Today is the birthday of Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, the Italian Renaissance mastermind who counts artworks like the Sistine Chapel ceiling, David and The Pietà amongst his various life achievements. The legendary artist would turn 538 years old if he were miraculously still alive today.
Michelangelo grew up in Florence in the late 15th century where he studied under Francesco da Urbino. He began making art at an early age, preferring to copy paintings from churches than focus on his early schoolwork, and soon found himself an artist under the patronage of the powerful Medici family. Primarily creating paintings and sculpture for the Catholic Church, he produced one of his best-known works, "The Pietà," in 1496, a work described by art historian Giorgio Vasari as "a revelation of all the potentialities and force of the art of sculpture." A little over a decade later, he finished his statue of David and was embarking on his massive masterpiece, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo died in Rome at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy as one of the original Renaissance men, with a reputation that rivaled Leonardo de Vinci. In honor of his birthday, we've put together a slideshow of 10 things you might not know about the great artist. Scroll through the slides below and let us know the first time you saw his artwork in the comments.
Michelangelo Experienced Early Success
Both the Pieta and the statue of David were sculpted before Michelangelo was 30 years old.
Raphael Convinced The Pope To Hire Michelangelo For The Sistine Chapel
The story goes that Raphael and Renaissance architect Donato Bramante convinced the pope to hire Michelangelo to work in a medium he was not used to -- painting. This was done so that Michelangelo would be compared to his rival, Raphael, who was at the time one of the most popular fresco painters. Modern historians are not too sure this account is accurate, but Vasari's bibliography on Michelangelo goes on to say that Raphael visited the chapel during the four-year painting process and painted over a portion of the Prophet Isaiah's face.
Michelangelo's Nickname Was "Il Divino"
Yes, his nickname was "Il Divino" or "the divine." That's how revered he was during his lifetime. IMAGE: Portrait of Michelangelo by Jacopino del Conte (after 1535) at the age of 60.
Michelangelo Wrote Erotic Poetry
Not only was Michelangelo an acclaimed painter, sculptor and architect, but he was also a poet, who wrote over 300 sonnets and madrigals. Here's an example of some of his more sexualized poetry: "<a href="http://www.michelangelo-gallery.org/biography.html">The flesh now earth, and here my bones, Bereft of handsome eyes, and jaunty air, Still loyal are to him I joyed in bed, Whom I embraced, in whom my soul now lives.</a>" IMAGE: Raphael, Portrait of Michelnagelo as Heraclitus, The School of Athens, 1510–11
Michelangelo Was Involved In A Bit Of Art Fraud During His Life
When Michelangelo sculpted the work "St. John the Baptist" for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, the banker and politician asked him to "fix it so that it looked as if it had been buried" so they could send it to Rome and pass it off as an ancient work of art. It was then sold to Cardinal Raffaele Riario, who realized the sculpture was not really an ancient artifact, but was so impressed by the details that he invited Michelangelo to come to Rome. IMAGE: Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra.
Michelangelo Aided The War Efforts During The Sack Of Florence
During the violence that broke out in 1527, when citizens of Florence threw out the Medici family, Michelangelo worked on the city's fortification from 1528 to 1529. The Medicis were finally restored in 1530. IMAGE: Michelangelo's The Last Judgment created between 1536 and 1541. Saint Bartholomew is shown holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. The face of the skin is recognizable as Michelangelo.
It Took Michelangelo 40 Years To Construct The Pope's Tomb
The Sistine Chapel may have taken four years to complete, but it took the artist 40 years to complete the Pope's Tomb, a work commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1505. The tomb features Michelangelo's famous statue of Moses, and is located in the Church of S. Pietro in Rome. IMAGE: Raphael (1483–1520), Pope Julius II, 1511–1512, oil on panel, 63 × 40 cm (24.8 × 15.7 in), National Gallery
Michelangelo Became The Architect Of St. Peter's Basilica At 74
At 74, Michelangelo became the architect of St. Peter's Basilica, taking over for Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. However, the structure was not finished until after Michelangelo's death.
Michelangelo's Works Were Often Censored
Remember the "fig-leaf campaign" of the Counter-Reformation, which sought to cover up all representations of human genitals in paintings and sculptures? Well, it started with Michelangelo's works. The marble statue of Cristo della Minerva was covered with added drapery (which remains today) and a box with a fig leaf was positioned behind the copy of the statue of David in the Cast Courts at London's V&A Museum, for any occasion when women were present. IMAGE: Christ the Redeemer, by Michelangelo. Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome.
Michelangelo Was The First Western Artist To Have His Biography Published While He Was Alive
In fact, two biographies were produced during his lifetime, one of them by the famed art historian, Giorgio Vasari, who believed that Michelangelo was the pinnacle of all artistic achievement during the Renaissance. IMAGE: A cover of the "Lives" by Giorgio Vasari.
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