Michelangelo Buonarroti (March 6, 1475, Caprese, Tuscany – February 18, 1564, Rome), commonly known as Michelangelo, an Italian High Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, and poet who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. His artistic achievements were of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his rival and fellow Leonardo da Vinci.
Michelangelo was considered the greatest living artist in his lifetime, and ever since then he has been held to be one of the greatest artists of all times. A number of his works in painting, sculpture, and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. Michelangelo is one of the greatest artists of all time, a man whose name has become synonymous with the word “masterpiece”. As an artist he was unmatched, the creator of works of sublime beauty that express the full breadth of the human condition.
Michelangelo is the best-documented artist of the 16th century. Two of his best-known works, the Pieta and the David, were sculpted in his late twenties to early thirties. Despite his low opinion of painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential fresco paintings in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling and The Last Judgement on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Later in life he designed the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and revolutionised classical architecture. His dome for St. Peter’s became the symbol of authority, as well as the model, for domes all over the world. The majority of state capitol buildings in the U.S., as well as the Capitol in Washington, D.C., are derived from it.
Michelangelo’s greatest glory, the Sistine Chapel, was started in 1508, and completed in 1512. In the beginning, Michelangelo was to paint twelve pictures of the apostles around the outside of the ceiling. Instead of doing so, Michelangelo made another suggestion. He used the central area of the ceiling to paint the history of the Old Testament. It included over 300 figures. In 1534, twenty-three years after the Sistine Chapel was completed, Michelangelo began to paint The Last Judgment, located over the altar at the same church as the Sistine Chapel.
Giorgio Vasari proposed that Michelangelo was the pinnacle of all artistic achievement since the beginning of the Renaissance, a viewpoint that continued to be influential in art history for centuries. In his lifetime he was also often called Il Divino (the divine one), an appropriate name given his intense spirituality. One of the qualities most admired by his contemporaries was his sense of awe-inspiring grandeur, and it was the attempts of subsequent artists to imitate Michelangelo’s impassioned and highly personal style that resulted in the next major movement in Western art after the High Renaissance, Mannerism.
Michelangelo, who was often arrogant with others and constantly dissatisfied with himself, saw art as originating from inner inspiration and from culture. The figures that he created are forceful and dynamic, each in its own space apart from the outside world. Fundamental to Michelangelo’s art is his love of male beauty which attracted him both aesthetically and emotionally. Such feelings caused him great pain, and he expressed the struggle between platonic ideals and sexual desire in his sculpture, drawing and his poetry, too, for among his other accomplishments Michelangelo was the great Italian lyric poet of the 16th century.
Disregarding Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo could possibly be the greatest artist and sculptor who has ever lived. His paintings and sculptures have changed the meaning of art forever.