Michelangelo | The Story of a Sculptor
David is a Renaissance masterpiece, created by Italian artist Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504 in marble. David is the Biblical hero David's 5.17-meter marble statue, a favorite subject in the Florentine history of sculpture.
This article mainly focuses on Michelangelo and his famous work The Statue of David. See the references below to read more about his other famous works.
Who is Michelangelo?
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, born March 6, 1475 to February 18, 1564, is best known as Michelangelo and was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance, born in the Republic of Florence, who had an unprecedented influence on the development of Western art. Considered by many of the greatest artists of his life, and by some of the greatest artists of all time.
And did you know his artistic ability was of such a high order that he was frequently considered a candidate for the title of archetypal Renaissance man, along with his competitor, Florentine fellow and Medici client, Leonardo da Vinci.
Many of Michelangelo's works of painting, sculpture and architecture are among the most famous in nature. His performance in these fields was great. Given the sheer volume of letters, drawings and reminiscences that have survived, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century. Two of his best-known works, Pietà and David, were sculpted before the age of thirty. Although he held a low opinion on painting, he also created two of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: the Genesis scenes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and the Last Judgment on the altar wall. His development of the Laurentian Library was a pioneer of Mannerist architecture.
At the age of 74, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger succeeded him as architect of St. Peter's Basilica.
Here is an interesting fact I was not aware of: Michelangelo was the first western artist whose biography was written while he was still alive. In reality, two biographies have been published in his lifetime. One of them, Giorgio Vasari, claimed that Michelangelo's work transcended that of any artist living or dead, and that it was "supreme in not one art alone, but in all three."
During his lifetime, Michelangelo was often nicknamed Il Divino ("Divine One"). His contemporaries also praised his ability to instill a sense of awe. Attempts by later artists to emulate Michelangelo's intense, highly personal style culminated in Mannerism, the next significant trend in Western art after the High Renaissance.
The Statue of David
In 1499, Michelangelo returned to Florence. The constitution changed after the fall of its ruler, the anti-Renaissance priest Girolamo Savonarola, who was executed in 1498, and the rise of the Gonfaloniere Piero Soderini. Michelangelo was requested by the consuls of the Guild of Wool to complete the unfinished task begun 40 years earlier by Agostino di Duccio: a monumental statue of Carrara marble depicting David as a sign of Florentine independence to be mounted on the gable of the Cathedral of Florence.
Now if you asked me to finish a project started by someone else 40 years ago I would probably laugh and say no. But that is not what Michelangelo did. And I guess that's why is famous, ha!
Michelangelo replied by finishing his most famous work, the statue of David, in 1504. The masterpiece undeniably established its reputation as a sculptor of exceptional technical skill and the power of symbolic imagination. A team of experts, including Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, were called together to agree on their location, eventually Piazza della Signoria, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
The Statue of David is now in the Academy, while the replica retains its place in the square.
Another commission came with the end of the Solomon. At the beginning of 1504 Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint The Battle of Anghiara in the council chamber of the Palazzo Vecchio, portraying the battle between Florence and Milan in 1440. Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the Battle of Cascina.
The two works are very different: Leonardo shows soldiers fighting on horseback, while Michelangelo has soldiers ambushed as they bathe in the water. Neither work was completed, and both were lost forever when the chamber was demolished. These works were much admired, and copies remain of them, since the work of Leonardo was copied by Rubens and Michelangelo by Bastiano da Sangallo.
Also during this time, Michelangelo was commissioned by Angelo Doni to paint the "Holy Family" as a gift to his mother, Maddalena Strozzi. It is known as the Doni Tondo and hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in its original beautiful frame that may have been designed by Michelangelo. He may have also painted the Madonna and Child with John the Baptist, known as the Madonna of Manchester and now in the National Gallery of London.
By Daniele da Volterra - Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection (The Met object ID 436771), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47039500
By Jörg Bittner Unna - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46495986
Michelangelo at the Encyclopædia Britannica
Smithers, Tamara. 2016. Michelangelo in the New Millennium: Conversations about Artistic Practice, Patronage and Christianity