While Michelangelo Buonarotti did exhibit certain aspects of the “artists' temperament”, he was not the tortured soul that Caravaggio was. He was and remains the product of the Renaissance, who labored to portray the sublime, the heroic, larger than life luminaries in accordance with classical tradition. And he lived to a ripe old age perfecting his vision and his art.
Michelangelo was born in Caprese, Italy, around 100 km east of Florence. (Notwithstanding its name, the delicious salad of buffalo tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, the Caprese salad, or salad in the style of Capri does not share Michelangelo’s roots.) His father Ludovico was a minor government official at the time of Michelangelo’s birth although he claimed being a descendant of the countess, Mathilde of Canossa. The family moved to Florence shortly after his birth where his mother died when he was only 6 years old.
When I first viewed the Pieta, many, many years ago, I saw it "in the flesh", so to speak. These days one views this through a thick pane of bullet proof glass.
Returning to Florence after the execution of Savonarola, Michelangelo executed his statue of David, a personification of Florentine freedom, from a block of Carrarra marble. This statue stood in the Piazza della Signoria but is now in the Academia Gallery in Florence, with a replica gracing the Piazza.
Seeing this majestic, massive statue of an unclothed perfect specimen of the male species made me understand why this was considered by many as Michelangelo's best work. The perfect, the sublime in true classical fashion, must have been too much for one deranged man who reportedly attacked the statue with a hammer, managing to damage some of the toes before he was subdued.
Michelangelo's long relationship with Pope Julius II (the subject of the movie, The Agony and the Ecstasy), was to result in the statue of Moses found today in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli.
A story goes, as told to me by my Jesuit uncle, that after Michelangelo completed the statue, he took his hammer and hit Moses knees and said "now speak!"
No matter how many times you've seen the Sistine Chapel, in real life, reel and or real time, it will not fail to take your breath away, and so it was with me, squeezed in-between wall to wall tourists. Amidst the "oohs and ahhs" and the clicking of cameras (despite a prominent no picture taking sign at the entrance and smaller similar signs in and around the chapel), I sat upon the benches available along the walls and just sat there oblivious to the people around me. It is difficult looking up at the ceiling, but identifying some iconic portions of this painting was not hard to do. (By the way, I did not take a picture while inside the Chapel, all the pictures here are from a book, The Sistine Chapel by Antonio Paolucci, I purchased at the gift shop)
|The Creation of Man|