b. 1475 Caprese, Italy, d. 1564 Rome
painter; draftsman; sculptor; architect
"[T]he benign ruler of heaven graciously looked down to earth, saw the worthlessness of what was being done . . . [and] decided to send into the world an artist . . . whose work alone would teach us how to attain perfection." --Giorgio Vasari
Thus biographer Giorgio Vasari described Michelangelo Buonarroti--sculptor, painter, draftsman, architect, and poet, and Italy's most famous artist. More than anyone, Michelangelo elevated the status of the artist above the level of craftsman. His deeply felt religious convictions were manifested in his art. For him, the body was the soul's prison. By using movement, monumental forms, and gesture to express spiritual urges, he opened up new artistic vistas in the direction of Mannerism and the Baroque.
Overcoming parental opposition, Michelangelo apprenticed with Florence's best fresco painter, Domenico Ghirlandaio, while greatly admiring the work of Donatello. He studied classical literature at the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent, fostering his Neoplatonist philosophy among the humanists there. After his reputation-making Roman Pietà of 1499, he triumphed with his statue of David in Florence, the first nude carved on a colossal scale since antiquity. From 1508 to 1512, he painted the Vatican's Sistine Chapel ceiling single-handedly. It was an immediate triumph, and the artist was recognized as a revolutionary genius. His Sistine Chapel Last Judgment, finished in 1541, broke completely with High Renaissance precepts of spatial depth and perspective to create two thousand square feet of torment and terror. Later, Michelangelo contributed greatly as architect to Saint Peter's basilica in Rome. A relentless draftsman, Michelangelo created profoundly spiritual drawings. Nearly every subsequent artist for whom the human body is a means of expression has felt Michelangelo's influence.
Italian, about 1530