Filippo Lippi is one of the most important successors
to Masaccio. In 1421, he entered the monastery of Santa Maria del
Carmine in Florence and was able to observe the decorative work
in progress in the Brancacci Chapel. He used this experience
in his first work, the frescoes in the cloisters of the monastery
(1432), now only surviving in fragments, with their plastic figures
and individual facial expressions. His Madonna
Enthroned (1437), is, in her clear articulation,
reminiscent of Masaccio’s alterpiece in Pisa.
the 1440s, complex movements and a restless treatment of drapery
are discernible The Annunciation
(c.1442). These were the elements on which his great pupil Botticelli
informed himself. With the decoration of the cathedral choir in
Prato between 1452 and 1465, his artistic development reached its
culmination, ranking him with Fra Angelico among the most
outstanding fresco painters of his time The
Feast of Herod: Salome's Dance (c.1460-1464).
was chaplain to Santa Margherita in Prato from 1456, but he had
to leave the order as he had formed a relationship with the nun
Lucretia Buti, who bore him a son, Filippino Lippi (born
about 1457), who as a pupil and assistant of Botticelli was to give
the latter’s late style certain Mannerist features. In his
own late period Lippi painted various versions of The
Adoration, with the Infant Baptist and St. Bernard (c.1459),
the most famous being the one produced for the house chapel of the
Palazzo Medici (now in Berlin, Gemaldegalerie). With its fairy-tale
atmosphere created by light and shade, the rich use of gold and
the magnificent flower carpet, this panel represents one of the
finest achievements of the period.
and Child with Angels. Some art historians consider
that this painting was a gift from Fra Lippi to Giovanni del Medici,
and that the models for the painting were Lucretia Buti and the
If his birth proved embarrassing for his parents, Fra Filippo
Lippi and Sister Lucrezia Buti, who were both in holy
orders, Filippino certainly compensated for this by being a true
infant prodigy. He assisted his father from an early age and had
only turned 12 when Filippo died. Nevertheless, Filippino was able
to complete the frescoes in the Spoleto Cathedral.
1472, he is mentioned in connection with Botticelli, who
influenced him greatly. His earliest panels are hardly distinguishable
from those of his great master. Around 1481, Filippino must already
have had a reputation in Florence as he was commissioned to complete
the fresco cycle in the Brancacci Chapel which Masaccio and Masolino
had left unfinished. By incorporating Flemish elements, which determined
the brilliance of his colors, the young painter reached the pinnacle
of his career over the next few years The
Apparition of the Virgin to St. Bernard (c.1486).
1496, Lippi finished his The Adoration
of the Magi, which were commissioned by the
monks of San Donato a Scoreto as a substitution for a painting on
an identical subject, left unfinished by Leonardo. Thanks
to Lorenzo the Magnificent's intervention, Filippino was called
to Rome in 1488, to paint the frescoes in the Carafa Chapel in Santa
Maria sopra Minerva.
in Florence, the artist was one of the first to respond to the crisis
in art caused by the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Savonarola's
sermons. His painting became bizarre, fantastical and tend increasingly
to seem hallucinatory. Among his last works are The
Deposition from the Cross which was completed
Though little is known about Piero
della Francesca and many of his works are lost forever,
he was an important artist of the Italian Renaissance – he
clearly formulated the geometrical rules for building perspective
and made wonderful empirical discoveries in the use of color and
artist was born between 1410 and 1420 in Borgo San Sepolcro near
Arezzo. In the 1430s he worked in Florence under Domenico Veneziano,
assisting him with the now lost fresco cycle in San Egidio (now
Santa Maria Nuova). Independently he worked in his native town,
and also in Rome, Ferrara, Arezzo, Rimini, Urbino, and Perugia and
this played a determining role in the birth of local schools of
1452 Piero began the wonderful cycle of frescos dealing with stories
of the True Cross for the choir of the Basilica of San Francesco
(Church of St. Francis) in Arezzo. The frescoes were inspired by
stories from the thirteenth-century Golden Legend. The painter ignored
the chronological sequence of the scenes in favor of "a structured
rhythm and clear symmetry between the walls". This work demonstrates
Piero’s advanced knowledge of perspective and color, his geometric
orderliness and skill in pictorial construction.
In the 1450s Piero worked for the court of Rimini. Piero executed
several works for the Prince of Rimini, including the fresco Sigismondo
Malatesta before St. Sigismund and the Portrait
the 1460s the artist worked for the Duke of Urbino, for whom he
executed the Flagellation of Christ
and the Senigallia Madonna,
the wonderful twin portrait of the Duke and his wife Battista Sforza
(Florence, Uffizi), the Nativity,
and above all the incomparable Pala
Montefeltro, which by some critics is considered
to be his best work, which epitomizes the noblest aspirations of
According to Vasari, Piero lost his sight in old age and being unable
to paint wrote treatises on painting and mathematics.
His mostly known pupil was Luca Signorelli (c.1445-1523).
Signorelli was born around 1450 in a bordering area
of Umbria and Tuscany, in the town of Cortona. His career developed
not only in the great capitals of art, such as Florence and Rome,
but also in minor provincial centers in Umbria, Tuscany and Perugia.
was reputedly a pupil of Piero della Francesca, then working in
Arezzo, after which he worked with the Pollaiolo brothers in Florence
but his own style did not mature until he went to Urbino. Here,
among other works, he painted the Flagellation
of Christ, now in Milan.
In 1481 he was among the artists chosen to execute the fresco cycle
below the window area in the Sistine Chapel (amongst others, Botticelli,
Ghirlandaio and Perugino were engaged in this work). In Rome Signorelli
worked in close contact with Perugino, whose style influenced the
Signorelli one, which softened noticeably. This can be seen in the
frescos he painted for the sacristy of the Loreto Santuary and his
St. Onofrio Altarpiece for Perugia Cathedral (1484).
Rome Signorelli moved to Florence where he became a minor painter
in Medici circles. During this period he produced the panels now
in the Ufizzi including a tondo of the Madonna
Lorenzo's death in 1492, the painter chose to leave Florence. First
he worked, 1496-98, on a fresco cycle in the abbey cloisters at
Monteoliveto Maggiore. The subject of those frescos was the Life
of St. Benedict. After that work he was commissioned to finish the
decoration of the San Brizio Chapel in the Orvieto Cathedral. Signorelli's
Orvieto frescos represent the most important forerunners to Michelangelo's
Last Judgment. In those awe-inspiring frescos of the Apocalypse
the artist reached the height of his development.
Luca Signorelli spent nearly the whole of his last twenty years
in provinces, between Cortona and Citta di Castello. The painter
died in 1423 in Cortona.
San Brizio Chapel in Orvieto Cathedral
San Brizio chapel was built at the beginning of the 15th century
on the place of sacristy of the Orvieto Cathedral. The decoration
of the chapel started in 1447 by Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli,
who executed two compositions (Christ the Judge and Prophets) on
the vaults. The commission was only revived at the end of the century.
The painter Luca Signorelli was chosen thanks to his fame as a fast
executor and because he took less money than other artists. Indeed,
starting the work in April-May 1499 he finished it already in 1502,
though the final payment was made only in 1504.
Signorelli finished the decoration of the vaults; the frescos Angels
with Emblems of Passions and the Apostles are believed to be fulfilled
from the cardboards of Fra Angelico. Signorelli executed the compositions
Martyrs and Virgins, Patriarchs and Doctors of the Church from his
own sketches, though it's believed that he followed Fra Angelico's
program. On April 23, 1500 the decoration of the vaults was finished,
also the drawings for the wall paintings were evidently ready, because
a few days later a new contract for wall frescos was signed.
subject of the wall fresco cycle is Apocalypse and the Last Judgment.
The work is entirely the product of Signorelli's powerful imagination,
though, of course, he was influenced by literary sources - Gospels,
Apocryphal Gospels, Golden Legend, and Dante's Divine Comedy. The
cycle consists of six large compositions, each of them occupies
the upper parts of the walls:
The Deeds of the Antichrist (on the
left wall) opens the cycle;
Antichrist is supposed to come to the world before its end. In Signorelli's
fresco the action takes place in an Italian city and quite possibly
it reflected recent events – revolt and execution (May 23
1498) of Savonarola,
who was condemned as Antichrist by the Church.
The End of the World (over the entrance)
The Resurrection of the Dead (on the right wall)
The Hell (on the right wall, next to the Resurrection)
The Last Judgment (on the altar wall) the composition is divided
into two parts by the window: the Damned Consigned to Hell (left
part) and the Blessed Consigned to Paradise (right part).
The Paradise, or Coronation of the Chosen (left wall, next to Antichrist)
The lower parts of the walls are executed as decorative panels.
the center of each panel is a portrait of a poet or a philosopher
– Dante, Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Lucian, Homer and Empedocles.
Each portrait is surrounded by four tondos with the scenes from
their works, painted in monochrome. Quite possible that the lower
parts were executed by Luca's apprentices by his sketches.
The Art of the Italian Renaissance. Architecture. Sculpture.
Painting. Drawing. Konemann. 1995.
Luca Signorelli: The Complete Paintings by Tom Henry, Laurence Kanter.
How Fra Angelico and Signorelli Saw the End of the World by Creighton
E. Gilbert. Pennsylvania State Univ Pr, 2002.
Luca Signorelli: The San Brizio Chapel, Orvieto (Great Fresco Cycles
of the Renaissance) by Jonathan B. Riess, Luca Signorelli. George
The Renaissance Antichrist by Jonathan B. Riess, Luca Signorelli.
Princeton Univ Pr, 1995.
(1452 - 1519)
da Vinci was the embodiment of the Renaissance ideal
of the universal man, the first artist to attain complete mastery
over all branches of art. He was a painter, sculptor, architect
and engineer besides being a scholar in the natural sciences, medicine
was born on the 15th of April, 1452 as an illegitimate son of the
notary Ser Piero di Antonio da Vinci and his mother, a peasant woman
Caterina, in a small town called Vinci, near Empoli, Tuscany. The
first four years of his life were spent in a small village near
Vinci with his mother. After 1457, he lived in his father's family,
which soon moved to Florence. At the age of 15 he became an apprentice
of the Florentine painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio and
although in 1472 he entered the San Luca guild of painters in Florence,
which would indicate that he had attained a degree of professional
independence, he remained with Andrea del Verrocchio until 1480.
His first known work, which he painted as an assistant, is the angel,
kneeling on the left of the Verrocchio's picture The
Baptism of Christ (c.1472-1475). Verrocchio, it is said, was
so impressed by the implications of his pupil's genius that he gave
up painting. Another work of this period The
Annunciation (c.1472-1475) was attributed to Leonardo, but probably
not all the picture was painted by him. However, it is generally
accepted that the overall composition, the figure of the angel and
the landscape are his. There are several other surviving works from
this period, such as Madonna with the Carnation (c.1475), Madonna
Benois (c.1475-1478), Portrait
of Ginevra de'Benci (c.1478-1480). Leonardo received a commission
to paint an altar piece St. Hieronymus (c.1480-1482), which was
never finished, and to create a large panel Adoration of the Magi
(1481-1482) for the church in San Donato a Scopeto, which was not
finished either. Unfortunately, it was to be repeated with many
of his works: many of them were never finished.
1482, Leonardo moved to Milan in the hope of obtaining the patronage
of the ruler of the city Ludovico Sforza, also known as Ludovico
Moro for his dark coloring. Leonardo offered his services as a military
engineer, sculptor and painter.
In 1483, he was commissioned to make a large altar piece The
Virgin of the Rocks (1482-1486) for the Franciscan Confraternity
in the Church of S. Francesco Grande. Another
version of this picture was created later. Being the court painter,
sculptor and engineer he created Portrait
of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with an Ermine) (c.1490), Portrait
of an Unknown Woman (La Belle Ferroniere) (c.1490), several small
Madonnas, such as Madonna Litta (c. 1490), worked on the equestrian
statue of Francesco Sforza (father of Ludovico Moro), which was
created as a huge clay model of the horse, but the project was never
cast in bronze. Leonardo painted The
Last Supper (c.1495-1498) for the refectory of the Dominican
Monastery Santa Maria delle Grazie, which is considered the first
work of High Renaissance. His representation of the theme has become
the epitome of all Last Supper compositions. Unfortunately, he experimented
with the paint and this led to the damage of the fresco, the paint
began to crumble almost after the fresco was finished. See one of
the contemporary copies.
the mid- to late- 1480s, when Leonardo was attempting to establish
himself as a court artist, he seemed to have started on his huge
range of scientific researches, which included botany, anatomy,
medicine, architecture, military engineering, geography etc. We
know about his studies by the enormous amount of his drawings which
were left. He was writing the Treatise on Painting, a collection
of practical and theoretical instructions for painters, all his
In 1499, after the defeat of Ludovico Sforza by the French, Leonardo
left Milan. After short journeys to Mantua and Venice he returned
to Florence. There he was working on a commission for the Servite
monastery, which probably was Virgin
and Child with St. Anne (c.1502-1516). In 1502 he was employed
by General Cesare Borgia as an architect and military engineer,
with whom he traveled, mainly in Central Italy, studying terrain
and preparing maps for Borgia's future military campaigns. Also
at that time Madonna of the Yarnwinder (1501) was created.
1503, Leonardo returned to Florence again and, in response to a
commission from Francesco del Giocondo, started on a portrait of
his wife Lisa del Giocondo
Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) (1503-1506), which was to become the
most famous picture in the world, although the portrait was not
finished in time and never delivered to the client. Leonardo received
more important commissions, he was to paint the Grand Council Chamber
in the Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of government of Florence. The
wall-painting, which Leonardo left unfinished in the spring of 1506
and which was destroyed in the middle of the XVI century depicted
the Battle of Anghiari of 1440, when Florentine forces, together
with their papal allies, defeated their Milanese opponents near
the town of Anghiari. At the same time Michelangelo was commissioned
to create a painting on the other wall of the same hall (the so-called
Battle of Cascina), which was never finished either.
In 1506-1512, Leonardo lived mostly in Milan under the patronage
of the French Governor of the town Charles d'Amboise. During these
years he created The Leda
and the Swan (c.1505-1510), which is known now only through
a number of copies, second version of The Virgin
of the Rocks (1506-1508), worked on the equestrian statue for
General Giangiacomo Trivulzio, which was never realized, continued
his anatomical studies. After the death of Charles d'Amboise in
1511, Leonardo accepted the protection of Giuliano de'Medici, brother
of the future Pope Leo X, with whom he then traveled to the papal
court in Rome. Leonardo, by now 61 years old, apparently hoped to
become a court painter. But he never received any major commissions
comparable to those already carried out by Raphael and Michelangelo
from Leo X. At this time, he probably created St.
John the Baptist (c.1513-1516), although there is one more John
the Baptist (with the attributes of Bacchus, c. 1513-1516),
which is also attributed to Leonardo.
1516, Leonardo received an invitation from French King Francis I
to go to the French court, which he accepted. He was given residence
in Cloux, not far from the King's residence in Amboise, and was
appointed "the first painter, engineer and architect to the
King". But his only obligation was to converse with the 22-year
old King, who visited him almost daily. Leonardo died on the 2nd
of May, 1519 in Cloux and was buried in the Church of St. Florentine
Leonardo's reputation in his life-time was immense, and it was acknowledged
visibly not only in the work of the foremost painters of the time
in Florence - Fra Bartolommeo, Andrea del Sarto and, above all,
Raphael - but also in Milan and northern Italy - by Correggio in
Parma, and by Giorgione in Venice.
(1444/45 - 1510)
was born in Florence in 1444 or 1445, the fourth son of Mariano
di Vanni Filipepi, a tanner. Alessandro's nickname was derived from
the one given to his eldest brother Giovanni, who, because of his
corpulence, was called "Il Botticello" (little barrel).
It is believed that Botticelli was apprenticed as a goldsmith before
being sent, probably in the beginning of the 1460s, to Fra Filippo
Lippi in order to study painting.
1470, Botticelli ran his own workshop in Florence and, in 1472,
he became a member of the St. Luke's Guild. His early woks were
mostly small religious pieces. In 1470, he was commissioned to paint
Fortitude (c.1470) for the Florentine Tribunate di Mercatanzia.
In 1474, his first monumental work St. Sebastian (1474) was mounted
on a pillar in the Florentine church of Santa Maria Maggiore. He
painted Adoration of the Magi (c.1475), on which he depicted members
of Medici clan, the ruling family of the Florence, also his Portrait
of Giuliano de' Medici (c.1476-1477) was well known. He had a lasting
fame as a painter of Madonnas. Among his best are Madonna and Child
with Eight Angels (Tondo Raczynski) (c.1478), Madonna del Libro
(c.1480), Madonna of the Magnificat (c.1480-1481), Madonna of the
Pomegranate (c.1487), Madonna del Padiglione (c.1493).
1480, Botticelli was commissioned to paint the fresco St. Augustine
(1480) for the Ognissanti church. At that period he also created
another fresco, which did not survived. In 1481, Botticelli was
commissioned along with Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosseli and
Pierro Perugino by Pope Sixtus IV to decorate his cappella magna,
which was later named the Sistine Chapel after him, with frescos.
He created The Temptation of Christ (1481-1482), Scenes from the
Life of Moses (1481-1482) and The Punishment of Korah (1481-1482).
In the next years he painted The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti
(1482-1483), a series of 4 frescos based on the novella in Boccaccio's
Decameron for the decoration of the Pucci villa, and his most famous
mythologic works Primavera (c.1482) and The Birth of Venus (c.1485).
He created several great altarpieces for Florentine churches, such
as Virgin and Child Enthroned between Saint John the Baptist and
Saint John the Evangelist (Bardi altarpiece) (1484), Virgin and
Child with Four Angels and Six Saints (San Barnabas altarpiece)
(c.1487), Coronation of the Virgin with the Saints John the Evangelist,
Augustine, Jerome and Eligius. (San Marco altarpiece) (c. 1490-1492).
the 1490s, Botticelli became influenced by the Dominican monk Girolamo
Savonarola, in whose sermons and writings he conjured up visions
of the Apocalypse at the imminent turn of the century and warned
people to repent and embrace asceticism. Botticelli's style became
more severe and strict. In the late 1480s, the artist made illustrations
for Dante's Divine Comedy. Among his last known works are Calumny
of Apelles (c.1494-1495), The Story of Virginia (c.1496-1504), The
Story of Lucretia (c.1496-1504), Mystic Nativity (1500) and St.
Zenobiuspanels (1500-1505). The last years of Botticelli's life
are unknown. He died on the 17th of May, 1510 in Florence and was
buried in the Ognissanti cemetery.
he died, the heavens wanted to give one of the signs they gave when
Jesus Christ expired... Here, people are talking about nothing but
the death of this exceptional man, who has completed his first life
at the young age of 37. His second life - that of his fame, which
is subject neither to time nor death - will endure for all eternity..."
Pico della Mirandola to Duchess Isabella Gonzaga of Mantua on Raphael,
Santi, known as Raphael, or Raphael
of Urbino, was born in Urbino on Good Friday 6 April
1483, the son of Magia di Battista di Nicola Ciarla and Giovanni
Santi di Pietro. His father was a painter and poet at the court
of Frederico da Montefeltre, one of the most famous princes and
art patrons of Early Renaissance Italy. Raphael's father was not
an outstanding painter, though he was a man of good sense. Raphael
started helping out in Santi's studio at a very early age. It is
believed that Raphael learnt the fundamentals of art in his father's
studio. But it is still unclear where Raphael received his training
after this early period in his father's workshop, as Giovanni Santi
died in 1494. According to his first biographer Vasari Raphael was
apprenticed to Perugino, although there are no sources, which confirm
that he worked with Perugino before 1500. Among Raphael's early
works, we know about Baronci Altarpiece, which was commissioned
in 1501. It was badly damaged in an earthquake in 1789 and only
some of its sections survived and now are kept in different collections.
All Raphael's surviving works from 1502 to 1504 show Perugino's
influence, the most notable are Crucifixion (1502-1503), Coronation
of the Virgin (c.1503-1504), Marriage of the Virgin (1504), St.
George (c.1504), St. Michael (c.1503-1504), The Three Graces (c.1503-1504),
Allegory (The Knight's Dream) (c.1503-1504), Madonna and Child (c.1503),
Madonna Connestabile (c.1503-1504).
1504, Raphael moved to Florence, where he remained until 1508. These
years were very important for his development. He studied works
of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo there, by which he was greatly
influenced. Yet he proved, that his ability to adapt from others
what was necessary to his own vision and to reject what was incompatible
with it was faultless. In Florence he started his series of Maddonnas,
whose charm has captured popular imagination ever since: Madonna
del Granduca (c.1505), Madonna of the Meadow (1505 or 1506), Madonna
with the Goldfinch (c.1506), La Belle Jardiniere (1507 or 1508).
He created several portraits, which also had Leonardo's impact Portrait
of Agnolo Doni (c.1506), Portrait of Maddalena Doni (c.1506), Portrait
of a Lady with a Unicorn (1505-1506), Portrait of a Pregnant Woman
(c. 1506). Other notable pictures from his Florence period are St.
George and the Dragon (c.1505-1506), Entombment (1507), St. Catherine
(c. 1508), Madonna with the Baldachino (1507-1508).
four years Raphael had achieved success in Florence and his fame
had spread abroad. By the autumn of 1508, he was in Rome and was
entrusted by Pope Julius II with the decoration of the Stanze, the
new papal apartment in the Vatican Palace, an enormous commission
for the 26-year-old artist. It was nevertheless a triumph. The first
room Stanza della Segnatura was completed by 1511. This room was
probably Julius II's private library and it was decorated in the
traditional way of decorating libraries, which went back to the
Middle Ages. Each of the four walls was allocated one faculty from
the spectrum then available: Theology, Philosophy, Poetry and Jurisprudence
(as Justice) and presented as female figures. They all appear in
four large tondi on the ceiling. Along the walls are allocated to
them the appropriate images of men and women from history who had
won fame in each of these fields. The School of Athens (1509) as
the depiction of philosophy and Disputa (Disputation over the Sacrament)
(1510-1511) as the depiction of theology are a culmination of High
Renaissance principles. They stand for the intellectual reconciliation
of Christianity and classical antiquity. Both frescos are miracles
of harmony, of movement within strict symmetry, of the union of
the real and the ideal.
second room was Stanza di Eliodora, named after the main fresco
The Expulsion of Heliodorus (c.1512), on which Raphael worked from
1511 till 1514. The general theme of the room is that of God's intervention
in human destiny. The third room Stanza dell'Incendio was probably
finished by his assistants after his sketches in 1514-1517. Other
important commissions in this period include The Triumph of Galatea
(c. 1511) for Villa della Farnesina, frescoes for the church of
Saint'Agostino, frescoes for the Sala di Costantino and the decoration
of Loggie of Vatican Palace.
the new Pope Leo X Raphael held an important position in the papal
court. Besides combining positions of painter, architect (he was
Chief Architect of St. Peter's cathedral) and archeologist, he initiated
the first comprehensive survey of the antiquities of Rome. Although
Raphael's main task during this period was to decorate Stanza, he
still found time for a subject, which preoccupied him for a long
time: Madonna and Christ Child. He created Madonna Alba (1511-1513),
Madonna della Tenda (c. 1512-1514), Madonna della Sedia (1512-1514),
Madonna di Foligno (c.1511-1512) and the most famous of all Sistine
Madonna (c.1513-1514). The most notable portraits of this period
were Portrait of a Cardinal (1510-1511), Portrait of Tommaso Inghirami
(c.1511), Portrait of Pope Julius II (c.1512), Portrait of Baldassare
Castiglione (c.1514-1516), La Donna Velata (c. 1514-1516), Portrait
of Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi
(1513-1519). He created 10 cartoons for the tapestries, ordered
by Leo X for the Sistine Chapel, 7 of which have survived and now
in Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
tapestries themselves were woven by Pieter van Aelst and are now
in the Vatican Museums.
The Transfiguration (c.1519-1520), was the last work Raphael painted.
It was commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de' Medici. Raphael died
unexpectedly on Good Friday 6 April 1520. The Transfiguration was
complete. Vasari wrote: "He was laid out in the room where
he last worked, and at his head hung his painting of the transfigured
Christ, which he completed for Cardinal de' Medici. The contrast
between the picture, which was so full of life, and the dead body
filled everyone who saw it with bitter pain."
is certainly the most representative artist of the XVI century:
a sculptor, painter, architect, and poet. He lived to a great age,
and enjoyed great fame in his lifetime. Titian, and Venetian painting
generally, was very much influenced by his vision, and he is responsible
in large measure for the development of Mannerism.
di Ludovico di Lionardo di Buonarroti Simoni was
born in 1475; at Caprese, in Casentino. His family Buonarroti Simoni,
are mentioned in the Florentine chronicles as early as the XII century.
In 1488, at the age of 13, he entered the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Thus he came under the influence of Masaccio, because his teacher,
Ghirlandaio, not only looked to Masaccio for ideas on religious
scenes, but actually imitated certain elements of his designs. After
less than a year he moved to the academy set up by Lorenzo the Magnificent.
From 1489 till 1492, he lived in the Palazzo Medici in Via Larga,
where he could study “antique and good statues” and
could meet the sophisticated humanists and writers of the Medici
the Magnificent died in 1492, and in 1494 the Medici were expelled
from Florence. After the brief rule of the priest Savonarola, whose
ascetic religion and republican ideas influenced the young man deeply,
Michelangelo left Florence and went first to Venice and then to
Bologna, where he could absorb their art and culture. In 1496, he
eventually came to Rome and stayed there until 1501.
In 1499, he completed Pieta for the Vatican. Christian emotion never
has been more perfectly united with classical form. Returning, famous,
to Florence in 1501, Michelangelo was commissioned by the new republican
government to carve a colossal David, symbol of resistance and independence.
1504, the Signoria of Florence commissioned Leonardo da Vinci and
Michelangelo to paint the walls of the Grand Council Chamber in
the Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of government of Florence. Leonardo
worked on the Battle of Anghiari and Michelangelo on the the Battle
of Cascina. Florence was immediately divided into two camps passionately
supporting one or the other. Michelangelo's work did not come further
than the cartoon for the picture, which also was destroyed in the
civil conflict of 1512.
In 1505, Michelangelo was summoned by the new Pope Julius II, to
Rome and entrusted with the design of the pope’s tomb. The
original grandiose project was never carried out. Although only
3 of the 40 life-size or larger figures were executed – Moses,
Rebellious Slave (unfinished), Dying Slave – the commission
dominated most of the artist's life. Victory and Crouching Boy were
also carved for one of the projects of the tomb. The constantly
aborted work on the tomb, ended only in 1547, 40 years and 5 revised
contracts later. The final version of it is in San Pietro in Vincoli,
1508, Julius transferred the artist to paint the Sistine Chapel
ceiling. Michelangelo accepted the commission, but right from the
start he considered Pope Julius’ plans altogether too simple.
It was something unheard of for a patron, to allow his own plans
to be completely changed by an artist. In this case, moreover, the
change of plan meant that the work would have an entirely different
meaning from the original one.
he was not very familiar with the technique of fresco, he needed
the help of several Florentine painters, as well as their advice.
But his ambition to produce a work that would be absolutely exceptional
made it impossible for him to work with others, and in the end he
did the whole thing himself. This was something quite unprecedented.
Not only was the work so vast in scale, but no artist hitherto had
ever undertaken a whole cycle of frescoes without an efficient group
of helpers. Michelangelo helped to create his own legend, complaining
of the enormous difficulties of the enterprise. In his sonnet On
the Painting of the Sistine Chapel, he describes all the discomforts
involved in painting a ceiling, how he hates the place, and despairs
of being a painter at all.
the death of Julius II in 1513, the two Medici popes, Leo X (1513-21)
and Clement VII (1523-34) preferred to keep Michelangelo well away
from Rome and from the tomb of Julius II, so that he could work
on the Medici church of San Lorenzo in Florence. This work was aborted
too, although Michelangelo was able to fulfill some of his architectural
and sculptural projects in the Laurentian Library and the New Sacristy,
or Medici Chapel, of San Lorenzo. The Medici Chapel fell not far
short of being completed: two of the Medici tombs intended for the
Chapel were installed Tomb of Giuliano de' Medici and Tomb of Lorenzo
de' Medici, and for the 3rd Michelangelo had carved his last great
Madonna (unfinished) when he left Florence forever in 1534.
was during this period, while he was planning the tombs in the New
Sacristy, that the sacking of Rome occurred (1527), and when Florence
was besieged shortly after, he helped in fortifying the city, which
finally came back into Medici hands in 1530. While the siege was
still on, he managed to get away for a while to look after his own
property. He incurred the displeasure of Alessandro de Medici, who
was murdered by Lorenzino in 1537. This event he commemorated in
his bust of Brutus.
In September 1534, Michelangelo settled down finally in Rome, and
he was to stay there for the rest of his life, despite flattering
invitations from Cosimo I Medici at Florence. The new Pope, a Farnese
who took the name of Paul III, confirmed the commission that Clement
VII had already given him for a large fresco of The Last Judgment
over the altar of the Sistine Chapel. Far from being an extension
of the ceiling, this was entirely a novel statement. Between 2 projects
about 20 years had passed, full of political events and personal
sorrows. The mood of The Last Judgment is somber; the vengeful naked
Christ is not a figure of consolation, and even the Saved struggle
painfully towards Salvation. The work was officially unveiled on
31 October 1541.
Michelangelo's last paintings were frescos of the Cappella Paolina
just beside the Sistine Chapel, completed in 1550, when he was 75
years old, The Conversion of Paul and The Crucifixion of St. Peter.
crowning achievement, however, was architectural. In 1537-39, he
received commission to reshape Campidoglio, the top of Rome's Capitoline
Hill, into a squire. Although not completed until long after his
death, the project was carried out essentially as he had designed
it. In 1546, Michelangelo was appointed architect to St. Peter's.
The cathedral was constructed according to Donato Bramante’s
plan, but Michelangelo became ultimately responsible for its dome
and the altar end of the building on the exterior.
He continued in his last years to write poetry, he carved the two
extraordinary, haunting and pathetic late Pietas, one of them The
Rondanini Pieta in Milan, on which he was working 6 days before
his death. He died on 18th of February 1564 at the age of 89 and
was buried in Florence according to his wishes.
prestige stands very high nowadays, as it did in his own age. He
went out of favor for a time, especially in the 17th century, on
account of a general preference for the works of Raphael, Correggio
and Titian; but with the early Romantics in England, and the return
to the Gothic, he made an impressive return. In the 20th century
the unfinished, unresolved creations of the great master evoked
especially great interest, maybe because in the 20th century “the
aesthetic focus becomes not simply the created art object, but the
inextricable relationship of the artist's personality and his work.”