One spring day in 1475, a baby boy named Michelangelo di Ludovico Buonarotti Simoni was born to Ludovico Buonarotti, a governor of a village in Italy, in Caprese, which was part of Florentine territory. His mother died when he was young, and he spent his early adolescence with his father and brothers. At age thirteen, he spent a year of his life with Domenico Ghirlandaio in Florence, painting, sketching, and studying art for hours each day (Nelson, page 5). Here, he admired many of the works of Giotto and applied his simplistic yet powerful style onto his canvas, copying the artist’s figures in an extremely accurate manner (Ripley, page 8). Lorenzo de’ Medici, known as the Magnificent for his artistic gift and riches, approached Michelangelo one day. Shortly after, he moved to Lorenzo’s palace and began to enjoy his happy life. In the monastery of San Spirito, there was a hospital that young Michelangelo would often visit. Though some people in Florence considered dissecting corpses to be sinful, Michelangelo owed much of his knowledge of the human anatomy to such acts (Ripley, page 16). Throughout the rest of his natural life, Michelangelo was commissioned many projects. All of which, were amazingly captivating and seemingly brought forth a new style of extreme realism to the field of sculpture.
Michelangelo was a fresh face in his time period. His art was clean and pure, and each detail was carved with precise care and labor. Born into the High Renaissance era--- which was extremely well known for featuring humanism, a definite light source, more naturalism, and no halos on angels---he soon became an influential painter in the development of Mannerism—a period that was classified by clashing colors, abnormally elongated limbs, emotion, bizarre themes, and an undefined light source, which was entirely different from the High Renaissance in which Michelangelo was birthed into. Michelangelo, as an artist, was a bit ahead of his time. While other artists were still attempting to master the human anatomy, Michelangelo was already mastering the facial expressions that could correctly be interpreted as whatever feeling the figure was meant to have. He had already mastered human anatomy. As with the Pieta sculpture, his talent began to seep through the mallet and onto the marble, as his works came to life. People were amazed as to how he could capture the purity of the Mother of Christ, while applying the physical vigor of a pagan statue (Ripley, page 24). The sculpture of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, was carved in a brand new perspective. Instead of an aged man of wisdom, Michelangelo’s version of Bacchus can be described as youthful and handsome. Once more, people are captivated by Michelangelo’s beautiful and unique interpretation of their god (Riley, page 22). Michelangelo was also a man of religion. He lived the Catholic faith, and this may be the reason why he vigorously worked on the Pieta sculpture for the Saint Peter’s church. He slept little during this project, but when he had completed it he was so proud of his work that he carved his name in the ribbon that ran across the Virgin’s breast (Riley, page 24).
Michelangelo had a very distinct art style. He, however, approaches the audience in a more timid manner. All of his works are unique and are made in his exact image. He hardly used models; most of the figures are made from the way he imagined it. There are no borders on the people, they move freely while keeping a tight general design. Michelangelo took great interest in the human anatomy, and this showed in his work. Leonardo DaVinci also greatly valued the human anatomy, and took time to study it. His art includes passion and through his science you can see wisdom and creativity. He was intrigued with how things worked, and made many contributions to the world of science, as well as the world of art. The larger difference in their styles of art is the way they portray people. Leonardo seems to design his figures in stances that people can easily relate to. He gives them motions and expressions and allows them to perform and act as though they were really people. From this, onlookers can easily relate to Leonardo’s art. He also gives them softer looking skin, which makes them seem almost real. The colors and shades he applies bring the robes and drapery they wear to life and the depth emerges from their body, bringing about Leonardo’s knowledge of human anatomy. Michelangelo’s abilities bring him even further than this. His sculpturing skills are mastered to the point where the result appears to be an image frozen in time. He can take an image from his head and sculpt it exactly as he sees fit, and the realism is so shocking that one cannot help but to gape. Leonardo’s piece, The Annunciation, features an angel speaking with the Virgin Mary. In comparison to Michelangelo’s Kneeing Angel with a Candlestick, the robe’s on Leonardo’s angel fall rather stiffly, and the folds appear to be slightly linear, though you can see him branching off into a smoother feel than other artists in the Renaissance era. The robes on Michelangelo’s angel fall smoothly and seem to sweep over the torso and kneeling legs, complimenting the form and bringing more attention to the important pieces of the figure, such as the facial expression and the delicate wings on his back. Leonardo’s wings are held up high, rising just above the angel’s head. It is as if the angel can soar straight out of the painting. The paint is a darker shade to show lighting and give the wings depth (Gilbert, page 18). In Michelangelo’s statue, the wings are folded behind the back as he kneels. He is resting almost, as he presents the audience with a candle that he holds close to his body. The relaxed posture in which he is presented is very different in comparison to Leonardo’s angel, which looks rather serious as he speaks. Michelangelo’s angel seems a bit more forlorn in a sense. He could be kneeling before God, so he wears a solemn expression (Riley, page 20). Leonardo’s angel is strikingly realistic, but it remains to be merely a painting. When looking at Michelangelo’s sculpture, however, his realism is shocking and picture perfect. Both are pieces in which the audience can relate to, and it is clear why the artists are, to this day, extremely famous in the world of art. Michelangelo’s work is most well known for being extremely realistic, and in order to achieve this he studied the many varieties of art. This included the elements of design. He was able to simply imagine an image in his own likeness, grip the mallet in his hand and throw out the perfect design onto the marble base. Michelangelo’s art is distinct for many reasons, one of which being the way that the sculpture looks exactly like a person. He sculpts each statue as if it is real, making sure to include proper texture on the clothing and strands of hair. He correctly proportions the human anatomy, and the figures he designs are governed by the strict laws of symmetry and geometric design. Michelangelo feels as though the limbs should never protrude from the body, and it was likely a rule that nothing should stick out. He makes the figures as beautiful and yet the complexity is simple enough to allow the viewers to form stories of their own. The lines in the drapery are curved lines, and they flow together to appear softer, even if most of his works are made out of marble (Gromling, page 22). The same concepts apply to Michelangelo’s paintings, only when he paints with oils and tempera, the colors bring the people on the canvas to life. He always makes sure to center his pieces, never letting the main idea go astray. The focal points seemingly have the most detail, but the background images are key parts to each work as well. His characters are full and muscular, without being too large. Michelangelo preferred to think as a sculpture rather than a painter, even whilst painting. Firm outlines of the bodies and strong figures with detailed shading and outlining give the idea that the figures are three dimensional (Gromling, page 28). When sculpting, Michelangelo seemingly prefers using marble. Perhaps because it appeared as a softer material than other rougher stones, and the light coloring could easily give the appearance of skin. Michelangelo scarcely introduced a sculpture or painting with a distinct message. Instead, he applies symbolism in the way that he positions the figures, and carves their faces. Their feelings reflect outwardly, but remain on their faces. Most of the agony, happiness, or anger they feel is expressed inwardly, and it is up to the viewer to decipher the message of the sculpture. In many of Michelangelo’s work, he applies new appearance to old figures. The well known Catholic image of an older, wiser, Virgin Mary was practically stripped away when Michelangelo carved the Pietà. The message behind the marble may be Michelangelo’s own perception of how his youthful Mary appears. He sees her as a young mother who has lost her only son, and therefore portrays her as so. (Ripley, page 24) Another perception of Michelangelo’s is the shocking new image of the pagan god, Bacchus. Usually portrayed as an older, extremely muscular man, Michelangelo has sculpted Bacchus as another youthful figure, intoxicated from the fine wine in his cup. He has a lighter atmosphere about him, which is entirely unique in comparison to the average Bacchus perception. The message may be showing the carelessness of a drunken youth, elaborated by the robes that have been removed and the standing position in which young Bacchus is in. The grapes entwined in his curly hair represent the fact that he is the god of wine, as well as the full glass of fresh wine in his hand. Michelangelo had a habit of almost sneaking in select features that decipher who the focal point of the sculpture truly is. By doing this, he almost creates an air of mystery, leaving some room for thought for the viewers (Ripley, page 28). One artist that may be interesting to compare Michelangelo to is Bernini. Bernini lived through the Baroque era---characterized by dramatic lights and darks, twisting torsos and abstract movements, dramatic and emotional expressions and themes, and large facades---whereas Michelangelo lived through the Renaissance era. There is a key difference between the manners in which you are made to view the statues of these periods. Renaissance statues were made frontal, and viewers were only meant to look at the statues from the sides. But, this changed in the Baroque era. Sculptors began to recognize that creating a piece of art and detailing it equally on all sides made for a more intriguing work to look at. They carved them to tell a story, and were often made in mid-action so that the onlookers would have been challenged to walk around the piece and take in all of the different views in order to piece the story together. Michelangelo was an amazing sculptor, but he like many others of his time, remained true to the use of geometric style and the frontal view. Bernini, who remained true to the dramatic and expressive artist style that the Baroque era was famous for, was not afraid to extend the limbs of his figures, to throw them into an action rather than have them embrace themselves. Instead, they could embrace the air by expanding on the space around them. Bernini also took emotions to extremes. Though Michelangelo could easily sculpt a piece that he could relate to; giving it a soft expression of sadness or accurate anger, Bernini had a tendency to exaggerate emotions. Some of his works had expressions of extreme anger, such as the famous statue David.
In comparison, Michelangelo also sculpted a statue of David. But, the two are in different stances. Michelangelo’s David is preparing for the battle, while Bernini’s David is in mid-battle stance. Bernini’s David is placed in an extremely energetic stance and a new formula rid Bernini’s works of the Mannerism in which Michelangelo worked to raise. His David has physical concentration at the moment before laying a blow to the Giant, who, of course is not part of the sculpture. Rather, this image is left for the viewers to imagine. He is in a solid stance with his feet firmly place on the ground, and his eyes transfixed on his opponent. It is the imagination’s job to create the image of what the Giant appears to be. The space Bernini left for our minds to fill is enough to keep one completely entranced with his sculpture. The boundary between us and the figure has seemingly dissolved. The transfixed gaze of young David is almost eyelevel with an onlooker, and one can only imagine themselves in place of the giant. The spatial qualities are rich, and the movement in depth leads to the intentional purpose of allowing many different ways to view the sculpture to arise. In order to really understand the story, one must study it from several different viewpoints. Given the right positioning, the movement of swinging the sling comes to life, as the movement of the arms, legs, body and neck fit together like pieces of a puzzle (Wittkower, page 5). The concentration and energy on David’s face are epitomized with tight lips, strained muscles on the lower face, flaring nostrils, pinched brow, and sharp eyes. The realism in the piece is striking (Wittkower, page 6). In comparison, Michelangelo’s David shows much less facial expression, and is posed in a manner which makes one think it is an image frozen in time. His face doesn’t speak well of the inner tension he feels as he prepares to face the Giant, but his brow is curved around the eye in a manner which suggest the agony he may feel. His body is that of ideal beauty, and he leans on one hip to the side, with his arm bent up near his face, the sling being held close to his shoulder. His head is turned and he seems to be gazing off into the distance, either pondering the battle to come or sizing up his opponent; Goliath. His stance is relaxed, yet he appears to be poised for action, as if he could spring to life at any moment (Harris, page 12). Michelangelo was an extremely important figure in the Renaissance era, and was a well adapt figure within the transition to the Baroque period. He is influential in the future works of other artists, and he was one of the few artists to truly master the human anatomy. He took part in a great deal of forming Mannerism, and elaborated on expressions which brought forth encouragement in other artists to add complexity to the outwardly emotions. In conclusion, Michelangelo was a man with a great eye for sculpture and painting, and he produced pieces which are unique enough to captivate mankind up until this day.
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