A master craftsman in his own right, Michelangelo left behind a legacy that awes thousands of people every day. Considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time, he was born in Caprise, Italy and grew up in Florence. Best known for his sculptures ‘David’ and ‘Pieta’ and the painting on the Sistine Chapel, he garnered so much attention during his lifetime that biographies were written about him while he was alive, making him the first Western artist to receive that honors.
At a young age he realized that his passion lay in the arts and he regarded the art of sculpting very highly. Being apprenticed at the age of 13, his fame grew as he worked on commissions for Lorenzo de Medici who was the de facto ruler of Florence at the time. By the time he was 24 he had completed the carving of the ‘Pieta’, a representation of Mother Mary grieving over the body of her son, Jesus. Commissioned the Cardinal to the Holy See, this has been considered to be one of the world’s greatest masterpieces of sculpture.
Commissioned by the consuls of the Guild of Wool to complete a project that started 40 years earlier of a statue of David, Michelangelo responded by working on his representation of David. A symbol of Florentine freedom, the statue of David firmly established him as an extraordinary sculptor and held prominence in the Piazza della Signoria where it was placed.
Next on his list came the commission to paint the ‘Battle of Cascina’ in the council chamber of the Palazzo Vecchio along with his famous contemporary Leonardo da Vinci who painted the ’Battle of Angiari.’ They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, and both works of art were copied by great artists.
When Pope Julius II was newly elected to the papal seat, Michelangelo was invited back to Rome to build the pope’s tomb which would be an extravagant one including 40 statues and was required to be completed in a period of five years. Although he worked on the tomb for forty years, he wasn’t satisfied with the outcome as he was always interrupted with other commissions that he could not refuse. Two of the statues for the tomb, ‘Rebellious Slave’ and ‘Dying Slave’ are now showcased in the Louvre and the figure of Moses stands in the Church of S. Pietro in Rome.
During this period he was also commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel. Having received a free rein, he proposed to paint the Creation from the Book of Genesis instead of the 12 Apostles originally ordered. Some historians say that the Italian Architect in charge of building St. Peter’s basilica resented Michelangelo’s involvement and convinced the Pope to commission him works that he was unfamiliar with. Michelangelo did not favour painting as he felt it was not as noble as Sculpting, but he finished the Sistine Chapel in five years.
The Sistine Chapel’s many depictions include the famous ‘Creation of Adam’, which is one of the most reproduced images in the history of art. He went on to paint the Last Judgement – another notable masterpiece that can be found on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. A man of many talents, his legacy carries on and thousands flock to Italy just to get a glimpse of his magnificent works of art. A master sculptor and an artist beyond compare – he is one of the few people in the world whose contributions to the world of Art are enormous.