sistine Chapel he turned his focus toward architecture.
He continued to work on the tomb of Julius II, which the pope had interrupted for his Sistine Chapel commission, for the next several decades. Michelangelo also designed the Medici Chapel and the Laurentian Library — located opposite the Basilica San Lorenzo in Florence — to house the Medici book collection. These buildings are considered a turning point in architectural history.
But Michelangelo’s crowning glory in this field came when he was made chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in 1546.
Was Michelangelo Gay?
In 1532, Michelangelo developed an attachment to a young nobleman, Tommaso dei Cavalieri, and wrote dozens of romantic sonnets dedicated to Cavalieri.
Despite this, scholars dispute whether this was a platonic or a homosexual relationship.
Michelangelo died on February 18, 1564 — just weeks before his 89th birthday — at his home in Macel de’Corvi, Rome, following a brief illness.
A nephew bore his body back to Florence, where he was revered by the public as the “father and master of all the arts.” He was laid to rest at the Basilica di Santa Croce — his chosen place of burial.
Unlike many artists, Michelangelo achieved fame and wealth during his lifetime. He also had the peculiar distinction of living to see the publication of two biographies about his life, written by Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi.
Appreciation of Michelangelo’s artistic mastery has endured for centuries, and his name has become synonymous with the finest humanist tradition of the Renaissance.
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Biografia de Michelangelo
Michelangelo (1475-1564) foi um pintor, escultor e arquiteto italiano. Й considerado um dos maiores representantes do Renascimento Italiano. “Pietб”, “O Juнzo Final”, “Moisйs”, “Davi” e “A Abуbada da Capela Sistina” sгo algumas das obras que eternizaram o artista.
Michelangelo de Lodovico Buonarroti nasceu em Caprese, na provнncia de Arezzo, nas proximidades de Florenзa, Itбlia, no dia 6 de marзo de 1475. Filho de Lodovico Buonarroti e de Francesca desde pequeno sу se interessava em desenhar. Com 13 anos comeзou a estudar pintura na oficina dos irmгos Domenico e Davi Ghirlandaio, em Florenзa. Em 1489, й convidado por Lourenзo para estudar na Academia dos Jardins dos Medici. Em 1492, conclui sua primeira escultura “Madona da Escada”.
Madona da Escada
Ainda em 1492, conclui a “Batalha dos Centauros”, “Hercules”, para Pierro de Medici, e o “Crucifixo”, para o Convento do Espнrito Santo. Nesse mesmo ano, apуs a morte de Lourenзo, Michelangelo vai para Bolonha, onde encontra hospitalidade junto a um nobre bolonhкs. Em 1494 conclui para a “Arca de Sгo Domingos”, um “Angelo Reggicero” e as estбtuas de “Sгo Procolo” e “Sгo Petrфnio”. Em 1495 retorna para Florenзa onde executa a estбtua de“San Giovannino, em mбrmore, o padroeiro da cidade. Em 1496 vai para Roma onde esculpiu “Baco” para o cardeal Raffaele Riario.
Ainda em 1497, o cardeal francкs Jean Bilheres, embaixador do rei da Franзa na corte papal, contrata Michelangelo par esculpir uma escultura de mбrmore para sua capela na Basнlica de Sгo Pedro. O artista й enviado para Carrara para escolher o melhor mбrmore e em bloco ъnico para a obra “Pietа”, que й finalizada em 1499. O artista ficou tгo orgulhoso da obra que decidiu colocar sua assinatura na faixa que passa sobre o busto de Maria. A obra estб exposta na Basнlica de Sгo Pedro no Vaticano.
Em 1501 retornou para Florenзa e iniciou a confecзгo de 4 estбtuas para o Altar Piccolomini, da Catedral Siena: “Sгo Pedro”, “Sгo Pio”, Sгo Paulo e Sгo Gregуrio. Nesse mesmo ano recebe a encomenda de “Davi”, uma estбtua de 4,34m de altura, que ficou pronta depois de dois anos e meio. Quando estava prestes a ser terminada, uma comissгo de artistas (Botticelli, Perugino, Andrea dela Robbia e Leonardo da Vinci) estabeleceu que a estбtua, em vez de ser colocada na catedral, deveria ser colocada na Piazza dela Signoria, ao lado da entrada do Palбcio Velho. A obra estб hoje na Galleria dell’Academia, em Florenзa.
Em 1505 recebe a encomenda do monumento fъnebre do papa Jъlio II, que ocupou 40 anos de sua vida. Na obra, se destaca a estбtua de Moisйs, com 2,35 m de altura, ocupa o espaзo central da parte inferior do monumento. A sepultura foi concluнda em 1545. Alйm de Moisйs, somente duas figuras “Lia” e “Raquel” foram realizadas pelo prуprio Michelangelo.
Tъmulo de Jъlio II
Em 1508, o Papa Jъlio II encarregou o artista de pintar a “Abуbada da Capela Sistina”, na Catedral de Sгo Pedro, no Vaticano. O artista protestou: “Nгo sou pintor e sim escultor”. Mesmo assim, durante quatro anos realizou o exaustivo trabalho que foi entregue ao pъblico no Dia de Todos os Santos em 1512. Entre os afrescos estгo: “Profeta Isaias”, “Profeta Ezequiel”, “Profeta Jonas” “Profeta Daniel, “Criaзгo de Adгo”, “Pecado Original e a Expulsгo do Paraнso” e Dilъvio Universal”.
Criaзгo de Adгo
Em 1534, o Papa Clemente VII encomenda o afresco o “Juнzo Final”, para o altar da Capela Sistina. Na obra, o Cristo aparece como um juiz inflexнvel e a Virgem assustada, nгo contempla a cena. Nesse afresco, sу aparece nus, o que causou grande tumulto e o Papa Paulo III pretendia destruir a obra, mas contentou-se em mandar o pintor Daniel de Volterra velar os nus mais ousados.
Michelangelo mostrava paixгo pela grandiosidade, principalmente na arquitetura. Em 1519 comeзa a projetar o edifнcio e o interior da “Capela de Sгo Lourenзo”. Em 1535 foi nomeado pelo Papa Paulo III, “supremo arquiteto, escultor e pintor dos palбcios apostуlicos”. O artista tambйm se dedicou а poesia, escreveu o livro “Rimas”. Prуximo da sua morte desabafou em um poema “Na verdade, nunca houve um sу dia que tenha sido totalmente meu”.
Michelangelo faleceu em Roma, Itбlia, no dia 18 de fevereiro de 1564. Seu corpo foi enterrado na Basнlica de Santa Cruz, em Florenзa.
Michelangelo й um dos grandes nomes do Renascimento, para conhecer outros grandes nomes experimente ler tambйm o artigo: Os inesquecнveis artistas do Renascimento
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