Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, poet and architect, born in Caprese, a town in Italy, in 1475. His full name was Michelangelo Buonarotti. Many people, including Popes, kings and princes hired him to do their work. They actually begged for the honor of having work done by his hand. The contents of his poetry were particularly religious, but he felt himself to be first of all a sculptor. His father was a public official in Florence. It was the custom then for babies to be entrusted to the care of a nurse. Michelangelo’s nurse was the wife of a stonemason.
When Michelangelo was thirteen years of age, he was apprenticed (sent as a pupil) to the Ghirlandaio brothers, who were famous artists. It was in their studio that the boy painted his first picture. At the age of fifteen, his early sculptures were brought to the attention of Lorenzo de’ Medici, who was a noted patron of art and practically, the ruler of Florence.
Michelangelo was invited to live in Lorenzo’s house where he was afforded the opportunity to become acquainted with the leading men of literature and art. He lived there for two years, until the death of Lorenzo.
In 1496, Michelangelo visited Rome where he stayed for five years. It was during this period that he created the Pieta in St. Peter’s Church. It immediately brought him fame as the greatest sculptor of his day. The Pieta is a sculptor of the dead Jesus in the arms of a sorrowful mother, Mary, mourning at the foot of the cross.
Michelangelo returned to Florence where he was commissioned to carve a huge statue, 18 feet high, from a single block of marble. It was in commemoration of a military victory of the city. It was a statue of David from the Biblical story in which David slew the giant, Goliath. From that time, he continued to draw on his vivid imagination without any interruption.
In 1508, Michelangelo began what was considered to be his greatest work of painting. He was commissioned by Pope Julius II to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and finished this piece of colossal work within four years, without any help.
He completed the painting a large part of the time, by lying on his back on the scaffolding. The painting was elaborate. It demonstrated scenes from the Bible, such as the Creation, the fall of man, the deluge, and a number of other subjects.
After the death of Julius II, Michelangelo carved a great status of Moses. It was considered to be one of his most famous sculptures, for the Pope’s tomb. When he was sixty years old, another Pope, Paul III, commissioned him to continue to paint more frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. It covered the entire alter wall, and was called The Last Judgment. It contained more than a hundred figures, all larger than life.
The last years of Michelangelo’s life were dedicated to architecture. In 1546, he was appointed chief architect of St. Peter’s Church in Rome. He designed the dome of the church, a project for which he took no pay, believing it to be his duty to devote himself to the church. He died in 1564.