Michelangelo was born in the village of Caprese, Italy, in March 1475. He was the son of a government administrator. He was raised in Florence, where he became the center of the early Renaissance Movement. Although he always described himself as a sculptor, he also excelled as a painter and architect. Few paintings in the history of art can compare with the grandeur of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and end wall, and the designs he produced for architectural projects defined the standard of Renaissance Classicism in, for example, St. Peter’s and the Campidoglio, in Rome. In sculpture, however, the overwhelming nature of his genius is best revealed, from his early Pietà in St. Peter’s to his David and Moses and the last great pietàs . Michelangelo died in February 1564 at the age of 89 in Rome.


F rom his early twenties, Michelangelo was regarded with much the same amazed respect by his contemporaries as he is today. It is not unusual that, as tastes change in different periods of history, the reputations of almost all creative figures should from time to time seem to diminish. The value and regard in which Michelangelo is currently held, although chewed over by critics, has hardly been modified by the general viewing public in the near half-millennium that has passed since he died. His contemporaries considered him to be the greatest genius of Modern art—that is, of the Renaissance—the equal, if not the superior, of the great Masters of the arts of Greece and Rome. And time has confirmed his preeminence in all three of the so-called fine arts: painting, sculpture, and architecture. His influence, subsequently, makes him a yardstick by which

the qualities of Renaissance-inspired art have been, and still are, judged. The admiration and respect do not, however, inevitably entail enjoyment and contemporary relevance. Many find it possible to have the greatest regard for Michelangelo, to recognize his extraordinary powers, his superhuman energy, his unrivaled technical assurance and unique intellectual creativity, without experiencing the same feelings of affection that lesser artists inspire. If that is the case, it is a pity, and it is in the hope that a real understanding will result in increased pleasure in Michelangelo’s work that this book is written. With many artists, the course of their art is a mirror of their lives, reflecting both experience and response in a visual form that relates directly to personal events. Such artists as Rembrandt, Velasquez, Gauguin, and Van 7

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