Michelangelo’s Florentine Works
1. According to Vasari, Michelangelo received his talents “directly from god who graciously looked down at earth and decided to have Michelangelo born a Florentine to perfect the Florentine tradition.”
a. His praise was historical view, but also a new view of “genius.”
b. He was regarded in his lifetime on a different level than normal human beings
2. Vasari conceded that Michelangelo was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio
3. Michelangelo made many copies of Masaccio’s and Donatello’s works.
4. Michelangelo lived almost 90 years. He never married. He remained in close contact w his family whom he frequently supported.
5. @ 14, he came under the protection of Lorenzo de Medici. He lived and studied in Lorenzo’s palace and his gardens. Amid Lorenzo’s collection of antique sculptures, conversations of humanism, and instruction of older artists, Michelangelo found himself in a sort of academy for aspiring artists.
6. One of his early works is his relief, Madonna della Scala (of the stairs).
a. He was 16 when he carved this.
b. The low relief carving was inspired by Donatello’s St. George and the Dragon in Orsanmichele. Remember that Donatello had invented this method.
c. Madonna fills the height of the panel. She also seems to anticipate the prophets that Michelangelo painted in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
d. It has been suggested that the baby Jesus is not actually suckling but rather sleeping. If you interpret it this way, then perhaps Michelangelo was trying to hint at the ultimate death of the baby.
e. The shallow stairs might also have symbolic meaning… might represent the ladder that was placed next to the cross to bring down the body. Might also represent the idea that Madonna is a stairway to heaven.
f. She sits on a solid block… this might represent the “foundation block.”
7. Michelangelo was given a wet nurse when he was an infant… she came from a family of stone cutters, and later Michelangelo would say that he gained the skill of sculpting from his wet nurse.
8. Bacchus, Museo del Bargello
a. Carved between 1496-1498.
b. Very flashy figure of bacchus, the god of wine and fertility. He is often depicted a soft and fleshy (representing sensual indulgence in contrast to rational control of god Apollo).
c. Bacchus looks “tipsy.” This way of portraying the bacchus is new.
d. This figure is associated with various rituals.
e. Here he is accompanied by a faun at the lower right, behind him. Interestingly, the faun is carved from the same piece of marble and acts as a support for balance.
f. On the right hand, bacchus holds a cup. On the left, he is holding animal skin, probably from a leopard. In this wrap there are grapes… suggests life and death.
g. Michelangelo truly had a gift for sculpting. He studied with no significant sculptor.
9. Pieta, Saint Peter’s
a. Carved for a chapel in St. Peter’s
b. Commissioned by French cardinal and ambassador to Rome for his personal burial chapel. This chapel was later destroyed to construct new basilica. The pieta was moved to another chapel.
c. The theme of mary supporting her death son originated in northern Europe and spread to Italy. Northern examples tended to emphasize the anguish and suffering of Mary.
d. Michelangelo used this theme but created a very classical piece.
e. It possesses a sense of serenity and nobility.
f. This is his first great religious sculpture.
g. If you look at the Madonna, you see the delicate details of her face, body, and clothes.
h. This is his only signed work…. The story is that he was at the chapel looking at his completed work and someone came in and asked “who did that?” and someone else responded that it was some artist in Gubio and not Michelangelo… so Michelangelo decided to sign it.
i. The youthfulness of Mary is also interesting… Michelangelo’s reasoning was that chaste women always kept their “freshness” longer and that the Virgin Mary’s flower of youth was preserved because of her chastity.