Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, or as the world knows him as just Michelangelo is one of the successful and influential artists of all time, and undoubtedly had a significant impact on the development of Western art and culture. He was born in March 1475 in the village of Caprese, in Tuscany, Italy - named Arezzo, in the Republic of Florence at the time. Michelangelo had four brothers, and his mother became terminally ill when he was a small infant, his parents had no choice but to leave him with a wet nurse. The young Renaissance man ended up living with a family of stonecutters, which later on he speaks of how this influenced him to become a sculptor. At the age of six, in 1481, Michelangelo’s mother passed away.
From a very young age, he had no interest in school. Michelangelo was even sent to Florence to study under Francesco da Urbino, a Humanist, but would find a way of skipping class to observe and analyze paintings in churches, seeking the company of other painters. During this period, he saw frescos of the Early Renaissance and Late Medieval periods, like works by Giotto and Masaccio. In 1488, Michelangelo was working as Ghirlandaio’s apprentice, and after a year, the artist’s father pressed Ghirlandaio to pay a salary, which he agreed to - a rare situation since Michelangelo was only 14 years old. During the same year, at the request of the current ruler of Florence, Ghirlandaio sent his best students to work for Lorenzo de Medici.
The artist considered himself before anything else, a sculptor, although he was an astonishing painter, architect, and poet as well. Before he was able to make a name of himself, Michelangelo’s family was not supportive of his career choice, and after he became hugely successful, the artist would finish the letters to his family with “Sculptor in Rome” after signing. The artist was not always in a good place in his career, as he was not always under the wing of the Medici family, not to mention when Savonarola took over Medici’s spot as an authority in Florence in 1494, forcing Michelangelo to move temporarily.
At the age of twenty-one, the artist moved to the grandiose Rome, where he would complete his greatest masterpieces; like Pieta commissioned in 1497. Pope Julius II had a massive task for Michelangelo, as he commissioned for him to build his tomb which was composed of forty statues as well as the architectural aspect. During the same period, the Renaissance artist took in a second commission from the Pope - one he was not too enthusiastic about - the Sistine Chapel. Along with a team of artists, Michelangelo painted more than 500 square meters of ceiling in a great height, done in fresco - a challenging painting technique in which he did not entirely domain. Although there were many setbacks, the masterpiece was done in four years, from 1508 to 1512. Adam and Eve, The Creation of Adam, The Deluge, and The Cumaean Sibyl, are just a few examples of the breathtaking artworks seen in the Chapel.
Michelangelo was indeed a perfect archetype of the Renaissance man, even though he didn’t delve too much into other areas like his rival Leonardo da Vinci. One of the main marks of the Renaissance period was the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica, in Rome, especially the monumental dome, never seen before and designed by Michelangelo. Many artists followed in his footsteps, but as they copied and modified proportions, color palettes, and lighting, the Renaissance period had a decline so Mannerism could rise.