Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, commonly referred to simply as Michelangelo, was born on March 6, 1475, in the city of Caprese, Italy (Symonds). Through an early artist friend, Michelangelo was able to secure an apprenticeship with painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. It is with Ghirlandaio that Michelangelo learned many techniques that would serve him well in the future. These techniques contributed to his enormous success as an artist (Hibbard 16). Michelangelo had a remarkable career as an artist and was highly recognized for his artistic virtuosity. Michelangelo was a renowned painter, sculptor, and architect which made him excel in the fields of visual arts, sculpting, and architecture. Many of Michelangelo’s works are known well even still today. Some of these works include the Pieta and David statutes along with the Sistine chapel’s ceiling paintings. Michelangelo remained a Florentine at heart but spent most of his lifetime living in Rome where, at the age of 88, he died.
Sculpture during the Renaissance era was considered the finest art form since it imitated divine creation. After Michelangelo relocated to Rome, he had a career breakthrough through the French King Charles VIII’s representative to the Pope, Cardinal Lagraulas (Hibbard 17). In 1497, Cardinal Lagraulas and Michelangelo solidified the plans to create the Pieta which would be one of Michelangelo's most recognizable sculptures (Bull 39). The Pieta is a sculpture of Mary holding Jesus who was dead on her lap, and it was finished in a few months. The Pieta, which means compassion or pity, created awe among its early spectators. It is claimed that Michelangelo overheard pilgrims say that his piece of art resembled another artist’s sculpture. This claim made Michelangelo carve his signature across Mary’s chest so that everyone who viewed it would know he was the artist. This is one of the few works by Michelangelo that bears his name. Before Michelangelo died, he created several Pietas that reflected on mortality. He created the Florentine Pieta, and he depicted himself as Nicodemus as he lowered Jesus’ body from the cross.
At twenty-five, Michelangelo commenced his work on a colossal masterpiece, David. David was a heroic figure in the Bible because he slew Goliath the giant as a young shepherd before becoming a Hebrew King. David was carved from a single block of Carrara marble over fourteen feet tall. Michelangelo took on the challenge of earlier precursors who sculpted David. This was a symbol of civic duty and courage in guarding his hometown of Florence. David, once completed in 1504, was placed in front of the door of the Plazza Vecchio where it would stand as a sort of identifying symbol for the City of Florence (Wood 143).
The painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was among the greatest visual arts of its time and remains so today. The complexity of it and its size are two major reasons why it took just over four years to complete. The...