Free Michelangelo Essay Sample
Michelangelo di Lodovico di Leonardo di Buonarotti Simoni was an Italian architect, artist, sculptor, thinker and poet; at the same time, he was one of the notable statures of the Renaissance. Maestro was born, in 1475 in Tuscan town Caprese, in the family of the impoverished Florentine nobleman Lodovico Buonarotti – the municipal councilor. Buonarotti was not rich, his income, from the property in village, was hardly enough to support a lot of children. As a result of this fact, Michelangelo was sent to a wet nurse in the village Settignano. There, brought up by the married couple Topollino, the boy learnt how to knead clay and manage chisel earlier than to read and write. In 1488, Michelangelo’s father resigned himself to the artistic taste of his son and settled the latter as an apprentice to the school of the artist Domenico Ghirlandaio, where Michelangelo spent a year. In a year, the boy passed on to the school of the sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni. The school had been existing under the auspices of Lorenzo de Medici – Florence’s actual proprietor. Medici found out abilities of Michelangelo; the former patronized the latter. In 1492, when Medici had passed away, Michelangelo came back home. The whole life of the artist was dedicated to the work in the sphere of art. He died in Rome in the year of 1564 and found his last retreat in Florentine church Santa Croce. On his deathbed, Michelangelo dictated the testament, where he bequeathed own soul to The Lord, his body to ground and his property to relatives. The Michelangelo was sorry that, at the time of his death, he only learnt how ‘to spell’ in the chosen profession.
Works of Michelangelo left its imprint both on the art of the epoch of the Renaissance and on the heritage of the world culture. Maestro’s activities were closely connected with such Italian cultural centers as Rome and Florence. According to the development of his character, above all, Michelangelo was a sculptor. This is felt owing to picturesque works of the master, immensely full of the flexibility of movements, complex poses and checked proportions. Florence witnessed the creation of the immortal pattern from the High Renaissance period – the sculpture David, which turned out to be the standard of human body for many centuries; in Rome, he created Pieta vaticana – the personification of plasticity of dead person’s figure. Although, the majority of immense conceptions of Michelangelo was realized just in painting; there, he introduced himself as the genuine innovator of form and color. By request of the Pope Julius II, the great artist made painting of the ceiling of Sistine Chapel, presenting the biblical history from the first days of the world to the Deluge.
The year 2007 witnessed the discovery of the last work by Michelangelo – the sketch of one of the details of St Peter’s dome – in archieves of Vatican. The drawing, fulfilled with red chalk, shows the image of the detail of one radial pillar, which is a part of dome drum of St Peter’s in Rome. This sketch is though out to be the last work of the famous artist, painted not long before his death in 1564. It is not the first case, when the works of Michelangelo are found in archieves and museums. Thus, in 2002, in depositories of National Design Museum in New York, they found the other drawing of Michelangelo among the works of unknown authors of the Renaissance epoch. Here, on the paper with dimensions 45x25 cm, the great artist depicted menorah – the candlestick for seven candles. At the beginning of 2015, people have got to know about the discovery of the first, and perhaps the only one, bronze sculpture by Michelangelo – the composition of two riders on panthers.
Nowadays, the master is more famous as the author of beautiful statues and expressive frescos; although, few people know that the prominent artist was also engaged in writing poetry. The poetical gift of Michelangelo was fully revealed only in the end of his life. Some of the poems were set to music and gained big popularity during the life of maestro; for the first time, his sonnets and madrigals were published only in 1623.
During his lifetime, Michelangelo was thought out to be the most outstanding master. Today, they place him among the greatest masters of human history. The considerable number of his sculptures, paintings and architectural objects is the most illustrious in the world.
It is worthy to examine the most famous artworks of Michelangelo in such spheres as sculpture, painting and architecture. Among the sculptures, created by maestro, the leading place is taken by David (1501-1504), which is accepted as the standard of male beauty of the Renaissance epoch and one of the most meaningful masterpieces of the world art. After several years of distempers and disorders in the end of XV century, Florence again was proclaimed to be the secular republic. In the middle of XV century, the guild of the woolen trade, which was responsible for the decoration of the temple Santa Maria del’ Fiore, offered to encircle the temple with twelve sculptures of heroes from Old Testament. At the time of 1464, only two sculptured figures were ready; one of these two statues was originated by Donatello. The huge block of marble, from the mines of Carrara, was delivered to create the statue David; at the beginning of XVI century, this block was in terrible condition under the impact of destructive precipitations. The curators of the temple, having consulted with Leonardo da Vinci and other experts on sculpture, pronounced the marble block suitable for the additional work. Michelangelo accepted a proposal to finish the sculpture David; previously, Leonardo da Vinci declined the same offer. Michelangelo prepared more than hundred sketches of the future statue to define the sequence of work on the marble block; also, he made small clay model and placed it in tank, filled with milk. The great artist had to mark out very accurately, because of the rough damage of marble. From the beginning, maestro engraved the left hand of David, which turned out to be bended in elbow on account of dents in marble. This hand holds sling, the opposite end of the sling is supported by the right hand of David.
The height of the statue is 5.17 meters and its weight is more than six tons. The marble figure of David is presented in a posture of “contrapposto” – the whole body center of gravity is shifted to one leg. The choice of this posture is one more argument of worship of Michelangelo to the ancient sculpture. The muscular neck and thoroughly sculptured beautiful face with strong-willed look give traits of the true hero to David, depicting the hero-man, and not the delicate boy – the traditional representation of David by other artists and sculptors. Moreover, David was always represented with the head of the prostrate Goliath; Michelangelo preferred to embody the moment of preparation to deliver a mortal blow to Goliath. Body lines are anatomically absolute; the relaxed posture witnesses the assurance and power.
The statue is intended for the circular view. Michelangelo depicted David naked, paying tribute to the ancient conceptions about the accordance between physical beauty and strength of mind. By request of Michelangelo, the statue was placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. After the installation of David, maestro conducted the final work and gave high polish to the statue. David became complete. Not only was the creative biography of Tuscan sculptor changed during the period of work on David, but also the political life of the republic. Initially, the order had only the religious character, but at the time of the creation of the sculpture, Florence banished tyrants Medici and David by Michelangelo became the symbol of republican liberty and protection of homeland from the authority of tyrants. The famous statue by Michelangelo belongs to the High Renaissance art.
The painting of the ceiling of Sistine Chapel presents the well-known cycle of frescos by Michelangelo, created between years 1508-1512. The cycle is thought out to be one of the accepted masterpieces of the High Renaissance art. Michelangelo accomplished this complicated task, set for maestro by the Pope Julius II, in the shortest possible time and practically himself. The initial project of painting provided for the image of Jesus above the front access door and images of apostles in twelve triangles along the verge of the ceiling. The central part should have been filled with the geometrical ornamental pattern. The new program for frescos lay in the narrative about ‘the first age’ of the world history – ante legem, before the gift of Moses Law. The new program of ceiling painting fulfilled the connection with frescos of the Chapel side walls – from the history of Moses to the life of Jesus. The zone of lunettes and triangles above windows, the lower boom, is appointed for the theme of earthly men and ancestors of Christ; the middle boom is set for images of Prophets and Sibyls, who possess the knowledge and understanding of the divine. The central boom consists of nine episodes from Genesis from the story about the creation of world to the Drunkenness of Noah. The stories of Salvation from Old Testament are presented on four arch form takedowns.
Sistine Chapel is the rectangular building with the length of 40.5 m and width of 14m. The height of Chapel is 20 m. The Chapel walls are divided into three horizontal levels; the highest levels from each side have six windows. The real Chapel architecture was transformed by Michelangelo owing to the techniques of illusion. To intensify the architectural expressiveness, the great artist divided the monotonous surface into compartments with the help of false elements – ribs, cornice, pilasters – designed in technique, called trompe-l’oeil; the application of this technique stressed the arch curvature line.
Michelangelo worked in the technique ‘affresco’; every day, he laid the layer of plaster, which maestro could paint for one day – ‘giornata’. The layers of plaster, not covered with painting, were deleted; the edges were cut off aslant outwards and smoothed out. New ‘giornata’ was plastered to already finished fragments. The borders, in form of small bulges, between ‘giornatas’ are always visible and give the possibility to learn the course of painting process. Michelangelo began to apply the pattern directly on plaster. Maestro was painting all along the damp plaster, using the technique of washing broad areas with color; after the desiccation of surface, Michelangelo worked up these areas once more, adding tints and painting details in depth. To depict the grain-oriented surface, such as hair or tree structure, maestro used the wide paint-brush with infrequent bristles. Michelangelo began his work from the distant end of the building, opposite to the altar, from the last scene “The Drunkenness of Noah”. The initial phase of the painting was conducted with the involvement of assistants. However, later maestro carried out the main part of work individually; the preliminary works were done by his team.
The main theme of the cycle is the doctrine of the necessity of mankind in Salvation, bestowed by God through Jesus. Old Testament, the story of Noah, and New Testament, the story of Jesus, are presented on the Chapel wall frescos, created twenty five years earlier, before the beginning of painting by Michelangelo. The principal narrative cycle is given to the central part of the arch, the place of disposal of nine scenes from Genesis – four big fragments are represented by episodes: The Creation of Sun and Planets, The Creation of Adam, The Fall and the Exile from Eden, The Deluge. The above-mentioned scenes are interchanged with smaller panels: The Separation of Light from Darkness, The Separation of Earth from Waters, The Creation of Eve, Noah’s Sacrifice and The Drunkenness of Noah. Corners of small panels include figures of ignudi (naked); beauty of their bodies is the praise to that, which was created by The Lord. The main scenes are framed with figures of twelve men and women – Prophets and Sibyls. The cycle is finished with four scenes of Salvation in the corner form takedowns of the arch; each scene illustrates the dramatic biblical stories: Judith and Holofernes, David and Goliath, The Bronze Serpent and The Punishment of Haman.
The main section of the cycle includes nine scenes from Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Paintings are divided into three groups with the interchange of big and small scenes. The theme of the first group of images is the creation of Heaven and Earth by God. The second group shows the creation of Adam and Eve, their Fall and Exile from Eden. The third group depicts the cross of mankind through the story of Noah. The chronology of scenes within the frames of three thematic groups is broken. Groups are formed according to canons of the medieval triptych: the central panel tells about the main event, and paintings, which frame it, complete the narrative. The sequence of episodes is formed in such a way to allow a spectator, standing at the entrance of the Chapel, to have a good look at scenes from the altar wall.
The architectural design of the Laurentian Library (1524-1559) is one more achievement of talent of Michelangelo and the example of Mannerism – a period in European art. In 1523, the Pope Clement VII Medici decided to build the library for Greek and Latin manuscripts in Florence. Simultaneously, from 1517, it was necessary to solve the problem of intellectual opposition against the propagation of Protestant Reformation. At that time, Florence, under the influence of neoplatonic ideas, was still the living symbol of Lorenzo Medici’s legacy. The Laurentian Library received its title in honor of Lorenzo I Medici, who considerably enriched funds of collection of his grandfather Cozimo Medici. The erection of the building, for the collection of books and manuscripts, was committed to Michelangelo.
The reading room of the Library was supposed to be located on the third floor of the cloister, linked with Basilica of San Lorenzo. This place was chosen in view of the comfortable double-sided illumination, Works, to reinforce walls in two first levels, were begun in 1524. Michelangelo worked out the reading room in the form of the rectangular elongated space with two lines of windows. The interior of the room obtained the neutral design; books and manuscripts were placed on the wooden desks. The ceiling of the reading room was cut out, in 1550 by Giovanni Battista del’ Tasso, from lime-tree on basis of sketches by Michelangelo. It illustrates the motives of fauna; the ornamental pattern of floor was also encrusted according to drawings of the architecture.
The access to the reading room from the vestibule is provided with the staircase. Michelangelo, the master of paradoxes, created the dynamic staircase composition, established on the contrast with the reading room. Construction of the vestibule began in 1526, but then it was broken by the republican revolution, impoverishment of Medici and religious distempers. In 1534, Michelangelo moved from Florence to Rome. For the space of twenty years after that, the staircase was not completed. Right up to 1560, the other architects were engaged in the decoration of the building in accordance with the project of Michelangelo.
The vestibule, which supports the staircase, is constructively and aesthetically paradoxical. Contrary to the expectations, pillars, pressed to walls, do not back up; its function is only decorative and consisted in the setting of recesses. Walls with recesses are also bearing. Useless consoles, at the foot of pillars, ‘challenge’ the rules of stability. Three-cornered pediments and sandstone cornices demonstrate the style of Brunellesco, highly typical for Florentine architecture. The large staircase with chamfered steps and decorative ornaments looks absolutely contrasting in comparison with the static vestibule. The similar impression is created not only by color and form, but also by the excessive amount of space. The Library for laymen in Florence – which combines convenience, contrasts and composite paradoxes – has imbibed traits of Mannerism and Late Italian Renaissance. The Laurentian Library is one of the important achievements of Michelangelo in the sphere of architecture; it presents the value in the capacity of the example of historic decoration and interior design.
The culmination of the High Renaissance and the reflection of deep contradictions of the epoch culture were depicted in works of the third Titan of Italian art – Michelangelo. Even in comparison with Leonardo and Raphael, who impress with their multifaceted natural gifts, Michelangelo is notable for the fact that in every sphere of art, he left works, grandiose according to the scale and power. Works of Michelangelo personify the most progressive ideas of the epoch. Maestro was a great sculptor, artist, architect, draughtsman, poet and, at the same time, he was the fighter for high humanistic ideals. The great artist and the fighter are inseparable in the conception about Michelangelo. All his life was the continual heroic struggle for the affirmation of human right for freedom and art. During long creative development, in the focus of interest of the artist, there was a person – active, ready for deed, gripped with great passion. Works of the late period of maestro reflect the tragic ruin of the Renaissance ideals.
The perception of reality by Michelangelo as the personified spirit in substance was the result of the influence of Neoplatonism. For maestro, sculpture was the art of ‘liberation’ of a figure, put into a stone block. Some of his unsurpassed works, which seem to be incomplete, could be kept in this state; because just at this level of ‘liberation’, the form personified the intension of the artist in the most adequate way.