Michelangelo Buonarroti, full name Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, was an Italian Renaissance artist who mastered painting, sculpting, architecture and poetry, and greatly impacted the development of Western art. He was also an expert in human anatomy. With Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo is described as a "Renaissance man", which refers to a polymath genius living before, during, or after the Renaissance. His works provided the foundation of Mannerism, and he was called the Big Three of the High Renaissance, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. As one of the greatest artists of all time, Michelangelo was already considered the greatest artist in his lifetime, and he was the only artist in the history of Western art to have two bibliographies, not one but two, published during his lifetime. His most influential works include the sculptures David (1501) and Pietà (1499) and the fresco The Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-1512).
On March 6, 1475, Michelangelo was born to a middle-class family of bankers in Caprese, near Arezzo. His father was Ludovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, a judicial administrator of the town, and his mother was Francesca di Neri del Miniato di Siena. In 1481, six years after Michelangelo was born, his mother died due to illness. His father remarried in 1485, and Michelangelo became an apprentice to the city's most prominent painter, Domenico Ghirlandaio, in 1488 when he was 13 years old. He left Ghirlandaio's workshop a year later because he thought there was nothing more to learn and was taken under the wings of Lorenzo de' Medici, the ruler of Florence. In 1490, he entered the Platonic Academy, founded by the Medici.
After the death of Lorenzo de' Medici in 1492, Michelangelo returned to his father's house but was soon invited to the Medici palace by Piero de' Medici, the eldest son of Lorenzo de' Medici. However, he was forced to leave Florence and go to Bologna when the Medicis were expelled in 1494. He returned to Florence in 1495 and moved to Rome in the following year. In 1497, commissioned by the French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, Michelangelo created one of his most well-known works, Pietà, which depicts Jesus' mother Mary holding his body after the Crucifixion. This work is unparalleled in Italian sculpture and was the only work the artist had ever signed.
In 1501, at the age of 26, Michelangelo was commissioned by the Opera del Duomo to finish the statue of David, a large piece of marble that was roughly shaped by two artists and was neglected for 26 years. Michelangelo worked on this huge statue for more than two years, and the resulting work was sensational. The sculpture demonstrated Michelangelo's excellent knowledge of human anatomy and felt like a breathing human being. Vasari praised it as a "miracle...to restore life to one who was dead."
Large-scale projects made up the majority of Michelangelo's work after the success of David in 1504. Most of these projects were unfeasible and unfinished since he was drawn to these big tasks while simultaneously refusing the usage of helpers. The newly elected Pope Julius II commissioned him to build the pope's tomb, which he worked on for 40 years and was never finished. In the same year, he was commissioned by the pope to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which took him four years. The paintings on the ceiling were based on the story of the Bible, Genesis, and the most famous and influential one among them is The Creation of Adam, which depicts God not as distant and aloof but as one intimate with men.
Later Years and Death
The last big commission Michelangelo had was St. Peter's Basilica, which he took in 1456 and worked on throughout his life. His work on the dome at the eastern end of the Basilica was his most significant contribution to the project. He amalgamated the design concepts of all the previous architects who had contributed to the project, which envisioned a sizable dome similar to Brunelleschi's well-known dome at Florence, with his own lofty ideals.
In 1564, Michelangelo died in Rome at 89 after a short illness. His nephew, Leonardo, took his body and buried him in Florence. More than a hundred artists attended his funeral, one of the biggest in Florence.