Dead People You Should Know - Michelangelo

Born: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni 

D.O.B.: March 6, 1475 Died: February 8, 1564

Cause of Death: Fever/Unknown 

Cool Quote: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

You just turned 21. CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve almost graduated college. You’re starting to look for a job. You’re invited to Rome by a cardinal of the Catholic Church to discuss art and your artistic ability. Oh, wait. That was only Michelangelo, one of the most talented and inspirational artists of all time.

Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475 in Caprese, Italy during the Renaissance period. Shortly after his birth his family moved to Florence, a place that was flourishing with arts and culture. Living in Florence, a city considered to be one of the main epicenters of the cultural Renaissance, Michelangelo’s interest and talent in art blossomed. By the age of 13, his talent had already piqued the interest of local artists. He worked as an apprentice for painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, a leading art patron in Florence, who liked to surround himself with individuals of equal talent and curiosity. This allowed Michelangelo to be exposed to different types of art and it was during this period that he was able to refine his skills as an artist.

Although he studied and was skilled in various forms of art, he considered himself a sculptor first. In 1496, at the age of 21, Michelangelo sculpted a figure of a sleeping cupid and treated it with acidic earth to create the appearance that the sculpture was ancient. He sold this piece to an art dealer, who was fooled by Michelangelo’s deceptive tactics. The dealer then sold the sculpture to a cardinal who later heard rumors that the piece was a scam. He asked for his money back, but he was incredibly impressed by Michelangelo’s skills and invited him to Rome for a meeting.

Michelangelo lingered in Rome for a few years before getting his first big break. He was commissioned by a French cardinal to create a 5½ foot tall statue of a Pieta, a sculpture of the Virgin Mary weeping over the dead body of Jesus resting in her arms. The enormous statue, made entirely of marble, was to be used for the cardinal’s future tomb and was the only work that Michelangelo ever signed. The Pieta was a miraculous piece of work and it quickly brought him recognition and credibility.

By 1501, at 26-years-old, Michelangelo was already one of the best-paid and most famous artists of his time. He moved back to Florence and was contracted to create a huge male sculpture out of marble to place in the city’s famous Duomo. He chose to sculpt David from the Old Testament, as he was a symbol of freedom in Florence. At 17-feet tall, The David was nearly technically perfect. It has since become one of the most famous pieces of art in Italy and is renowned worldwide.

In 1508, Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the most sacred part of the Vatican where popes are elected and inaugurated. Michelangelo painted the ceiling with scenes from Genesis with a border of 12 figures, seven prophets and five sibyls. He painted the entire ceiling while lying on his back and it took over four years to complete. Talk about dedication! The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is Michelangelo’s most famous piece of art and one of the biggest tourist attractions in Rome today.

Michelangelo continued to paint and sculpt until his death at age 88. His extreme genius and remarkable energy allowed him to be considered one of the leaders of the Italian Renaissance and his work helped pave the way for many artists to flourish during the 15###sup/sup### and 16###sup/sup### centuries. Michelangelo left an indelible mark in the world of art and appreciation for his work is still felt today.

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