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Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564), commonly known as Michelangelo (Italian pronunciation: [mikeˈlandʒelo]), was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered as the greatest living artist in his lifetime, he has since been held as one of the greatest artists of all time. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his fellow Italian Leonardo da Vinci.
A number of his works in painting, sculpture, and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. His output in every field during his long life was prodigious; when the sheer volume of correspondence, sketches, and reminiscences that survive is also taken into account, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century.
wo of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, were sculpted before he turned thirty. Despite his low opinion of painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential works in fresco in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling and The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. As an architect, Michelangelo pioneered the Mannerist style at the Laurentian Library. At the age of 74 he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter's Basilica. Michelangelo transformed the plan, the western end being finished to Michelangelo's design, the dome being completed after his death with some modification.
In his lifetime he was also often called Il Divino ("the divine one"). One of the qualities most admired by his contemporaries was his terribilità, a sense of awe-inspiring grandeur, and it was the attempts of subsequent artists to imitate Michelangelo's impassioned and highly personal style that resulted in Mannerism, the next major movement in Western art after the High Renaissance.
Michelangelo was born on 6 March 1475[a] in Caprese near Arezzo, Tuscany. (Today, Caprese is known as Caprese Michelangelo). For several generations, his family had been small-scale bankers in Florence, the bank had failed and his father, Ludovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, briefly took a government post in Caprese, where Michelangelo was born. At the time of Michelangelo's birth, his father was the Judicial administrator of the small town of Caprese and local administrator of Chiusi. Michelangelo's mother was Francesca di Neri del Miniato di Siena. The Buonarrotis claimed to descend from the Countess Mathilde of Canossa; this claim remains unproven, but Michelangelo himself believed it. Several months after Michelangelo's birth, the family returned to Florence, where Michelangelo was raised. At later times, during his mother's prolonged illness and after her death in 1481, when he was just six years old, Michelangelo lived with a stonecutter and his wife and family in the town of Settignano, where his father owned a marble quarry and a small farm.
As a young boy, Michelangelo was sent to Florence to study grammar under the Humanist Francesco da Urbino.[b] The young artist, however, showed no interest in his schooling, preferring to copy paintings from churches and seek the company of painters.
In 1488, at thirteen, Michelangelo was apprenticed to Ghirlandaio. When he was only fourteen, his father persuaded Ghirlandaio to pay his apprentice as an artist, which was highly unusual at the time. When in 1489, Lorenzo de' Medici, de facto ruler of Florence, asked Ghirlandaio for his two best pupils, Ghirlandaio sent Michelangelo and Francesco Granacci. From 1490 to 1492, Michelangelo attended the Humanist academy which the Medici had founded along Neo Platonic lines. At the academy, both Michelangelo's outlook and his art were subject to the influence of many of the most prominent philosophers and writers of the day including Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola and Poliziano. At this time, Michelangelo sculpted the reliefs Madonna of the Steps (1490–1492) and Battle of the Centaurs (1491–1492). The latter was based on a theme suggested by Poliziano and was commissioned by Lorenzo de Medici. Michelangelo worked for a time with the sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni. When he was seventeen, another pupil, Pietro Torrigiano, struck him on the nose, causing the disfigurement which is conspicuous in all the portraits of Michelangelo.
In his personal life, Michelangelo was abstemious. He told his apprentice, Ascanio Condivi: "However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man." Condivi said he was indifferent to food and drink, eating "more out of necessity than of pleasure" and that he "often slept in his clothes and ... boots." His biographer Paolo Giovio says, "His nature was so rough and uncouth that his domestic habits were incredibly squalid, and deprived posterity of any pupils who might have followed him." He may not have minded, since he was by nature a solitary and melancholy person, bizzarro e fantastico, a man who "withdrew himself from the company of men."
In 1542 Michelangelo met Cecchino dei Bracci who died only a year later, inspiring Michelangelo to write forty-eight funeral epigrams. Some of the objects of Michelangelo's affections, and subjects of his poetry, took advantage of him: the model Febo di Poggio asked for money in response to a love-poem, and a second model, Gherardo Perini, stole from him shamelessly.
The openly homoerotic nature of the poetry was a source of discomfort to later generations. Michelangelo's grandnephew, Michelangelo the Younger, published the poems in 1623 with the gender of pronouns changed, and it was not until John Addington Symonds translated them into English in 1893 that the original genders were restored. Even in modern times some scholars continue to insist that, despite the restoration of the pronouns, they represent "an emotionless and elegant re-imagining of Platonic dialogue, whereby erotic poetry was seen as an expression of refined sensibilities".
Late in life, Michelangelo nurtured a great love for the poet and noble widow Vittoria Colonna, whom he met in Rome in 1536 or 1538 and who was in her late forties at the time. They wrote sonnets for each other and were in regular contact until she died. Condivi recalls Michelangelo's saying that his sole regret in life was that he did not kiss the widow's face in the same manner that he had her hand.
In his old age, Michelangelo created a number of Pietas in which he apparently reflects upon mortality. They are heralded by the Victory, perhaps created for the tomb of Pope Julius II but left unfinished. In this group, the youthful victor overcomes an older hooded figure, with the features of Michelangelo.
The Pieta of Vittoria Colonna is a chalk drawing of a type described as "presentation drawings", as they might be given as a gift by an artist, and were not necessarily studies towards a painted work. In this image, Mary's upraise arms and upraised hands are indicative of her prophetic role. The frontal aspect is reminiscent of Masaccio's fresco of the Holy Trinity in Santa Maria Novella, Florence.
In the Florentine Pieta, Michelangelo again depicts himself, this time as the aged Nicodemus lowering the body of Jesus from the cross into the arms of Mary his mother and Mary Magdalene. Michelangelo smashed the left arm and leg of the figure of Jesus. His pupil Tiberio Calcagni repaired the arm and drilled a hole in which to fix a replacement leg. He also worked on the figure of Mary Magdalene.
Probably Michelangelo's last sculpture, the Rondanini Pieta could never be completed because Michelangelo carved it away until there was insufficient stone. The legs and a detached arm remain from a previous stage of the work. As it remains, the sculpture has an abstracted quality, in keeping with 20th-century concepts of sculpture.
Michelangelo died in Rome in 1564, at the age of 88 (three weeks before his 89th birthday). His body was taken from Rome for interment at the Basilica of Santa Croce, fulfilling the maestro's last request to be buried in his beloved Florence.