The Renaissance painter, Michelangelo is best known for his work The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine chapel. Michelangelo can only be described as a “renaissance man” with his rival Leonardo da Vinci. Michelangelo is known for many famous works, such as David a 14 foot high marble statue and the Pieta, another marble sculpture in Vatican City.
Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475 in Caprese. Michelangelo was raised in Florence and during the illness and death of his mother, he lived with a stonecutter. At 14, Michelangelo was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio for painting and to Bertoldo di Giovanni for sculpting. From 1490-1492, Michelangelo attended Lorenzo de’ Medici’s school and expanded his ideas on art and sexuality. During this time he produced, Madonna of the Steps and Battle of the Centaurs. In 1497 the French ambassador in the Holy Sea commissioned, Pieta. During this time, Michelangelo focused primarily on sculpture, however he did daily drawings.
Known as one of Michelangelo’s most impressive and famous sculptures, David stands an impressive 14 feet tall. Made entirely out of marble, David was the cornerstone that established Michelangelo as a sculptor of skill and talent. David took 3 years to complete and still stands in the Accademia Gallery in Florence. From this success and the success of Pieta, Michelangelo never again lacked for commissions.
The Sistine Chapel and The Last Judgment
Pope Julius II invited Michelangelo to Rome in 1505. He commissioned Michelangelo to build the pope’s tomb. Michelangelo worked on the tomb for 40 years and he never completed it to satisfy his wants. The interruption of the tomb was a commission for the Sistine Chapel. It took Michelangelo four years to complete the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The composition includes over 300 figures and nine episodes from the Book of Genesis. The fresco of The Last Judgment to be painted on the Sistine Chapel Altar Wall was commissioned in 1534. Michelangelo worked on the project until 1541. This massive work expands across the entire altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. After Michelangelo’s death, the nude paintings were covered with painted fig leaves. In 1993, Michelangelo’s work was restored except for a few figurines that were left for historical significance.
In 1546, Michelangelo began his last work which was the dome of the St. Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo was the architect and completed sketches, however he died before the dome was completed. Michelangelo also designed the Medici Chapel. He also died before its completion and Michelangelo’s students finished it post-mortem.
Michelangelo was often known for being too harsh or critical on himself. Many thought this was because of his comparisons to his rival, Leonardo di Vinci. Michelangelo saw nature as an enemy that had to be overcome. He believed a sculptor was free to use the forms that were already inside the stone. He felt that each stone was a completed state and shaping it was merely taking away the excess stone that was not a part of the statue.
Michelangelo was known for being bizarre or different. As an artist, he withdrew from mankind and sunk into his work. He was often noted for eating as a necessity rather than for pleasure. He was also known for sleeping in his clothes and boots. Despite his indifference his student were still inspired by his works.
Michelangelo died on February 18, 1564, just two weeks away from his eighty-ninth birthday. Michelangelo is known as the greatest sculptor of the sixteenth century. His artistic impressions have withstood the tests of time and continue to teach and inspire thousands today.