Michelangelo Buonarroti, popularly known as Michelangelo or Il Divino, is widely regarded as one of the best products of the Italian renaissance. Not only is he a painter, but he is also a sculptor, an architect, and surprisingly, a poet. Here are some interesting facts about this multi-talented Italian:
1. He created two stunning sculptures: the Pieta and David.
When Michelangelo was 25 years old, he was commissioned to do the Pieta, a sculpture of Mother Mary cradling the dead Jesus on her lap. Initially designed for a cardinal’s tomb, Pieta was moved several times before it found its permanent home at St. Peter’s Basilica.
From 1501 to 1504, he took over a sculpture that was abandoned by two designers. It would later become the sculpture David, which is known for its humane expression and nakedness. Initially made for the Cathedral of Florence, it has been moved 500 meters away to its present home that is the Accademia Gallery.
2. Michelangelo labored over the Sistine Chapel paintings for four years.
Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to embellish the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. An interesting fact about Michelangelo is that he did so for four years, mainly because he fired his assistants who he thought were incapable of doing impeccable work.
The 65-foot marvel highlights 300 beautifully-drawn figures – a vast multiplication of the 12 apostles that were supposed to be featured on the ceiling. One of the ceiling’s highlights is the “Creation of Adam,” which is known to many as the image of God reaching out to a man.
Another popular Michelangelo masterpiece is the “Last Judgment,” which adorns the Sistine’s far wall. The nude paintings were initially criticized, and Michelangelo answered back in the best way he knew how – he painted himself as St. Bartholomew while he portrayed his critic as the devil, an interesting Michelangelo fact.
3. Il Divino created Moses, the famous figure found in the tomb of Pope Julius II.
A beacon of artistic talent, Michelangelo designed many beautiful structures that stand until today. One such example is the tomb of Pope Julius II, which can now be found at the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli. This was a reduced scale of what he envisioned it would be, however, it remains as majestic with the figure of Moses adorning the funerary monument.
4. He worked on two projects for the Medicis, namely the Medici Chapel and the Laurentian Library.
The noble Medicis were supporters of science and the arts. Seeing Michelangelo’s talent, the patriarch Lorenzo de Medici took the then-young painter under his wing. This relationship would later lead to the creation of two of Michelangelo’s architectural achievements.
One of Michelangelo’s early design works is the Sagrestia Nuova, which can be found in the Medici Chapel in Florence, Italy. He made most of Sagrestia Nuova’s sculptures, however, he left them without finishing the project. It was Niccolo Tribolo who affixed them to the position they sit today.
Michelangelo’s other Medici project was the Laurentian Library, which is located on the premises of the Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze. Also known as the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, it houses 4,500 ancient books as well as 11,000 manuscripts. While it was Tribolo, Ammannati, and Vasari who completed the building, they did so by following Michelangelo’s layouts and instructions.
5. Michelangelo was forced to become the campomaestro (chief architect) of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Basilica’s rebuilding started in 1506 with the winning design of Donato Bramante. He was then replaced by several other architects, who either died or were replaced with the coming of a new pope. It was in 1547 when the 71-year-old Michelangelo was finally named the campomaestro by Pope Paul III. It was not out of the goodness of his heart for he was forced by Pope after his first and second choices both declined, an interesting fact about Michelangelo. Despite this, he worked excellently. For this, he is etched in history as the primary designer of the large part of the Basilica that still stands today.
6. His poetry supposedly revealed his sexuality.
Rumors of Michelangelo being gay abound. While it has not been proven, there could be some truth to it, especially if you examine his 300+ literary works closely. One such example is a long sequence dedicated to Tommaso dei Cavalieri, who remained devoted to Michelangelo until his death.
Later on, Michelangelo wrote 48 funeral epigrams in memory of the young Cecchino dei Bracci. He also wrote poems for Febo di Poggio and Gherardo Perini, who sadly extorted and stole from him.
In his old age, he developed affection towards Vittoria Colonna, a fellow poet. From this relationship came religious sonnets that they wrote for one another right until Colonna died.
7. Il Divino had quite the personality.
Michelangelo is undoubtedly talented, however, he was said to possess quite a personality. He had a quick temper – he received a nose-disfiguring blow from a colleague he taunted. He was combative with his superiors and for this, he got into numerous troubles.
8. He had a rivalry with fellow artist Leonardo da Vinci.
Michelangelo and da Vinci’s rivalry started when they both were commissioned to create paintings for the Council Hall. The former was asked to draw the Battle of the Cascina, while the latter worked on the Battle of Anghiari.
According to Michelangelo’s autobiographer Giorgio Vasari, this was a contest – one that spurred hate and jealousy between the two masters. Da Vinci was said to be so irritated that he left Italy just to avoid Michelangelo.
9. Michelangelo is the first-ever Western artist to have a biography published while he was still alive.
Il Divino was so popular that many authors wrote about his life, an interesting Michelangelo fact. And since he lived a long life, he was able to read most of the excerpts. His most prolific autobiographer was Giorgio Vasari, who described the sculptor as “supreme in not one art, but all three.”
Michelangelo is the true embodiment of the Renaissance man. He gave all of his time and dedication to ensure the perfection of his masterpieces. With his talent for painting, sculpting, designing, and writing, it is no wonder that his breathtaking works continue to exist today.