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Michelangelo: a lifelong pursuit of artistic perfection

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 - 1564) is a monument in art history.

One of the three great masters of the Renaissance, he was a multi-talented sculptor, painter, architect and poet. He was blessed to live to the age of 89 and to spend more than 70 years of his artistic career, creating an unparalleled impact both during and after his life with his magnificent works that transcend time and space. For more than five centuries, his monumental masterpieces have been viewed with admiration, and people have been struck by his unparalleled talent, perseverance, and grandeur. He is known as the "Three Masters of the Renaissance" with Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael.

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, near Arezzo, Tuscany. As a child, his father sent him to a stonemason's home to be fostered, so he often joked that his sculpting genius came from the stonemason. At 13, Michelangelo entered the studio of the famous Florentine painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, where he was introduced to the sacred business of a lifetime and mastered the art of painting with miraculous speed. From 1490 to 1492, Michelangelo joined the Platonic Academy, established by the Medici family, which promoted Neo-Platonism. He studied sculpture under the tutelage of Bertoldo di Giovanni.

Michelangelo's exceptional talent was highly valued and appreciated by the ruler. The numerous works of art in the court became the object of his study and research, and he was greatly influenced by the humanist poets and scholars who frequented the court. In just four years, the young Michelangelo laid a solid foundation for his artistic creation, acquiring all the conditions necessary for a great artist. At the same time, Michelangelo often went to hear the religious reformer and monk Savonarola expose the darkness of the church. This monk, who did not fear the inquisition to save humanity's fate, left an indelible mark on Michelangelo's soul.

The pinnacle of frescoes "Genesis”

On November 1, 1512, Michelangelo painted the world-famous fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling based on the Book of Genesis. Here Michelangelo created not only his miracle but also a miracle in the history of world art.


Before his frescos on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, church domes were traditionally painted with designs of the universe, the sun, the moon and the stars. Such a vast and complex dome fresco can be described as unprecedented. When Michelangelo was painting this masterpiece, he closed himself in the church and refused outside visits and other assistants to collaborate. From scaffolding design to content arrangements, from the composition of the draft to the implementation of color, all was completed by Michelangelo alone. It isn't easy to imagine the magnitude and enormity of his painting project.

During this period, Michelangelo was lying on his back on the 18-meter-high scaffolding every day, working day and night with superhuman perseverance. By the time the whole work was completed, the 37-year-old Michelangelo was as tired as an old man. With this cost of life, Michelangelo completed the fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the monumental grandeur, opulence and majesty, and no one could look up at the church ceiling without uttering a miraculous admiration. The four years of extremely hard work and the richness of the creative mind are unimaginable, and the strength of the artist's perseverance stems from Michelangelo's faith in God.

"The Last Judgment”, the last great work of his life

The Last Judgment is based on the biblical story in the New Testament, which depicts the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint the wet fresco The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. However, Clement VII died shortly after the commission, and Paul III succeeded him and provided support and assistance to Michelangelo's creation. The fresco began to be painted in 1534 and was finally completed in October 1541. It is so grand in scale that it occupies the entire wall of the altar of the Sistine Chapel.

The painting is full of power and beauty, but the nude figures it presents have often been criticized as "morally degrading". It has survived and been admired by all ages, not only for Michelangelo's skill but also for its thought-provoking connotations.

Michelangelo's David

In the statue of David, Michelangelo portrayed David at the moment before he throws the stone at Goliath. The 4-meter-tall David, with a stone-throwing belt over his left shoulder and a stone in his right hand, gazes intently into the distance, ready for a duel. The statue is graceful and elegant, with a perfect contour line, a calm and serious facial expression, wisdom and courage in his eyes, and a classical Greek beauty. From close up, the back of David's powerful hands with veins protruding, broad shoulders, tight hips and limbs of muscles overflow with youthful strength. Walking around the statue of David, it is surprising that such a stunning work was created by Michelangelo at the age of 26 for three years. 

The stone to make David was brought back to Florence from the Alps, and several sculptors who went to take the leap gave up successively because of its enormous size and relatively narrow thickness. The stone was left untouched for decades in a church on the outskirts of the city. The young and stubborn Michelangelo insisted on using the stone in spite of the persuasion of others. To avoid rumors and perhaps for good luck, Michelangelo built a wooden fence around the stone and spent his days working on it. Nosy Florentines tried several times to sneak in to check out the suspense but failed once in three full years.

Since the day the statue of David was erected, it has suffered several misfortunes. In 1527, a wooden bench fell through the window of the Old Palace and hit David right on the back of his left hand. In 1544, one of David's arms fell off. In 1873, the statue of David was moved to the Academy Gallery, where insufficient ventilation caused the statue's surface to stain like a discoloration. In 1992, someone damaged one of David's big toes with a hammer. The traces of the left wrist being patched up are clearly visible.



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