Biographies of famous artists of the Renaissance:
  Fra Filippo Lippi Leonardo da Vinci
Filippino Lippi Alessandro Botticelli
Piero della Francesca Raphael
Luca Signorelli Michelangelo
Fra Filippo Lippi

Fra 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.

In 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).

Lippi 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.

Madonna 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 little Filippino.

Filippino Lippi

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.

In 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).

In 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.

Back 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 by Perugino.

 Piero della Francesca

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 light.

The 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 painting.

In 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 of Sigismondo.

During 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 Early Renaissance.
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).

Luca Signorelli


Luca 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.

He 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).

After 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 and Child.

Following 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.

First 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.

The 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.

In 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. Rizzoli, 2002.
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 Braziller, 1995.
The Renaissance Antichrist by Jonathan B. Riess, Luca Signorelli. Princeton Univ Pr, 1995.

Leonardo da Vinci
(1452 - 1519)

Leonardo 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 and philosophy.

He 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.

In 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.

In 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 life.
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.

In 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.

In 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 in Amboise.
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.

Alessandro Botticelli
(1444/45 - 1510)


Alessandro Botticelli 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.

Since 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).

In 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).

In 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.

"When 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..."

Pandolfo Pico della Mirandola to Duchess Isabella Gonzaga of Mantua on Raphael, 1521

Raffaello 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).

In 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).

Within 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.

The 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.

Under 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.

The 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."

Raphael Sanzio


Michelangelo 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.

Michelangelo 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 circle.

Lorenzo 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.

In 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, Rome.

In 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.

Since 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.

After 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.

It 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.

Michelangelo's 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.

Michelangelo's 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.”  
  Fra Filippo Lippi Leonardo da Vinci
Filippino Lippi Alessandro Botticelli
Piero della Francesca Raphael
Luca Signorelli Michelangelo
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