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The Vatican 1970. Michelangelo: Detail of "The Creation" (Adam).

Michelangelo Buonarroti

"Genius is Eternal Patience"

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The Vatican 1970. Michelangelo. Detail of "The Creation" (Eve).

Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, one of the most ambitious and influential artists of the Renaissance. Together with Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, he dominated the High Renaissance of the early 16th century, and his later work played a vital role in the development of Mannerism. 

Nicaragua 1974. Michelangelo. "The Creation". His work exerted tremendous influence on his contemporaries and on subsequent Western art in general. 

He was also one of the greatest Italian poets of his time. Although he was accomplished in a number of different art forms, he regarded himself as primarily a sculptor in marble. 

  • Above:  The Vatican 1970.  Fragments of the frescoe "The Creation" from the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel.
  • Left:  Nicaragua 1974.  The full frescoe (shown largely ovesized)
It is evident that Michelangelo's influence has been far reaching, and has inspired posterity. Take a close look at this stamp issued by France. The stamp has nothing to do with Michelangelo, but yet the choreographic art is clearly inspired by Michelangelo's painting "The Creation".
  • France 2002. L'Art Choreographique. 

France 2002. L'Art Choreographique (not Michelangelo).

Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, in the small village of Caprese, near Sansepolcro, but was essentially a Florentine, maintaining a deep attachment to Florence, its art, and its culture throughout his long life. He spent the greater part of his adulthood in Rome, in the employment of the popes.  However, he left instructions that he be buried in Florence, and his body was placed there in the church of Santa Croce. The tomb erected there was designed by his biographer Giorgio Vasari; it features allegories of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture mourning Michelangelo’s death. 

Michelangelo. The martyr St. Bartholomew. Frescoe in the Sistine Chapel, with Michelangelo's self-portrait in the place of the saint.

Manama 1972. The medieval artist Marucelli depicting Michelangelo being received by the Doge in Venice.

USSR 1975. Michelangelo. Self-Portrait.

  • Left:  Michelangelo was rather self-assertive.  In a travel guide to Rome and the Sistine Chapel I have found this intriguing self portrait, painted as a frescoe on the walls of The Sistine Chapel.  The frescoe shows the Martyr St. Bartholomew with his hide, and Michelangelo's face in the place of the martyr's.  The painting is said to illustrate Michelangelo's firm belief that suffering is vital for true faith.   
  • Middle:  Manama 1972.  The medieval artist Marucelli depicting Michelangelo being received by the Doge in Venice.

  • Right:  USSR 1975.  Michelangelo Self Portrait.  The stamp is a fragment of a souvenir sheet.  (Scan by Marc O'Keeffe, USA).  

In 1496, after spending a few months in Florence, Michelangelo went to Rome, where he was able to examine many newly unearthed Classical statues and ruins. He soon produced his first surviving large-scale sculpture, the over-life-size marble Bacchus (1496-1497, Bargello, Florence), bought by the banker Jacopo Galli. One of the few works of pagan rather than Christian subject matter that he executed, it was considered to rival ancient statuary, the highest mark of admiration in Renaissance Rome. 

Michelangelo consolidated his career with the Pietà (1498-1499, St Peter’s, Rome), commissioned by the French cardinal Jean Bilhières de Lagraulas. He summarized the sculptural innovations of his 15th-century predecessors while ushering in the new monumentality of the High Renaissance style of the 16th century. At the age of 25, he had already surpassed all other sculptors of the day. 

Grenada 1975. Head of Pieta-statue.

The youthful Mary is shown seated majestically, holding the dead Christ across her lap, a theme borrowed from northern European art. 

Instead of revealing extreme grief, Mary is restrained, and her expression is one of resignation. In this work, one of the most highly finished of all his sculptures, 

Monaco 2001. Michelangelo's first draft-sketch of Pieta.

In 1501, Michelangelo returned to Florence, where he was based until 1505. There he produced two free-standing sculptures, the Madonna and Child (1501-1505, Notre Dame, Bruges).  The major work of this period is the colossal (4.34 m/143 ft) marble David (1501-1504, Accademia, Florence). T he Old Testament hero is depicted as a lithe, naked youth, muscular and alert, looking into the distance as if sizing up the enemy Goliath, whom he has not yet encountered.  When sculpting this statue Michelangelo is quoted to have expressed that "When I saw this piece of marble, I knew immediately that David was inside.  My job would be to cut the excess marble away to reveal him".  

Monaco 2001. Michelangelo. David.

The statue, which symbolized the fortitude of the Florentine republic, originally stood in the Piazza della Signoria in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine town hall. (A copy now stands in the piazza.)  

The fiery intensity of David’s facial expression exemplifies the terribilità (emotional intensity) that is characteristic of many of Michelangelo’s figures and of his own personality, and the whole figure demonstrates his mastery of the male nude. 

Grenada 1975. Michelangelo. David.

USSR 1975. Michelangelo. David. USSR 1975. Michelangelo. Sitting Boy. USSR 1975. Michelangelo. Rebellious Slave. France 2003. Michelangelo. Rebellious Slave.

In 1505, Michelangelo was recalled to Rome by Pope Julius II to fulfill a commission to make a tomb for the pope. Having started on the project, Michelangelo left Rome for Florence and Bologna. 

The Vatican 1994. Souvenir sheet commemorating the completion of the restoration of the Sistine Chape. Michelangelo. "The Last Judgment".

On his return to Rome in 1508, the pope’s interest had turned to the new basilica of St Peter’s, and he ordered Michelangelo to abandon the tomb and start work on what was to be his most magnificent achievement, the frescos on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in St Peter’s, which he completed in 1512.  
  • The Vatican 1994. Souvenir sheet commemorating the completion of the restoration of the Sistine Chapel. "The Last Judgment". 

The Sistine Chapel owes its name to Pope Sixtus IV (1414-1484 and Pope since 1475). 

The Vatican 1998. Pope Sixtus IV, who gave name to The Sistine Chapel.

  • The Vatican 1998. Pope Sixtus IV. Scott # 1070).
The Vatican 1976. Air Post Stamp, 500 Lire. Michelangelo. Detail from "The Last Judgment". The Vatican 1976. Air Post Stamp, 1000 Lire. Michelangelo. Detail from "The Last Judgment". The Vatican 1976. Air Post Stamp, 2500 Lire. Michelangelo. Detail from  "The Last Judgment".

The vault of the papal chapel was decorated with an intricate scheme of five large and four small scenes from the Book of Genesis, beginning with God Separating Light from Darkness and including the Creation of Adam, the Creation of Eve, the Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Flood.  The simulated architecture painted around the smaller narratives is adorned by naked youths, who appear to represent a Neoplatonic ideal of human beings, while the sides of the vault contain the immense forms of prophets and sibyls, who were regarded as having foretold the coming of Christ. Together with further biblical scenes and figures on the edge of the ceiling, these frescos constitute one of the grandest and most harmonious creations of the High Renaissance. 

Ajman 1972. Michelangelo. "Fall and Expulsion".

Fall and Expulsion

Ajman 1972. Michelangelo. Head of Adam.

Head of Adam

Ajman 1972. Michelangelo. "Libyca".


Ajman 1972. Michelangelo. Head of the Delphica.

Head of the Delphica

Ajman 1972. Michelangelo. Christ and the Virgin.

Christ and the Virgin

Ajman 1972. Michelangelo. Head of Jeremiah.

Head of Jeremiah

Ajman 1972. Michelangelo. Isaiah.


Ajman 1972. Michelangelo. Head of God the Father.

Head of God the Father

During his long lifetime, Michelangelo was an intimate of princes and popes, from Lorenzo de’ Medici to Leo X, Clement VII, and Pius III, as well as cardinals, painters, and poets. Neither easy to get along with nor easy to understand, he expressed his view of himself and the world even more directly in his poetry than in the other arts. Much of his verse deals with art and the hardships he underwent, or with Neoplatonic philosophy and personal relationships. 

Italy 1975. Michelangelo. Madonna Pitti in Florence. Italy 1975. Michelangelo. Niche in the Vatican. Italy 1975. Michelangelo. "The Flood". Detail of a frescoe in the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo’s prestige has always been immense, and he exerted an enormous influence both on his contemporaries and on later generations of artists. The great Renaissance poet Ludovico Ariosto wrote of him: "Michael more than immortal, divine angel." During the 16th century in particular his muscular, twisted figure-types were constantly reused by Mannerist painters and sculptors. However, none of his followers matched the emotional intensity, or terribilità, that was a recurrent feature of his own work, giving him within his own lifetime the status of "il divino Michelangelo" ("the divine Michelangelo"). 

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