The Early Life and Work of Michelangelo Di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

Topics: Michelangelo

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni is one of the most iconic and respectable artists that ever walk among us. Yet, behind this prestigious name is a man- a man who was struggling to get through life such as the rest of us. How did Michelangelo get to his peak of success? The story of Michelangelo begins in Florence, Italy in the late 1400s as his father writes, “I record that on this day the 6th of March 1474 a son was born to me: I gave him the name of Michelangelo” (Bull 2).

Little to his father’s knowledge, this name will be heard for centuries to come. Michelangelo was raised by a nurse for the first two years of his life, most likely due to health problems in his mother, Francesca (Bull 9). When his mother died, his father sent him to school where he began to crave drawing and artistry (Bull 10). Michelangelo obtains an apprenticeship with Ghirlandaio, a talented artist, at a young age and his father disapproves.

Michelangelo was often punished for sculpting and crafting by his father, and this begins the resentment Michelangelo will carry for his father for the rest of his life (Bull 11). By Michelangelo’s late teens, he was a respectable sculptor with an understanding of his chosen profession (Bull 21). He decided to dedicate his works to depict the beautiful nature of human anatomy and the grace of the Lord (Bull 21). His work impressed the Medici family, and soon worked under the wing of Lorenzo de’ Medici, a popular diplomat (Bull 21).

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With Medici’s death, Italy was left lost in devastation and Michelangelo lost his mentor and he fled to Bologna to go back to school (Bull 22). Upon returning to Florence in July 1496, Cardinal Riario put Michelangelo to the test, he wanted to see if without Medici’s influence, Michelangelo would still be a capable sculptor (Bull 36). Michelangelo issued a nude statue of drunken Bacchus, God of Wine and Harvest (Bull 36). Riario was very displeased and argued with Michelangelo over the money he was paid (Bull 37). At this time, Michelangelo was financially struggling for his father’s second wife ha passed (Bull 37).

As well as aiding his father, Michelangelo offered to give his brother money as well although Michelangelo would have to borrow the money from someone else (Bull 37). Yet, Michelangelo vowed to pay his father anything he requested (Bull 37). Ironically, Riario changes his mind so drastically that he brings Michelangelo to live in Rome, where he settled permanently (“Michelangelo”). Michelangelo then created one of his most famous works: the Pieta. The Pieta depicts Mary holding Jesus’s dead body when they unpinned him from the cross. The work instantly became well-known among the European Christians (Bull 41). Michelangelo happened to overhear one of the admirers speak of the Pieta and claim that another artist had made the work (Bull 41). Filled with anger, Michelangelo snuck in during the night and chiseled his name into the sash across Mary’s chest (Bull 41). Since doing this, Michelangelo’s name was now spoken of more than ever before (Bull 41). On July of 1496, Michelangelo was given a challenge by Cardinal Riario (Bull 36).

The challenge to see if Michelangelo was capable of creating a sculpture without help as beautiful as some other work he had help with. Michelangelo took the challenge and excelled, “[carving] a young, plump, nude Bacchus, looking shockingly drunk, reeling but just erect, staring uncertainly at an antique wine-cup, garlanded with vines and letting his leopard-skin fall behind his left thigh, where a curly haired little satyr nibbles furtively at a bunch of grapes” (Bull 36). This statue was divinely intricate and detailed, however slightly controversial. After this, their were some discrepancies with Michelangelo’s payments, and by the next summer he was forced to move back home with his father (Bull 37). Michelangelo was also periodically visited by his brother, Leonardo. His bother was the Dominican Friar, however fled to Rome due to being defrocked (Bull 37).

Michelangelo’s Pieta was installed near St.Peter’s in 1500 in preparations for the Holy Year (Bull 41). This guaranteed that Michelangelo would gain popularity and publicity throughout Europe. By this time, he was considered a well-rounded artist and talented sculptor. This lead Michelangelo to get plenty of work and increase his wealth and popularity. By 1509 Michelangelo became very strict when it came to money. The pope was even scared that he would not finish a job in the Sistine Chapel unless paid beforehand (Bull 87). Leonardo Da Vinci was a lot different when it came to money. He received very little money from the pope due to his own fault (Bull 117). Leonardo provided a stable income for Michelangelo and ensured that he can work as a sculptor on a large scale or a long period of time (Bull 117). Later in 1529, Michelangelo was called on by Giovanni Battista della Palla to save the besieged city of Florence (Bull 218). Michelangelo made his way back to the city of Florence travelling with Antonio Francesco degli Albizzi.

Upon arriving, Michelangelo got to work by rebuilding the defences of San Miniato, by “repairing damage done to the campanile” (Bull 219). Michelangelo was very crafty and had a lot of ingenuity. He was praised for his unique ways of figuring things out. He was then restored back to his position as a supervisor for the fortifications of the Republic. Francesco da Sangallo was his replacement when he was not there (Bull 219). He pretty much did a lot of damage that Michelangelo thereafter had to clean up. Michelangelo was regarded as a hero upon organizing a brilliant line of defence of Florence (Bull 219). Michelangelo still continued to paint and sculpt while he was performing his duty. He finished a painting of Leda for the duke of Ferrara (Bull 220). This painting consisted of a swan and her egg from “which Castor and Pollux were born-a decorously lascivious them after a Roman relief panel, or perhaps taken by Michelangelo from an ancient onyx cameo owned by Lorenzo de’ Medici and then Pope Clement” (Bull 220). He was also working on a statue for “Samson and the Philistines that he was proposing to carve from the ill-fated block of marble left by Bandinelli” (Bull 220). Michelangelo also completed a sculpture for Pope Julius’s tomb. This was an exaggerated sculpture that made the pope look god-like (Bull 220).

In the years of 1532-5, Michelangelo again went back to Florence to spend time there. Michelangelo was under contract to finish six statues for the tomb of Julius (Bull 265). All of this had to be done by himself as well. Pope Clement died shortly thereafter and this was tough for Michelangelo because the two had known eachother since boyhood (Bull 266). They even were close friends and it is noted by the author that they knew a lot about each other including strengths and weaknesses (Bull 266). After the Sack of Rome, Pope Clement wanted a resurgence of art in the cathedral, the Holy House, and the Apostolic Palace of Loreto (Bull 266). Michelangelo was then hired as a result of this in San Lorenzo (Bull 266). Michelangelo welcomed Cardinal Giulio as pope with open arms. Clement’s death was the last Medici that Michelangelo had a connection to (Bull 267). In 1534, Pope Farnese was elected at seven years older than Michelangelo (Bull 267). Eventually, Michelangelo took all of the artwork off the wall of Sebastianos’ “incrostatura” (Bull 271). By this time, Michelangelo was extremely depressed. This was portrayed in his works as such in the “female statues of Night and Dawn in San Lorenzo” (Bull 271).

Michelangelo did some other pieces that were small, yet very exquisite. He is not modernly recognized and praised for the amount of artwork he created, which was a lot as this article makes clear. Michelangelo never stopped sculpting and painting until he died. Of course he is most noted for his work in the Sistine Chapel, however, this is similar to saying that the Beatles only good song is “Hey Jude.” Michelangelo was not only one of the most talented artists to ever walk the earth, he also was one of the longest working of all time. Michelangelo, no matter how depressed or how busy, always was creating unbelievable artwork that was enjoyed by millions. No one can take this away from Michelangelo. Of course Leonard Da Vinci may have been less stingy about money, and Raphael may have been easier to work with, however, there will never be another Michelangelo.

Michelangelo, like every other artist and human being, had his inner demons. He went through a lot during his lifetime and overcame a lot of adversity. In the end he became regarded as one of the most famous artists in the worlds history. Michelangelo is one of the select few artists who is a household name. Any person that is asked about him will if not know some of his art, at least recognize his name. This is one of the most impressive things a human can do. Hundreds of years later, people of all ages appreciate what Michelangelo has done for the world and for art.

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The Early Life and Work of Michelangelo Di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. (2022, Mar 07). Retrieved from

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