Michelangelo is one of the greatest and most famous artists in the world. In addition, he is well-known for his astonishing works in sculpture, architecture, and poetry. Michelangelo’s strong effect on art could be observed throughout centuries till the present day.
According to the short biography of Buonarroti, written by Isaak, the future artist was born in 1475 not far from Florence. His mother died when the boy was just 6 years old. For a long period, the father was against his son’s admiration of art. One famous Florentine painter Domenico Ghirlandajo once noticed the extremely talented 12-year-old Michelangelo and started to teach him. A little later the boy made acquaintance with the celebrated sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni. At that time Michelangelo realized that sculpture was his biggest passion. Then the influential Florentine family, the Medici, noticed him and gave him their patronage.
Michelangelo created his masterpieces during the period of the High Renaissance which developed into Mannerism. According to Friedlaender, the founders of this style were such artists as Rosso, Pontormo, and Parmigianino. The High Renaissance art was perfect in all aspects, while works of Mannerists were “full of clashing colors, disquieting figures with abnormally elongated limbs, often torturous-looking emotion and bizarre themes that combined Classicism, Christianity and mythology” (Isaak). Friedlaender claimed that having become familiar with this style people got the possibility to understand better Michelangelo’s paintings. His works turned out to be more meaningful and “no longer appeared as the eccentric products of the master’s old age and as the corrupting influence on the younger generation, but as major statements of the anticlassical aesthetic of the time” (Friedlaender 15). The few other famous artists associated with Mannerism are Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Giorgio Vasari, and Giuseppe Cesari.
According to Hubbard, Michelangelo began to create serious artistic works at the age of 14. His paintings are characterized by intensity, deep psychology, and natural physical appearances of depicted figures. Nobody ever could illustrate the human being with such accuracy and passion (Hubbard). Michelangelo did not idealize the beauty of women, instead he “carved the swelling muscles and revealed the articulations of form as no artist before he had ever dared” (Hubbard 8). Moreover, according to Hurll, Michelangelo could depict an instant of action in such a way that the moment “suggests both the one preceding and the one following, and which gives us the whole story in epitome” (8). The artist created one of the best masterpieces ever known in the world. It was done on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. On the altar wall of the same building, there is Michelangelo’s enormous fresco The Last Judgment.
One of the famous artist’s works is an oil picture The Holy Family (c. 1507). It shows us a moment from the life of little Jesus. In the foreground, the child, his mother, and her husband are depicted. Mary is a beautiful strong woman who treats her child with great love and patience. Joseph lifts the boy from the mother’s hands. The man is a bit more serious but he cares for the child as well. Perhaps, Joseph is less kind because he feels a great duty and responsibility to protect Mary and Jesus from all possible threats. On the right, behind the family, there is a little John who seems to be eager to join the harmonic company. According to the prediction, this boy is going to be a prophet and let people know beforehand about Jesus. To my opinion, Michelangelo depicted this family as the average one, with their trivial happiness. Talking about the painting in general, it could be observed that Michelangelo used some methods from the kind of sculpture. According to Hurll, “the central figures are grouped in a solid mass as it for bas-relief” (24). In the background, human beings but not a usual landscape are depicted. These figures are used just for decoration and have no relation to the main idea. Michelangelo depicted them in such a way that “their slender limbs intertwine in graceful patterns” (Hurll 24).
On the large fresco The Creation of Man (c.1511), which is painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the artist depicted his understanding of the moment when God made the first human being. Adam lies on the land and God approaches him on the cloud of angels in order to fill man with life. Their forefingers are outstretched toward each other. According to Hurll, it is a wish to create a human being in his image that could be observed on God’s face. In the Almighty’s position of the outstretched hand, there is “a sign of creative power” and “a superb gesture of command” (Hurll 69). Adam, with patient obedience and desire for life, is turned toward God. This picture gives me a strange feeling that their fingers are just about to touch each other and at that moment something grandiose and unbelievable would happen.
The Last Judgment (1534-1541) is a huge fresco which is painted by Michelangelo on the wall of the Sistine Chapel approximately twenty years after the creation of the ceiling of the same building. The picture represents the time of the Savior’s arrival on Earth. There are a lot of angels, apostles and saints depicted who accompany Jesus and many other figures. The Judge is in the center of the action and the mother Mary sits on his right side. According to Hurll, “the entire effect of the vast company of colossal figures is awe-inspiring, but not pleasing” (69). Looking at this picture, it is possible to see the eternal and all-encompassing power of God and the helplessness of all the rest.
Thus, Michelangelo Buonarroti is considered to be one of the most influential artists ever known. He created a significant number of masterpieces and made a great contribution to world art.
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