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Neoplatonism as the Basis for Michelangelo's Work

Updated on July 9, 2012
This is a special Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra.
This is a special Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra. | Source

Michelangelo’s works capture the essence of a human trying to catch a glimpse of something bigger and better. His “David” is eighteen feet tall. “The Last Judgment” fits on a wall that is sixty-eight feet tall. “Moses,” seated, is eight-foot-four. Besides the scale of these works, they have another thing in common. They are all beautiful.

Neoplatonism claims that only the divine mind can comprehend the eternal absolute of beauty, and that mortals can never full comprehend it. Man must struggle to even catch a glimpse, but a glimpse can be seen in great works of art. Michelangelo believed this.

Knowing that Michelangelo received his early education at Lorenzo de Medici’s Neoplatonic Academy in Florence, it is easy to understand how his art would be heavily influenced by the neoplatonic school of thought. Michelangelo’s artistic philosophy was that he was merely drawing the art from the object, where it already existed. He felt that his hands were merely doing what they were supposed to do, and that he wasn’t an artist, but a re-creator, bringing out to the public eye what had been placed there by someone else, and showing the beauty that the divine mind had already seen. He wanted to share a glimpse of it with the minds of men. That is what he attempted to do with all his creations.


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