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Michelangelo Buonarotti
Michelangelo was responsible for some of the finest works of art in Western history including “David”, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, “Pieta” and the “Last Judgement”.

He was one of the greatest painters of the Renaisssance who owed his early career to the foresight of Lorenzo de'Medici.

Brought into the Medici home at the age of 13, the boy-genius was raised amongst future princes and popes and absorbed cutting-edge intellectual theories. He crossed paths with the Medici for the rest of his life, caught in a constant struggle to escape their control.

Michelangelo, sculptor

Michelangelo's talent was spotted at the age of just 13. He was one of the first students in Lorenzo de'Medici's original school of art. Legend has it that the boy was learning to carve marble by copying the head of a satyr (antique faun). Lorenzo was impressed by the sculpture but teased the young Michelangelo by pointing out that old creature wouldn't have had a full set of teeth. Mortified, the young perfectionist hacked off a tooth and had Lorenzo re-examine it.

Charmed, Lorenzo invited Michelangelo into his home, so that the Medici could guide and shape the young artist's career. The boy was exposed to the greatest artistic legacy in Florence, and to a social whirlwind of dinner parties, salons, lectures and debates. These early classical influences stayed with him forever.

After Lorenzo's death, Michelangelo's world was thrown into chaos. The Medici boys were expelled from Florence, and Michelangelo fled into hiding. But, in 1501, the 25-year-old sculptor was lured back to Florence by a single, enigmatic block of Carrara marble.

Desperate to outdo his rival Leonardo, Michelangelo undertook the mammoth task of taming the 13-foot marble block. A constant shower of water fell to keep the dust contained and the sculptor cool. Michelangelo created a wax model of his design, submerged in water. Each day he let the level drop, and using just three chisels, sculpted what he could see emerging. For two and a half years Michelangelo toiled alone. He slept sporadically and rarely ate. He didn't change his boots, and eventually the leather fell off, taking layers of dead skin with them.

On January 25, 1504 “David”, his masterpiece, was introduced to the world. Installed outside the Palazzo Vecchio, this remarkable statue of the proud slayer of Goliath instantly became a symbol of the city, and challenged the power of the overbearing Medici.

When Giovanni de'Medici was made Pope Leo X, he and his cousin Giulio made Michelangelo an offer he couldn't refuse. They demanded huge marble tombs be made for their fathers, Lorenzo il Magnifico, and his murdered brother Giuliano de'Medici. Michelangelo could not refuse a request from the Pope.

By the end Michelangelo had truly turned his back on the Medici family. His former student, Giorgio Vasari, was now working for Cosimo I, an autocratic monarch he despised. In fury and frustration Michelangelo tried to destroy his last work, the “Pieta” by hacking away at the left arm of Christ. He also captured his own tortured self-portrait, frozen forever in the face of Nicodemus.

Next: Michelangelo, Painter & Hero

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The Renaissance

- Botticelli
- Donatello
- Ghiberti
- Gozzoli
- Leonardo
- Michelangelo
- Raphael
- Vasari

- The Republic
- Italy at War
- Machiavelli

- Heresy
- Counter-Reformation

Science & Architecture
- Galileo
- Brunelleschi