30+ Interesting Facts about Michelangelo

Michelangelo

Facts about Michelangelo

For the past six centuries and counting, Michelangelo’s artworks have completely mesmerized, and most importantly inspired us. Unbeknownst to some people, his immense contributions to the world of arts are equally as interesting as the man himself. During his time, which was the Renaissance Era, he took art far beyond what early Renaissance artists like Donatello had done. The following 30+ facts about Michelangelo tell you everything that you need to know about the great Renaissance artist.

  1. His full name was Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. And his birthplace, Tuscany in Caprese, is actually close to Arezzo. He was the second of five boys.
  2. His father, and his family at large, hailed from a family of bankers. Over the generations, the family’s business gradually tanked. Michelangelo’s father then took up a government position as a magistrate in Caprese.
  3. Although he was born in Florence, Michelangelo spent most of his time and career in Rome. His place of death was also Rome.
  4. In the town of Settignano, the six-year-old Michelangelo had his first encounter with art in the form of stone cutting. After the death of his mother, he was sent to live with his nanny and her husband, who was a stone cutter.

    Michelangelo Facts and quotes

    Michelangelo Facts and quotes

  5. In his pre-teen age years, Michelangelo enrolled at a Florence grammar school. The school was run by the humanist Francesco da Urbino. Michelangelo’s time in the school was anything but pleasing. He showed a natural disliking for schooling. Instead, he preferred hanging out with painters in the neighborhood, picking some really important lessons in painting as he went along.
  6. In spite of his father’s attempt to draw him closer to the family business, Michelangelo remained resolute in the pursuit of his dream of becoming a renowned artist. Eventually, his father was left with no option than to send the 13-year-old Michelangelo to Domenico Ghirlandaio’s workshop. Ghirlandaio, a renowned painter in his own right, exposed Michelangelo to several fresco techniques.
  7. The artist that tutored Michelangelo at the Medici gardens was called Betoldo di Giovanni. This tutor was one time a student of the Early Renaissance great sculptor – Donatello.
  8. He was not a big fan of school; instead, he preferred getting first-hand experience by observing artists in his neighborhood paint.

    Michelangelo's David

    Michelangelo’s David

  9. Through Piero de’ Medici, Michelangelo had the opportunity to study cadavers from the Catholic Church of Santo Spirito (Church of Saint Spirit) – a Catholic convent. Studying the cadavers helped him harness skill sets in human anatomy. This proved very useful in his future exploits in works such as the Madonna seated on a Step (1491) and Battle of the Centaurs (1492). Especially in the very realistic statue of David, Michelangelo’s study of cadavers infused in him the ability to combine three core elements – harmony, balance and asymmetrical anatomy (the “counterpose”) – to an absolute perfection. There was a downside, however – some of his biographers stated that the overexposure to those corpses impacted adversely on his health.
  10. In terms of his personality, he was a very reclusive man. He also cared little about material things and money even though he was quite rich. He was however very quick to get into fits of rage, especially when things did not go his way, be it painting or sculpting. He is known to have willingly kept to himself, often to his own distress. All he seemed to care about was his artworks. Due to his constant pursuit of perfection, he would often overwork himself. This quest for perfection took a huge toll on his health as he aged.  During work on the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo fired all his assistants because he considered them grossly incompetent.

    Michelangelo Facts and quotes

    Facts about Michelangelo

  11. Michelangelo was always serious about his work. He also was not coy or afraid to voice out his concerns, regardless of who it was. It was unheard of for anyone to openly disagree with the pope on any matter. However, Michelangelo was not anyone. He was quick to expertly discard any comment that in some way inhibited his creativity.
  12. His quick-temperedness was evident all throughout his life. During his youth (around the age of 17) he was struck in the nose by one of his friends. Michelangelo and this friend of his, fellow artist Pietro Torrigiano, were caught up in a bitter argument. The blow left him slightly disfigured in the face for life.

    Michelangelo quote

    Michelangelo’s somewhat unrestrained response to the Pope

  13. Michelangelo’s successes were not just confined to sculpting and painting. In the span of his lifetime, it is estimated that he penned down about 300 poems. Many of these poems took the form of romantic sonnets written in a letter format to love interests such as the nobleman Tommaso dei Cavelieri.
  14. He remained a bachelor all throughout his life. He did, however, have a very strong affection (platonic probably) for a widow from a noble family. Her name was Vittoria Colonna. Many of his poems were written about her. Vittoria passed away in 1547.
  15. Bearing in mind it was the 16th century, many of his biographers felt the need to change some of the pronouns used in his poems so as to make it less homoerotic in nature. Those sorts of changes were particularly common after his death. In the 17th century, for example, there was a deliberate attempt to eliminate every trace of homoerotic showing of love from Michelangelo’s poems. With very little or no evidence, historians at the time completely rejected the idea of him having any romantic feelings for the nobleman Tommasso dei Cavelieri.
  16. In painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo was a one-man army. He had no assistants helping him since he had dismissed all of them. For four painstaking years, he labored and arched his neck to produce a spell-binding fresco across the ceiling of the chapel.
  17. He replaced Antonio da Sangallo the Younger to hold the post of the chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica.
  18. Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were not the best of friends. In fact, the two artists often clashed during their time in Florence.
  19. Due to his immense influence on arts in general, he was nicknamed “II Divino” – meaning ‘The Divine One’.
  20. Quite uncharacteristic of his time, Michelangelo benefited enormously from his artworks. Very few artists of his era could claim to have enjoyed more wealth and fame than Michelangelo. At the time of his death, his total estate was estimated at around 50,000 Florins. That amount of wealth is the equivalent of 36-50 million US Dollars today. In spite of all that wealth, Michelangelo cared very little for the wealth that he accumulated. Cloaked with a simple lifestyle, Michelangelo’s work always took the biggest priority in his life. Irrespective of his somewhat stern personality and annoying commitment to details, he was still so much beloved by every art patron that he worked with.
  21. The marble – commonly called ‘The Giant’ – that he produced the David sculpture from was for forty years left untouched. A couple of artists started a project with it, but they abandoned it. Michelangelo picked it and sculpted a beautiful masterpiece out of it.
  22. The only work that Michelangelo signed was “The Pietà”. He signed the sculpture with the words “MICHAELA[N]GELUS BONAROTUS FLORENTIN[US] FACIEBA[T]” across the chest of the Virgin Mary. This translates into “Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this”. According to Giorgio Vasari, one of his two biographers, Michelangelo did this primarily because someone had mistakenly attributed The Pietà to another artist.
  23. As shown in the Last Judgment, unduly criticizing Michelangelo comes with its consequences. In this particular fresco, Michelangelo purposely used the face of Biagio da Cesena (a very high-ranking church official) as the face of one the Minos (a despicable creature from hell). The official had earlier criticized Michelangelo; perhaps he got in the way of Michelangelo’s creativity.

    “The Last Judgement” by Michelangelo

    A figure from Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement” depicts Biagio da Cesena as a horrid creature

  24. In the course of his life, Michelangelo sculpted or painted for as many as nine different Popes. For example, he spent about 4 decades (between 1505 and 1545) sculpting the tomb for Pope Julius II.
  25. Before Michelangelo unleashed his beautiful masterful painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the ceiling already had paintings from celebrated artists such as Botticelli, Perugino, and Ghirlandaio.
  26. He holds the honor of being the first Westerner, artist for that matter, to have his biography published during his lifetime. The two main biographies at that time were written by Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi.
  27. His personalized style gave rise to the term Mannerism in art. Mannerism is a very sophisticated European art form that focuses on securing balance, proportion and idealized beauty in one’s art. As a result of this, Michelangelo was able to produce asymmetrical and unnaturally spectacular works of art.
  28. Apart from his childhood tutors, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Bertoldo di Giovanni, the people that he looked up to were Giotto, Donatello, Mosaccio and Lorenzo Ghiberti. Growing up, Michelangelo extensively studied those artists’ works and tried copying some of them.

    Michelangelo Facts

    Michelangelo

  29. Due to the constant interruption that Michelangelo suffered at the hands of Pope Julius II while building a tomb for the Pope, Michelangelo reasoned that it was a ploy engineered by Rafael to disrupt his work. At that time, he thought his rival Raphael was jealous of his sculpting work. Fate would have it that it was in the course of these interruptions that Pope Julius II assigned Michelangelo to paint his famed fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. An alternative account of the story states that it was rather the architect Donato Bramante that got consumed with envy. He wanted Michelangelo to lose focus in his sculpting work in the tomb of the pope. He also expected Michelangelo to make a poor showing of himself in painting the fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
  30. Michelangelo had a very profound effect on Raphael. His Creation of Adam figure on the Sistine Chapel was very much appreciated by Raphael.
  31. During the High Renaissance Era, rivalry among artists was quite fierce. Often times, artists squabbled over commissions and higher prices. Michelangelo himself had mild altercations with greats like Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) and Raphael (1483 – 1520). With regard to Leonardo, the rivalry erupted when the two artists were both commissioned to paint the walls of the Salone dei Ciquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio. As for Raphael, Michelangelo claimed that Raphael consistently copied his style.
  32. Regarding the tomb that he started constructing (in 1505) for Pope Julius II, Michelangelo would take about 40 years to finally complete the pope’s tomb. The original plan was to finish the work in 5 years. However, Michelangelo got caught up with other projects requested by the pope. One such side projects was the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

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1 Response

  1. Madeline says:

    I need actual facts not a life story!

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