10 Fascinating Facts About Michelangelo

Were you aware that Michelangelo was responsible for designing the fortifications for his hometown, Florence?

Michelangelo, the famous Italian renaissance artist, was not only a sculptor and painter but also a prolific poet whose works explored themes of sex, romance, and aging.

Despite being primarily known for his sculptures and the iconic Sistine Chapel painting, Michelangelo wrote around 300-500 poems, though none were published during his lifetime.

Michelangelo’s commission to paint the Sistine Chapel was part of a plot by fellow artist Raphael to sabotage his career. Despite this, Michelangelo accepted the challenge and completed the masterpiece in four years.

In addition to his artistic talents, Michelangelo was also skilled in architecture and was given the opportunity to design the fortifications for Florence, a controversial move considering he openly supported the republican government despite working for Medici Pope Clement VII.

Michelangelo worked with nine different popes throughout his 70-year career, creating both personal and public pieces that continue to influence Western art today.

Michelangelo was a renowned artist who worked on many large-scale projects, ranging from painting the Sistine Chapel to hand-carving bed knobs for Popes. His first commission was from Pope Julius II, and the last Pope he worked for was Pius IV. Interestingly, Michelangelo included himself in the Sistine Chapel painting and only ever signed one piece of artwork with his written signature – Pietà, his first sculptural masterpiece. His signature then became painting himself in his masterpieces, with the most famous self-portrait being in “The Last Judgment” fresco on the wall of the Sistine Chapel.

Despite being a prolific artist, Michelangelo was never married, and little is known about his love life. However, it has been revealed that most of his passionate love poems were written to young men, such as Tommaso dei Cavalieri. Later in life, he wrote sonnets to Vittoria Colonna, a widow, with whom he developed a romantic friendship and wrote sonnets together. Michelangelo was also the first living Western artist to publish a biography, with two rival biographies being written about him during his lifetime.

Despite his success, Michelangelo lived like a poor man and once said, “However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man.” He didn’t find joy in food or drink and would sometimes sleep in his clothes and shoes, according to his biographer Paolo Giovio. Nonetheless, he continued to work up until the week he died.

Michelangelo had a strong work ethic and was deeply passionate about his art, even continuing to oversee projects under his name when he was too weak to paint on-site. Despite his simplicity, Michelangelo died a wealthy man at the age of 88, with his estate being valued at 50,000 Florins, equivalent to around $35 million today. Michelangelo was a selective artist, choosing each piece of marble carefully for his sculptures to ensure their longevity. However, his world-famous David statue was carved from a discarded piece of marble, which had been left to sit for around 40 years and had already received chisel marks and a rough surface. Michelangelo began his three-year project on the statue on September 13, 1501, despite the poor quality of the marble. Sadly, recent analysis has shown that the statue is deteriorating faster than other marble statues of its age due to the marble’s original poor quality. Michelangelo remains one of the most influential artists of all time, and his work continues to inspire and educate artists today.

FAQ

1. Who was Michelangelo?

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the High Renaissance. He was born in 1475 in Tuscany, Italy and died in 1564 at the age of 88. Michelangelo is widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of all time.

2. What are some of Michelangelo’s famous works?

Michelangelo’s most famous works include the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the sculpture of David in Florence, and the sculpture of the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He also designed the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, although he did not live to see its completion.

3. How long did it take Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling?

It took Michelangelo approximately four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, from 1508 to 1512. The frescoes depict scenes from the Book of Genesis and include the famous image of God giving life to Adam.

4. Did Michelangelo have any apprentices?

Yes, Michelangelo had several apprentices throughout his career, including Giorgio Vasari and Giovanni da Udine. He also worked with other artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, on various projects.

5. Was Michelangelo ever involved in politics?

Yes, Michelangelo was involved in politics to some extent. He was a supporter of the Florentine Republic and created several works for the city, including the statue of David. He also had a tumultuous relationship with Pope Julius II, who commissioned him to create the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

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