The Super Sculptor
Michelangelo di Lodovico di Buonarroti, Is the full name of Michelangelo. He was born on 6th March 1475 in Caprese, near Florence. Michelangelo, whom the History venerates as the greatest Italian Sculptor, Painter, Architect and Poet, never considered himself as a painter.
At the age of six, Michelangelo lost his mother. At the age of 12. He joined DomenicoGhirlandaio. An accomplished Fresco painter of Florence during his time. During this period, young Michelangelo, started showing his promise. During his apprenticeship with Ghirkandaio, Michelangelo drew from the frescoes of Giotto, regarded as the founder of modern painting, and the legendary Massacio, a master in depicting lucid narrative paintings.
In the year 1489, Michelangelo left Ghirlandaio and joined the Giovanni’s school of sculpture. The talented Michelangelo drawn the attention of connoisseurs , especially, the most powerful family of Florence, ‘The Medici’, through his brilliant works.
As a result Michelangelo has won the patronage of Medici family. He was invited to live in the Medici palace. Michelangelo, got an opportunity to study classical sculpture here.
During this period, in a quarrel with a fellow student, Pietro Torrigiano, Michelangelo was hit in the face resulting in a broken nose.
Between 1499 and 1504, the output of Michelangelo was mind boggling. The most famous of the sculptures produced in this period were David and Pieta.They were acclaimed as the master pieces of all time by any sculptor in the Art annals of the world.
David, an immense sized sculpture, stands 17 feet. Because of its hugeness, the sculpture of David is also popularly called, ‘The Giant’.
Michelangelo, always believed that, the form is imprisoned in the rock. What the sculptor does is extracting that form by
removing the unwanted and extra rubble around the form. Michelangelo’s strength is amazing. In quarter of an hour, the amount of marble, he chisels is more than the amount of marble chiseled by three young masons in three or four times as long. Michelangelo is having the skill of working with two hands with the same ease. He hammers with such a deadly accuracy, nothing goes off the mark.
During the finishing stage of David, Michelangelo sculpted some minor works like, ’Bruges Madonna’. ‘The Pitti Madonna’,’ Taddei Madonna’, and ‘The Holy family’
The Holy family has some interesting features, like appearance of nude figures in the background, which do not have any relevance with the main theme. The same features were carried in to the Frescoes of
Sistine chapel later.
Vasari, Michelangelo’s contemporary and historian pays glowing tributes to the grand work of David. In a nutshell, anyone, who
has seen David will say, even nature failed to compete with Michelangelo in creating a perfection known as ‘David.’Pieta is a favorite theme of many sculptors, before, during and after Michelangelo. But none could produce the quality of Pieta, sculpted by Michelangelo. The sculpture creates an awe in the viewer. Viewers cannot believe, that the amount of perfection
that’s open before them in the form drapery and the subtle feelings of a grieving mother could be produced in a hard marble.The most impressive quality of Pieta that one cannot miss is the lifeless posture of Jesus. It's so real that Jesus' lifeless body looks as if He was crucified moments ago. Pieta is a representation of the Virgin Mary mourning over the dead body of Jesus. With these two Masterpieces, Michelangelo has become a legend during his life time.
Then came the year 1505.
Michelangelo received a call from the Pope JuliusII. Pope Julius II was an ambitious, dynamic aristocrat . He looks always bubbling with energy. For Pope JuliusII, nothing looks good, if it’s in a small scale.
His enormous ambition peeps through his massive thoughts.The Pope planned an ambitious project named, 'The tomb of Julius II and wanted Michelangelo should take up the project. As expected, The Tomb Of Julius II was a project with astronomical dimensions. Julius II wanted nearly forty greater than life size sculptures and several smaller reliefs, all to be completed in a span of five years.
Michelangelo, was thrilled to see such a big challenge standing before him. He was confident that he can rise up to the expectations of Julius II. He was also confident, that he is endowed with latent qualities to meet the challenges ahead of him. Michelangelo was a picture of happiness, because he thought that a chance arrived to prove his mettle as a sculptor to the future generations.
Michelangelo, immediately was on the job. He rushed to Carrara marble mines to check the Marble in 1506.Almost at the same time, a sculpture was discovered in a vineyard near S. Pietro in Vincoli. It was known as ‘The Laocoon’. The sculpture depicts Laocoon and his sons assailed by Serpents. The sculpture made a profound impact on Michelangelo.
Michelangelo decided to make the torment depicted in the sculpture that looked so conspicuous on the faces of Laocoon and his sons, as his ideal in all his future works. Michelangelo always wanted to show the expressions of the subjects in his sculptures through violent, clear and conspicuous muscular movements. The expression shown in ‘The Laocoon’ group, that is a struggle to escape from the snakes has left an indelible mark on Michelangelo. The extent of influence was so big, Michelangelo started the very first sculpture, ‘St. Mathew’, intended for the Tomb Of Julius II in the lines of ‘The Laocoon’ group. In the sculpture of St. Mathew one cannot miss the expression of struggle to break free from the block that imprisons it.
But unfortunately and suddenly , Julius lost interest in the tomb. Now all his interests are centered around, the total reconstruction of St.Peter’s.
Michelangelo, felt as if he was pushed from the top of a cliff . All his dreams were shattered in to smithereens. With disappointment and dejection, he left secretly to Florence. This annoyed the Pope. Michelangelo was ordered to come back immediately. The Pope warned Michelangelo of dire consequences . He resorted to soft and persuasive methods. Then ultimately, the Pope assured Michelangelo safety.
At last, Michelangelo appeared before him in Bologna, which was invaded by the Pope just then. Michelangelo has never regained his original mental frame. He felt, there was a rope around his neck. He did not like neither the living conditions nor the quality of the wine.
Seeing the dejected state of Michelangelo, the Pope, in order to pacify him, Pope Julius II, commissioned a vast equestrian statue ( Depicting Pope riding over a horse) of himself. The statue, as expected was very huge in size., they faced lot of problems during casting it in Bronze. . After three years, the Bolognese, who revolted, broken the statue and melted to convert in to a cannon.
When, the Pope called Michelangelo in the early part of 1508,he thought Pope must have decided to start the tomb work. But to Michelangelo’s another disappointment, Pope called Michelangelo to discuss not about the Tomb job, but to discuss about the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel is a structure made of bricks whose dimensions are 132 feet long and 44 feet wide. It’s height is 68 feet . At the top of the ceiling, there is a shallow barre. But the barrel was a flattened one.l
It was on this flattened surface of the ceiling, Michelangelo has to paint the figures of twelve Apostles according to first contract.
Michelangelo was so dejected that he blurted out, ‘ne io pittore’, ‘I’m no Painter.’ Michelangelo lost all his hopes to prove his
sculptural acumen to the world. But there was no option for him. He had to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.But, all the paintings painted displayed an amazing look of third dimension. That is they were looking like sculptures with a great depth. Not like mere paintings or frescoes without depth.
It’s due to this reason, that Michelangelo's unfulfilled desire to sculpt the sculptures for the tomb never died. That very unfulfilled desire reflected in every painting of Sistine Chapel.
Though in a dejected state, Michelangelo, started his work in May 1509 and after finishing his preliminary drawings started painting.
Let me tell you a bit about Fresco painting.
In Fresco painting, water color is worked quickly in to drying plaster of Paris. Only a limited number of colors can be used. These colors become lighter when the plaster of Paris dries up. So, the artist has to take into consideration this aspect. in addition to this,In a day, only a certain area can be worked. The drawn out design will be cut in to pieces and stuck on the limited prepared ground. Now the outline can be traced.
Michelangelo, has chosen the theme of creation.
After undergoing untold miseries, Michelangelo created an unprecedented series of classics on the walls of Sistine Chapel that remain in the history and the memory of all for eternity.
Seeing the paintings on the walls of the chapel one is bound to feel, a painter or an artist need not look for new ways of drawing human anatomy in any standard book.
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