Michelangelo Buonarroti

1475-1564. One of the greatest artists of Western culture, he was a genius in nearly every medium of art. His work marked the culmination of the Renaissance and a transition to the new age of baroque and mannerism. Son of a minor Italian nobleman, he studied under the Ghirlandaio brothers and at the Medici palace, where he was influenced by Neoplatonic thought. He worked in several Italian cities before settling permanently in Rome (1534). He was an example of the Renaissance universal man, for in addition to his sculpture, painting, architecture, and drawing he also wrote lyric poetry. Deeply affected by Savonarola,* he lived an austere life and was given to melancholy, brooding and apprehensive presentiments.

Despite widespread acclaim for his painting, he preferred to think of himself as a sculptor and he produced the Madonna Seated on a Step; Battle of the Centaurs; St. John in the Wilderness; Pietà; Christ the Risen Savior; David; and Moses. His paintings include the great cartoon of The Battle of Pisa He worked for Popes Julius II, Leo X, Clement VIII, and Paul III. The frescoes in the Sistine Chapel took many years to complete (1508-12, 1535- 41) and depict the story of the coming of Christ as envisioned by prophets and sibyls in scenes from Genesis, including the ancestors of Christ and the Last Judgment. The work on the ceiling alone covered over 10,000 square feet of surface and included hundreds of figures, some of them twelve feet high. As an architect he completed the memorial chapel for the Medici family and the façade of San Lorenzo and was put in charge of the fortification of Florence (1629). His greatest structural achievement was St. Peter's in Rome. He reworked all the designs of his predecessors and supervised the construction of the supports and the lower sections of the giant dome, although he did not live to see the work finished.

E. Steinman and R. Wittkower, Michelangelo Bibliographie (1927); C. de Tolnay, Michelangelo (6 vols., 1943- ); G. Vasari, The Lives of the Artists (ed. B. Burroughs, 1946).