Michelangelo was one of the most famousartists of the Italian Renaissance. According to Charles de TolnayMichelangelo’s three greatest works of his later life, were the Tomb of PopeJulius II, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the Medici Chapel(37). Michelangelo’s specialty was painting the human body unclothed. Inorder to learn to paint the human body so well he would dissect human corpses.
His artistic talents were noticed at a very early age. Michelangelo went tostudy with Domenico Ghirlandago, who taught him about painting. He then went onto work with Donatello to learn about sculpture. Between the years of 1490-1492Michelangelo lived in the house of Lorenzo de’ Medici and was influenced byNeoplatonic thought.
Some of Michelangelo’s early painting showed the influenceof Giotto and Masaccio. Also many of his early sculptures show the influence ofDonatello(Columbia University Press) . Michelangelo’s artistic career can be divided into two periods. In theearly period he focused on realism. During this early period Michelangelo’sworks included the Pieta and the David.
At the age of 24 he completed astatue called the Pieta, showing the dead Jesus Christ in his mother’s arms. In 1501 Michelangelo returned to Florence, Italy to sculpt the famous nudesculpture called the David. The David measures 18 feet tall, and is somassive that it took 40 men to move it from Michelangelo’s workshop(World Book5016)The second period of Michelangelo’s career was based upon hisimagination. In 1505 Michelangelo was summoned by Pope Julius II to fabricatehis tomb. Michelangelo was so excited about making the tomb for the Pope thathe spent many months looking for the perfect piece of marble to make the tomb. A short time after starting the tomb Pope Julius II selected Michelangelo todecorate the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
The Sistine Chapel is in the palace of The Vatican in Rome. The SistineChapel was built by Pope Sixtus IV in 1473. The Sistine Chapel ceiling tookover four years to complete, 1508-1512. Michelangelo was able to accomplishthis enormous job in such a short amount of time because of his desire to finishthe tomb(Janson 359).
The walls of the Sistine Chapel were painted twenty five years prior tothe painting of the ceiling. One of the walls in the chapel told the story ofMoses, and the other wall told the story of Jesus Christ. Michelangelo used thesubjects of the paintings on the walls to determine the subject of his frescos,. . .
there remained only one subject he could use to complete the two precedingones, that is the story of humanity. . . (Tolnay 41). The ceiling is made up of scenes from the bible.
Michelangelo took thetext of the bible and painted it on the ceiling the way he interpreted it. According to Robert S. Liebert MD, . . .
the ceiling is an inseparable amalgam ofthe biblical text of Genesis, the sin and fall of man, the foretelling ofredemption and Michelangelo’s own imagination(145). Pope Julius II gaveMichelangelo the freedom to do what he wanted on the ceiling of the SistineChapel(Liebert 140). The ceiling is made up of 343 figures, two hundred ofthese figures are between 10-18 feet tall. The subject of the ceiling dealswith . . .
the Creation of the World, Mans Fall, and his ultimate reconciliationwith the Lord(Janson 359). In the center of the chapel are five pair of beamsthat divide the mural. There are nine scenes from Genesis, Creation of theWorld, to the Drunkenness of Noah. Michelangelo’s relationship with Pope Julius II influenced thepaintings of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Pope Julius II was criticized forchoosing Michelangelo to paint the ceiling without any experience in frescopainting. Michelangelo needed to be persuaded by the Pope to paint the ceilingbecause he really did not want anything to do with the ceiling.
Forty two letters were found which were written by Michelangelo duringthe four years in which he painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling. In his lettershe does not mention anything about the artistic details , but rather writesabout the monetary aspects. Pope Julius II withheld money from Michelangelo. Michelangelo justified it by saying in a letter to his father that his work didnot deserve payment. In his letters he mentions that he has no friends and doesnot wish to have any.
Michelangelo surveyed his boyhood friend Francesco Granacci and fourother fresco painters from Florence to help him paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo was not happy with their work, and within a few monthsMichelangelo dismissed them from the Sistine Chapel forever. The only help that Michelangelo had was assumed to be a person to helpmake the paint and another person to help mix the paint. The fresco techniquethat Michelangelo used was applying paint pigments into moist plaster, and thenletting the paint pigments dry inside the plaster. When other artists were asked to paint ceilings they lied down on thescaffolding. Michelangelo painted in a standing position which caused him muchdiscomfort(Liebert 146-147).
Michelangelo wrote a sonnet in which he describedthe pain in which he felt while painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. My belly’s pushed by force beneath my chinMy beard toward Heaven, I feel the back of my brainUpon my neck, I grow the breast of a Harpy;My brush, above my face continuallyMakes it a splendid floor by dripping downMy loins have penetrated to my paunchMy rump’s a crupper, as a counterweight,And pointless the unseeing steps I goIn front of me my skin is being stretchedWhile it folds up behind and forms a knotAnd I am bending like a Syrian bow (Liebert 148). During the first half of his painting of the Sistine Chapel he lived inmisery. Michelangelo’s only world was the world in which he created through hispaintings.
Michelangelo had an inner conflict concerning his relationship withthe Pope. He believed that despite his great effort and accomplishment, he hadnot pleased the Pope(Liebert 151). Because of Michelangelo’s unhappiness withthe Pope it caused him not to express his true feelings to the Pope. This madeMichelangelo more upset and frustrated. Michelangelo’s relationship with thePope became a vicious cycle(Liebert 152).
Michelangelo was one of the most recognized artists of the ItalianRenaissance. He was a great sculptor, painter, writer, and poet. He was a trueRenaissance man. One of his best works was the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Eventhough he was unhappy with the outcome of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, theceiling turned out to be magnificentList Of Works CitedDe Tolnay, Charles. The Art and Thought of Michelangelo.
New York:Random House, 1964Janson, H. W. History of Art. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc. , 1966.
Liebert, Robert S MD. Michelangelo, A Psychoanalytic Study of His Lifeand Images. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983. Michelangelo. Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Online.
Columbia University Press, 1994. Michelangelo. The World Book Encyclopedia. 1959. Vol. XI.pages 5015-5016.