Michelangelo- The Sculptor

MICHELANGELO
MICHELANGELO
 Nydia, The Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii, modeled 1855-56, carved 1858, and touched by a six year old.......... yep, it was me! Sorry dad!
Nydia, The Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii, modeled 1855-56, carved 1858, and touched by a six year old.......... yep, it was me! Sorry dad!

Art Appreciation

I have been an appreciator of art since I was a small child. Looking back, I remember family field trips, and I know that all of the small journeys my parents fashioned have had a tremendous influence on who I've grown up to be. My first outing to the Art Institute found my father in trouble with the security guards, as the first thing I did was run to touch a statue that had been deemed off limits by the use of those unforgettable red velvet ropes that are supposed to serve as fences to keep things safe and out of reach. C'mon, I couldn't have been the only six year old to ignore the ropes, or the only person who has ever reached out and touched a piece of antiquity, but maybe I was the only one to get caught.

Raising children requires the expansion of boundaries; there are no boundaries, and I learned that from my father. Nonetheless, I always remembered the look on his face when I did the unthinkable; he made that face for security, and then he smiled about the unthinkable for years.

My Dad was an adventurer, even when the adventure took place only minutes away from home. I can find beauty in most anything.......... the most perfectly planned garden, or the random growth of wildflowers on the side of the road; an artist's painting, or the art of a child working with finger paints for the very first time; the beauty of wild animals whether seen in their natural habitat, the zoo, or even the sighting of a lone coyote walking stealthily through a city cemetery. Beauty is everywhere.

Michelangelo is one of my favorite artists. His paintings are undeniably beautiful; the Sistine Chapel is without doubt one of art's wonders, but what I love most about his work are the sculptures, and what I appreciate most is the poetry that most aren't even aware of. Michelangelo was an artistic genius, and as such he left behind a legacy of gifts that have and will be appreciated for generations.

THE MADONNA OF THE STEPS
THE MADONNA OF THE STEPS

Michelangelo the Sculptor

Little is known about where Michelangelo acquired either his love or knowledge of sculpting. In the year 1488, at the age of thirteen he became an apprentice to Domenico Ghirlandaio, who was at that time the most famous fresco painter (wall painter) in the city of Florence, but it wasn't his painting that first gained him notice; it was his gift for sculpture.

Michelangelo's gift for sculpture soon attracted the notice of the most powerful and influential family in Florence. Lorenzo de Medici took Michelangelo into his household, and it was there that he began his studies of what the Renaissance artists considered the preeminent criterion for beauty, the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans. What is considered to be Michelangelo's greatest contribution to art, the ability to convey emotion in sculpture came from his relentless study of classical antiquity, and his never ending desire to move beyond all of antiquity's greatest achievements. In essence, his desire was to be the best, and he was. I wonder if he knew it.

The Madonna of the Steps (c. 1491), may have been Michelangelo's earliest work. It was carved in marble, and it is only one of many of depictions he would create of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. Although a very small, and carved in low relief, Michelangelo was only 15 or 16 years old when this work was completed. He was remarkable; the carving is remarkable.

THE BATTLE OF THE CENTAURS
THE BATTLE OF THE CENTAURS

THE BATTLE OF THE CENTAURS

The Battle of the Centaurs was completed in 1492, just before the death of Lorenzo de Medici; Michelangelo's most influential patron of that time. It is said that Michelangelo spent hours in the Medici garden studying the Roman statuary on display there, that his knowledge of sculpture was gained through the inordinate amount of time he spent just gazing at the history which surrounded him, and that its influence is apparent in his depictions of the human body.

Although most of Michelangelo's works were inspired by religion, this piece was taken from the world of mythology. If you look closely, the centaur for which this carving was titled is really nowhere to be seen. The glimpse of a man half human- half horse isn't visible, and yet, the sight of the raging battle, along with the individual violent interactions shows the artist's mastery of his craft. We only see what he meant for us to see, and we don't miss what isn't there, or even notice that it's missing.

BACCHUS
BACCHUS

Bacchus

The city of Florence was anything but Utopia during the 1490's, and the political unrest in the city where he'd grown up led Michelangelo to move on in order to find commissions for his work. He had spent time in both Venice and Bologna before finally settling in Rome under the patronage of Cardinal Riario.

Bacchus was carved in marble, and it was Michelangelo's first masterpiece. Created for a neighbor of the Cardinal, Bacchus was originally vandalized by its owner. Galli, a banker, displayed the sculpture in his garden, with one very important change to the artist's original statue, the removal of an arm. Imagine, a work of Michelangelo vandalized in order to make it appear an antiquity. If Galli could see the future, I think he would have left it untouched. Today the statue stands whole, although I don't know how, Galli must have stored the arm in the garden shed........... go figure!

PIETA (MARBLE) 1498-1500
PIETA (MARBLE) 1498-1500

PIETA

Pieta is another of Michelangelo's religious representations, another depiction of the Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus. Originally commissioned for the tomb of a French cardinal-diplomat in St. Peter's, Rome; this statue portrays the grieving mother as she holds his body after he's been crucified.

In this piece we can see the great attention to detail that Michelangelo became famous for. Another work in marble, it was perfectly created, but filled with illusion. Who notices that Mary appears to be as young as her son? Who wonders at the apparent timelessness of her beauty, or that she seems to be holding someone the size of a young child rather than a grown man. One of Michelangelo's greatest attributes was in his ability to carve a vision of beauty, nobility, and reserved emotions; a vision that we simply see for what it is........ a work of art. A masterpiece.

MICHELANGELO'S DAVID
MICHELANGELO'S DAVID
THE FACE OF A CITY
THE FACE OF A CITY

THE GIANT WHO BECAME "DAVID"

By 1501, the political situation in Florence had been stabilized, and a republican constitution was welcomed; it brought peace to what had been a tortured city. Michelangelo went home, and when he arrived there he found that art was once again a celebrated civic enterprise. The city's regained support gave Michelangelo what would become his greatest prize, the giant, an 18 foot high block of marble that had been lying forgotten for a period of forty years as a result of another artist's failure. That forgotten block of marble would become David, and by 1504 it had been completed and placed in the city square, right in front of Florence's seat of government.




For the Florentines, the biblical David was a symbol. They saw his triumph over the giant Goliath as a symbol of their own triumph over the popes and emperors who had relentlessly tried to control their own small city-state. Michelangelo's David represented everything that the city of Florentine embodied; heroism, idealistic beauty, and that ever present feeling of tension. David's face was beautiful, and yet, unlike the other heroes of ancient times his face was also marked with worry, something evident in the furrowing of his brow. David became the model of a republic, a tribute to its people, and yet another legacy of the artist Michelangelo


The Tomb of Pope Julius II

Michelangelo's contract to erect a large, freestanding tomb for Pope Julius II was nothing if not a fiasco. A five year contract didn't keep Pope Julius interested enough in what he'd commissioned to see Michelangelo past his search for appropriate materials. The two had a huge falling out, but eventually they were able to reconcile............ thus the Sistine Chapel; could one of the most amazing artistic feats of all time have been an apology? I wonder........

After the Pope's death, his family and other patrons embarked on a 40 year argument over exactly what the tomb would look like. The scale of the project was immensely reduced from what the Pope himself had originally commissioned, as were the services of Michelangelo. In the end, the tomb's completion found only three contributions from the artist who had at one time been contracted to complete a much larger, and far more opulent resting place. Michelangelo's contribution was culminated in the three sculptures at the base of the tomb; those of Moses, and the two women placed on either side, Rachel and Leah.

Moses is the tomb's centerpiece. Carved from marble, Moses is seated; he holds the Ten Commandments under his arm. It is said that Moses is in its own way a portrait of Pope Julius, that Moses' face was a reflection of the Pope's. It is also said that the horns placed on Moses' head were based on what had been a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for halo, and that Michelangelo was well aware of that mistake before he carved them. He knew of the error, and still used them anyway.......... a bit of defiance.

THE TOMB OF LORENZO de MEDICI
THE TOMB OF LORENZO de MEDICI
DAY
DAY
NIGHT
NIGHT

THE SCULPTURES

Michelangelo was known to have created thirty-one sculptures; the majority of which were completed before he attained even thirty of his eight-eight years. He was self-taught, and many still wonder exactly where he acquired the talent so apparent in his work; a talent that was undeniably evident even as a young man, a teenager.

The sculptures I have cited here are only some of his creations; they are without question my own personal favorites. My final additions to what you've already seen are Michelangelo's Day and Night.

These sculpted figures can be found on the tomb of Lorenzo de Medici, Michelangelo's first true patron. They lie facing in opposite directions, directly beneath the Medici's effigy. Day is powerful; he sits in repose, and his coldness is almost challenging as he looks over his shoulder. It's as if the person Michelangelo portrays can be seen in the attributes of the body alone; the face is relaxed, and it is only second in importance to the implied strength we see looking back at us without worry. The tomb was erected for a man of power......... a power we can feel through the nonchalance in Day's being.

Night is Day's polar opposite, and she reclines with her back to him, not looking even the least bit worried. Night symbolizes death and darkness, something that comes to even the most powerful of men, and Day would do well to heed her message.

Her countenance is surrounded by symbols........ symbols of the darkness, and symbols of death. Her hair is bound by a crescent moon, an owl stands at her feet next to the poppies below them, and her right arm is bent behind what may be a death mask; all while her left arm may be seen to be held in a position that depicts strength. Her power seems to be stressed in an even greater way that Day's, but doesn't that make sense? Even the strongest of men will one day bow to the ever more mysterious power of the Night......... the inevitable moment of death.

NIGHT'S DEATH MASK
NIGHT'S DEATH MASK

REFERENCES

References for this article were:

The Life and Works of Michelangelo; by Nathaniel Harris

Michelangelo: The Artist, the Man and his Times; by William Wallace 


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Comments 44 comments

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

This is fantastic! Your work is getting better and better—though it was fine to begin with. Thank you for the education. I had no idea about much of this information. The Pieta is my favorite scupture of all time, and Michelangelo my favorite artist. I couldn't have enjoyed this more. You are a brilliant writer, and your photographs are perfect.


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

Thankyou for a very good account. You captured the spirit of a great artist very well.


GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California

This is a fantastic hub about Michelangelo! I really enjoyed it! You are a fantastic writer! I always enjoy you! Best, G


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

This is a fantastic hub. I studied all of his work in college and I just loved re-visiting his work. Thanks.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

James- Thank you........... and thanks again!

The Pieta is my favorite also............ she is breathtaking! Even though I realize that Michelangelo's intent was religious; I can't help but see every mother who has ever held a dying child when I look at her. She shows no emotion, but she doesn't have to........... it's just there. Maybe that's what makes this sculpture so perfect.

It's good to see you........... I'm glad you enjoyed! ;-)

Kaie


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

christopheranton- I'm glad you stopped by. Thank you for your compliments!

K


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

GPAGE- Good to see you........... and thank you!

Kaie


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

breakfastpop- just a quick note before I hop on over to see what's on the table this morning............ spring break allows me to be on time for a change!

I studied Michelangelo and a variety of others in a Art History course in college too........... but my love of his work came from a workshop I took at the Art Institute years ago; it was a fabulous course!

Glad you stopped by and I will see you in a few minutes!

Kaie


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts and appraisals...That was exactly what made me read straight through this fantastic hub. I love Michelangelo's work. Your pictures are beautiful.


Teresa Laurente profile image

Teresa Laurente 6 years ago from San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.

The Pieta is my favorite then the Madonna. Wow, I always love to know history and reading yours about Michelangelo have filled the gap. Thank you for the great hubs and the beautiful pictures.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

La Pieta is my fave! His genius is mind boggling!


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Wonderful hub, very well done, and great pictures. I agree with you, Moses, David and Pietà are simply marvelous. Great hub but I've also liked the introduction with your father. Hub rated up and stumbled.:)


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

Kaie, you deserve all the above accolades for this hub. It is an excellent informative hub which was a pleasure to read. The photographs are stunning. Well done!


"Quill" 6 years ago

Very well done and brings about a new interest in seeking out the masters of the art world...thank you

Blessings


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Tammy- Thank you.......... I'm glad you enjoyed this. Michelangelo is my favorite also.

Kaie


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Teresa- I find the Pieta to be mesmerizing............ I can never see it and not be in complete awe of its beauty!

Thank you for stopping by!

Kaie


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

habee- "His genius is mind boggling?" You bet it is! Looks like the Pieta is winning hands down as everyone's favorite!

Kaie


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

D.A.L.- Thank you! :-D

I'm glad you found both the reading and the pictures enjoyable!

Kaie


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Hypnodude- Sorry! I got a little out of order here!

Thank you very much, and I agree, all three of those sculptures are marvelous.

Glad you liked the "Dad" story. There are no stories better to tell than the ones that have memories of my father. He was simply the BEST! :-)

Thanks again!

Kaie


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Quill- If this Hub created new interest in the masters, I accomplished everything I set out to accomplish. Thank you for that! :-D


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Well, I just had to look at it again. The pictures are simply great.:)

Happy Easter!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Hypnodude- They are great photos! Glad you came back for a second look!

Have a wonderful Easter!

Kaie


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Loved reading this Hub. The Medici tomb has always been a great favourite of mine.

Thanks for sharing

Love and peace

Tony


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

tonymac04- Glad you liked the Hub! The Medici Tomb is indeed a masterpiece!

Thanks for stopping by!

Kaie


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

I like something about art and Michelangelo is one of my favorite artist. From this hub I know much more about him. He is really great sculptor. Thanks for showing me about Michelangelo. Good work.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

prasetio30- I am glad you've learned something; he is indeed a great sculptor!

Thank you!

Kaie


G L Strout profile image

G L Strout 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

What a wonderful article. I really enjoyed it. Thanks.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

G L Strout- Thank you for stopping by- I'm glad you enjoyed the article!

Kaie


knell63 profile image

knell63 6 years ago from Umbria, Italy

Nice informative Hub Kaie, I love the Renaissance but especially Michelangelo's David such a powerful sculpture.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

knell63- Michelangelo's David is truly powerful, and I think its power comes from within. David's (or maybe Michelangelo's) inner feelings are captured in his face............... we can see the thought process............. but then again, we see what Michelangelo intended us to see.......... blows me away!

Thanks for stopping by!

Kaie


nikonmaven profile image

nikonmaven 6 years ago from Weatherford, Oklahoma

Wonderful photos,and the historical vignettes add another dimension to their vitality. Was the photo of the Pieta taken before it was damaged by a madman during a U.S. exhibition tour years ago? I read somewhere that the statue was restored without visible demage.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

nikomaven- I don't know when the photo of La Pieta was taken, but I am going to presume from the size of the file that it was taken after the restoration. It's appalling that such a masterpiece could be attacked with a hammer; the vandal was a geologist I believe; maybe he wanted to check and see what kind of marble she was made of........... the 70's were a crazy time. The man was NUTS, and yes, it was an exhibition in the states. Somebody told me there's something on youtube about the restoration and the damage, and my understanding is that she is once again perfect and safely protected behind glass (maybe not glass...... not really sure)

Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for your comments!

Kaie


nikonmaven profile image

nikonmaven 6 years ago from Weatherford, Oklahoma

Kaie, I am puzzled. The linked article indicates that the attack by the geologist occurred at the permanent site of the Pieta at the Vatican. After reflecting on it, I think I saw the statue in New York during the World's Fair in 1964, although that may have been a copy. Nowhere could I find any reference to the statue being damaged in the U.S., so I must have been in error. In any case, you are right--the statue is now safely behind a protective shield.

http://www.creativesuite.com/2007/10/31/the-pieta-...


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

nikomaven- The statue was in new York, but I guess she was attacked on home soil. As bad as the damage was it seem worse to know that it happened there. Yes, she's behind a protective shield.......... hopefully that will keep her safe for a very long time! Thank you for the link.

Kaie


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

Beautiful hub. I liked the story of growing up and appreciating art, your father sharing them with you. We try to do the same with our boys. They have been taking art classes since about 2 and a half and love it and gives them a sense of expression and creativity. There is so much history to learn and appreciate through art. You have done a fantastic job with your many art hubs.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

billyaustindillon- I'm glad you liked my story........... my father reminded me of my lack of decorum on a regular basis, I was always famous for being the one place I shouldn't have been whether by design or accident :-D

I commend you on your children's art classes. School is no longer what it once was as a forum for introducing children to the process of art; funding in most states is deplorable, and watching DVD's that show process isn't the same as diving in and getting dirty. When my children were young they each had one wall in their rooms that was used for painting. As the seasons changed so did their art; their medium preferences, their tools, and their depictions matured over the years......... it was fun! I miss it!

Thank you for the accolades........... they're appeciated!

Kaie


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

....I think only Michelangelo could sculpt one of your hubs and serve it justice as a work of art - and thanks for your esteemed comments on my work which is always greatly appreciated by someone like you!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Epigramman- Thank you......... and thank you again! A work of art? I think not, but it's nice to know you think so!

I always enjoy your work; it tends to confuse me occasionally and gets those brain cells moving! Thanks for stopping by! Kaie


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Michelangelo was definitely one of the most talented artists. Your hub is very thorough and entertaining also.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

elayne001- He was indeed! Thank you............ Kaie


Peter Owen profile image

Peter Owen 5 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

Thank you for this. I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Florence last year and would love to live there. I almost expected Michaelanglo to walk down the street. What an experience and to see his tomb in the Santa Croce across from Galileo.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 5 years ago Author

Peter- You are very welcome.............. I'll bet Florence was beautiful! You are very lucky to have been able to make the trip! Thanks for stopping by......... Kaie


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 5 years ago from Taos, NM

Great hub! I have been a fan of Michelangelo since I was 10 years old. That was when my parents took me to see the Pieta at the NY World's Fair in l964. Even at that young age, I was astonished at how anyone could take a piece of hard marble and carve something so intricate, beautiful, and real. It looked to me as if the statue was alive. I have been fortunate enough to visit Florence, Italy several times and his scultures always, still to this day, take my breath away. Of course, I've seen the Sistene Chapel and it also is fabulous, but his scultures are my favorites. Thank you for a well written and researched hub. You are very knowledgeable!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 5 years ago Author

suzette- you are LUCKY! I have never been to an art museum outside of North America............... someday I would love to see the things you've been fortunate to see. I guess a girl can dream. Kaie

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