Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the High Renaissance. His artistic contributions have had a profound impact on Western art, earning him a place among the greatest artists of all time.
Born on March 6, 1475, in the small village of Caprese near Arezzo, Tuscany, Michelangelo was apprenticed at a young age to the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio in Florence. After a brief time, he moved to the sculpture gardens of the powerful Medici family, where he absorbed the influence of classical antiquity, which would profoundly influence his work.
Michelangelo considered himself primarily a sculptor, and his ability to render the human form out of marble block is legendary. His most famous works include:
- David: Commissioned by the city of Florence, the statue of David (1501-1504) stands over 14 feet tall and was carved from a single block of marble. It is regarded as a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture and symbolizes the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic.
- Pietà: Housed in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, the Pietà (1498–1499) depicts the Virgin Mary holding the body of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. Michelangelo was just 24 years old when he completed this work, and it's the only piece he ever signed.
While Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor first and foremost, he was also an accomplished painter. His most famous works in this medium are the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508–1512) and The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel (1536–1541). These frescoes are considered cornerstones of High Renaissance art.
In architecture, Michelangelo reimagined the design of the Capitoline Hill in Rome, creating a trapezoidal square that provided a key model for future urban planning designs. His most famous architectural work is St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, where he served as chief architect during the final years of his life.
Less known are Michelangelo's literary works, which include hundreds of poems, many of which focus on spiritual and artistic themes.
Michelangelo's impact on art is immeasurable. His works have inspired countless artists and have become universally recognized symbols of the Italian Renaissance. He is often mentioned with Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael as the trio of artists who epitomize the Renaissance. He died on February 18, 1564, in Rome and is buried in Florence's Basilica of Santa Croce.
In summary, Michelangelo Buonarroti's versatile genius left an indelible mark on the world. His mastery of human anatomy, command of space and form, and innovative techniques have firmly established him as one of the most revered figures in art history.