MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST
Many will remember him in art history lessons as one of the iconic Renaissance artists, together with Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael. But Michelangelo Buonarroti is now known and acclaimed by all for his enormous importance in general culture around the world.
Michelangelo was by nature a virtuoso, a real absolute Artist: his creativity and ingenuity had no limits of space or medium, in fact he was a fantastic sculptor in which we remember works such as Pietà and Il David which is the best known, but was also a renowned painter both at the time and now, as we can see by the large annual turnout of visitors to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, as well as a passionate scholar and writer of poems in addition.
Our Michelangelo was a total sensation.
And we cannot deny him that he did all this with an elegance and grace granted by few.
Of so many years spent in the name of art and imagination but also of all those vicissitudes that in Renaissance Florence made the profession of artist all more complex but also more interesting, including plots, spitefulness and more, the legacy of this fabulous and introverted character is full of anecdotes and curiosities that further enrich the exorbitant fame and notoriety that he already possesses.
Since sculpture was his true passion among the many artistic ramifications in which he delighted himself with, we start with his most famous sculptural work: Michelangelo’s David.
THE ORIGINS OF THE MOST FAMOUS STATUE IN THE WORLD
It is normal to wonder, in front of works of such splendor and technical and artistic skills, how these great artists, who were still human, were able to create these great masterpieces from raw marble or from white canvases.
But Michelangelo wanted to outdo himself. He did not want to remain in the ordinary and for granted, as everyone did. It wasn’t enough for him to be good, he wanted a higher recognition that he felt he deserved.
For this reason, on an ordinary day in 1501, while pondering his next sculptural work, he remembered the memory of a specific block of marble that had been rejected not by one but by two artists, left there incomplete and forgotten for more than 25 years.
And then he decided that that would be a challenge worth of his talent.
That marble had been discarded due to the poor quality of the material, after the artists Agostino Di Duccio and Antonio Rossellino who had previously worked on it, abandoned it after having barely sketched it in a human figure with an uneven profile.
But in his mind full of inventiveness and pride, the thought was strong that it was more a question of talent than of another nature, and that that block was waiting forsomeone who, like him, was able to work with anything and make it a work of unrivaled art.
And this is how in just three years, the young twenty-six year old Michelangelo created the David of biblical tradition in his most famous artistic representation.
It is not the first time, nor the last probably, that great works have been conceived not only by the creativity and genius of the artists, but also by their most human and mundane part which floods them with feelings such as insolence and spite.
If you are curious to know which other famous artists, in this case writers, got caught up in that feeling of retaliation giving life to their most acclaimed stories, click here to read the article about them! (maybe after having finished reading this, what do you say? I’m sure you will find this interesting too)
THE GREAT DAVID
Many have seen this well-known statue almost everywhere: at school in art lessons but also in advertising, in culture in general and even on social networks.
But only those who actually went to see it in Florence, where it is located in the Accademia Gallery, will find themselves with an unexpected surprise, at least for those who were not attentive to the details of the work.
In fact, what you will find before you is this:
Many made the understandable mistake of imagining the statue on a human scale because we were used to seeing it in the photos and illustrations without any reference of proportion that could make us guess those 5 meters high.
Yet the David rises like a column in his grandeur and perfection, while we stand at his feet feeling tiny in front of this “Giant”, the name with which the statue was called before Michelangelo took charge of it.
It’s all about location and perspective after all. And this is exactly what the next curiosity is about.
THE POINT OF VIEW COUNTS
He always was accurate both in physical than in structural details, Michelangelo did not miss anything. In fact, the term engineer could be attributed to him for the complexity that required calculating and evaluating the measurements of his works with respect to the observation point and dimensions, which he certainly did not forget with his David.
If we stop outside the Palazzo Vecchio where his copy is located and we position ourselves to observe it directly, we will realize that his body is not proportional. To which the doubt would assail us that there may have been an error of some kind in its realization, even if this greatly disagrees with what we have just said of our precise and meticulous artist.
This is just another of the ingenuities employed by Michelangelo, because the work was in fact created considering the area below it as the observer’s point of view, and therefore it will appear correctly only if viewed from below.
One of the many examples on the importance of perspective in art, so much so that many sculptors and painters dedicated part of their study to the area where the work would be placed and to the surrounding environment, evaluating instruments to improve and change the perspective according to their criterion and relevance, such as rotating platforms in order to facilitate a complete 360 degree view of the work, mirrors of light to create reflections on certain portions, and numerous other “tricks” of the trade.
It is now clear that Michelangelo is certainly not an unknown person, and his talent preceded him in his time in the streets of Rome and Florence of the Renaissance Italy; but even in the days closest to ours he did nothing but increase the echo of his notoriety, even to the point of becoming worldwide, which is not a small thing.
With so much fame, however, many inconveniences also arise. The VIPs of today can confirm this, harassed by the paparazzi and by the numerous fans who for one reason or another have become attached to them, some even to obsession.
And it is precisely because of one of his “fans”, or I should call him a fanatic at this point, that poor David, unaware of the fame of his creator, lost a part of his left toe, exported to him with a hammer in a furious and uncontrolled blow in the not so distant 1991.
The man responsible for this wicked gesture, had now fallen into a strong depression from which he did not know how to get out, nor he found reasons in his life to do it, and among the various psychotic crises he suffered from, he had grabbed onto the delusion of his artistic profession, being also a sculptor and painter just like our darling was, but whose career had resulted in a dark abyss of failures and bitterness.
In many parts his life resembles Arthur Fleck’s anonymous existence in the Oscar-winning film Joker (2019), where even here, schizophrenia had led him to reflect his personal and social frustrations in an irrational and impetuous envy towards all those successful authors who had lived his dream of being an artist, as was that of a comedian for the Joker masterfully played by Joaquin Phoenix.
The vision of the statue of David therefore acted as a catalyst, triggering in him a strong destructive crisis against the unaware work.
When he was stopped by the visitors and taken away by the security officers, in a declaration he found himself stating that the reason for his actions lay in the ambiguous and hidden nature of the statue, which was as sublime as malignant was the essence that hid inside. ” The David is too beautiful, it emits harmful flows ” (“il David è troppo bello, emana flussi dannosi“) he commented among other things in his alienated dialogue.
These were his revealing words, presumably dictated by his psychic condition, but which certainly leaves us with a curious anecdote to reflect on.
Although Michelangelo was a very versatile virtuoso in several of the art forms common at the time, it can be said that painting was the one that least cheered his days, but that for the irony of life it was also the one that most people required him to perform like illustrious patrons and court men who commissioned him the works to be carried out.
Among the many masterpieces, we can all agree that his greatest achievement was that achieved in the Sistine Chapel, that is, that of the Last Judgment, and we will now talk of the peculiar events surrounding this work.
INTRIGUES AND BICKERING AT THE PAPAL COURT
It is as strange and fascinating how, by watching the wall so beautifully painted in the Sistine Chapel and all those innocent and heavenly reported figures, the physical evidence of the artist and his life is not still enough to let alone imagine all the stories they hide behind and that often don’t even have to do with art at all.
We must therefore thank the historians of the time such as Giorgio Vasari and all those who worked to transcribe the vicissitudes that happened behind the artistic scenarios and that documented all the human and power situations that could not be leaked from the brushstrokes although so exceptionally performed by the artists.
It is in fact known that the Last Judgment was a work that brought much resentment in the life of our artist and now I will explain why.
Let’s start immediately with the fact that Michelangelo did not want to carry out this commission of Pope Julius II della Rovere from the beginning, both because he did not love painting too much, and because at that time he had already been assigned the task of building the tomb of the Pope himself, a colossal sculptural project as well, full of difficulties of execution and techniques as well as full of gossip and criticisms related to the rumors about the Pope’s alleged favoritism towards such ayoung artist who had been entrusted with such a great and important work.
Michelangelo, however, did not think too much of it, and thanks to the new though arduous prospects of working on a project dedicated to sculpture his main passion, he had drawn an unusual inspiration and joy, which is rare given his habitual grump mood.
Unfortunately, as was to be expected, many of his colleagues who already trembled with anger and envy during the preparation of the composition, did everything to prevent and hinder the actual realization of the project, so much so as to get to manipulate the Pope himself in making him to believe that the construction of his tomb at that moment when the pontiff’s visions of power in raising his figure and greatness were manifold, and therefore it was not very recommendable.
So Michelangelo soon found himself with an unexpectedly interrupted project after so much work and dedication and a disillusioned Pope who was not inclined to change his mind in order not to “jinx” the years of flourishing life that remained, preparing his death in advance.
Although Giulio della Rovere had no intention of rejecting Michelangelo and still wanted to take advantage of his wonderful talent for other projects, the atmosphere at that time was so tense because of the other court artists who subvert and undermined his fame and person, hefound himself taking advantage of the situation by fleeing from Rome so as not to submit to the malicious superficiality and the shady games that did not match with his professional and art master value, not to mention the great disappointment for the illustrious rip-off on the Papal Tomb remained incomplete, an artistic boulder that will weigh on him until the end of his days.
But being one of the most contested characters on the artistic scene also meant that you couldn’t simply “go” to Florence and live the peaceful life as if nothing had happened, especially having left a Pope with a bruised pride in Rome, irritated by his escape and with the increasingly determined intention of making Michelangelo the successful springboard for his papal career certainly remembered in the years to come.
And this reaction was to be expected, after all his nickname was “The Terrible Pope” and he had earned it for a reason.
Julius II of the Rovere family, the Pope considered by all as the founder of the Vatican museums, was an individual with a remarkable intellect and cunning, who after having been deceived by the rival of the Borgia family to become pontiff, he managed to get himself elected after his death, ingratiating himself with false promises to the same members of the opposing family and then fooling them all into a shrewd and ruthless strategy once he had the much desired power.
Characteristic of many members of the clergy and popes of the Renaissance era was that of dedicating themselves to the world of art as a symbol of wealth and social status of which the Church was sovereign, and Julius II Della Rovere was a well-known patron given that he also sensed that the splendor and magnificence that the Vatican exhibited in its basilicas and chapels was a symbol of its supremacy and power.
Because of this he chose very carefully the artists who would represent the Vatican power, and Michelangelo was one of the chosen ones given his artistic superiority and recognition obtained also thanks to the Medici family, his sponsors and habitual patrons with whom he had a turbulent but close relationship.
THE HARD LIFE OF AN ARTIST
It is true that if we think of an artist, painter, sculptor or other, and we are not very familiar with everything related to the daily life of these professions, we would probably fall into certain naivety such as that of believing that the figure of a painter, for example, consist of merely recreation on the canvas in a comfortable and well-lit studio, motivated by constant inspiration.
However, reality is far from this.
Because for everything that needs effort, and in particular creative stuff, one finds oneself most of the time immersed in problems and difficulties that make the passion of little consolation, this in case it is even present and not suffocated by continuous discomfort and stress of the situation.
And for our Michelangelo this was further increased by his lack of affinity for painting and the bad conditions in which he had to carry out his already so unrewarding work.
Nobody would have liked to paint with their back on a rigid wooden board for hours on end, lying in a position far from being pleasant and with the painting, that was also toxic, who was dripping on their face.
His mood and state of health worsened hand in hand, and the uncomfortable nature of his forced artistic collaboration had done nothing but anger him more and more every day, and not being able to bring out these frustrations openly, he held back this hatred inside if not for a few confidants, to whom he wrote his resentments in the form of sonnets in which he expressed all his irritated soul.
One of the most amusing and well-known is Michelangelo’s sonnet dedicated to Giovanni Da Pistoia, a complaint dedicated precisely to the conditions of his work in the Sistine Chapel, all imbued with a completely understandable blaming irony, to which it is inevitable to feel an empathy towards the poor artist in reading it.
(...) My painting is dead defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor, I'm not in the right place, nor a painter.
A completely singular comic self-portrait, which also denotes in the last sentence the fact that he considered himself a sculptor of nature and not a painter as fame “painted” him.
In this regard, in the Last Judgment, an enormous fresco representing the subdivision of the saints, angels and Jesus in Heaven and then descending to Hell with other famous people, as if the existing Christian symbolism was not enough, there are also many references purely personal that our author wanted to add for fun and pleasure but also for spite, let’s say it.
THE CELESTIAL POSTERIOR
Perhaps you have noticed this if you have observed the figures of Genesis with attention in the details.
In fact, placed in the part dedicated to the representation of the Creation of the Sun and the Moon, God shows among the drapes another type of… moon. And after all we know about our dear and eccentric artist, we can be pretty sure it was on purpose. Out of spite, out of personal enjoyment? We will never know.
It must be specified, however, that Michelangelo was a very devoted Christian and certainly did not do it to offend or perjust the divine figure, (it is known that he thought his art was inspired by God himself, so the opposite is unlikely) but that it was more a personal matter of payback against most of the Popes, clerics and court artists and their hypocrisy which often turned into a censorship of art, in particular of his.
In fact, the entire Last Judgment, made up of nudes, had to be modified to cover with drapery and robes the figures considered too vulgar for its function in a chapel, to then be restored most of them on a more recent date.
A DIVINE BRAIN
In his wide range of interests, being a curious and studious person of every human and artistic aspect, also in science he found its charm, especially in the discovery of new aspects that could not otherwise be grasped by the traditionalist and conservative vision. This is why, like Leonardo Da Vinci and many others, he became passionate about the study on the dissection ofthe bodies, a fundamental part for the absolute knowledge of the human body and its anatomy for the complete and truthful representation of the figures that these artists then depicted in the frescoes and sculptures.
And that’s why art critics have identified something interesting in the famous scene of the man who touches the finger of God with his arm outstretched and on a cloth, or this was what we believed it was. Apparently this cloth behind actually seem to be a human brain.
This surely only irritated the members of the clergy and the other obscurantist artists, who saw in the act of dissection and consequently in science in general, a potential danger for the Faith, because with knowledge came education and therefore loss of that dogmatic control of the ignorant masses which was so convenient for the State of the Church to maintain social and therefore economic power.
EVERYONE IN THE GYM
One thing that modern critics have always reproached him is that, despite the great artistic prodigy that was Michelangelo in recreating the human physiognomy in the statues, in painting this was sometimes lost in an “exuberance” of the musculature. Do you know what I’m referring to?
Everyone seems to come out of an intensive gym session, and let’s face it, not all about exercise, even a little on steroids.
But the curious thing is that everyone is like this, and with this I mean everyone. Not only men seem extremely “buff“, but women too are, totally disproportionate in their anatomy.
Certainly the absence of interest in the body of women is evident, at least not comparable to the marked propensity and admiration for the male anatomy, and we can all guess why from his social and private life, but it is certain that, as an artist, he could commit himself a little more in representing the female gender instead of painting men with more protruding breasts as if this made the big difference, don’t you think?
LOVE HAS NO LIMITS
About what was said in the previous curiosity, it is known that the artist’s homosexual preference inevitably poured into his works (as indeed has happened in the works of many artists in their heterosexual counterpart for centuries, only that this is more stigmatized and underlined with the intent of denigrate the affirmation of this sexual affinity that has always been there but that people always wanted to hide)
and also in the Sistine Chapel, a place where in the superficiality of the social image they were proudly homophobic, but which in reality was the scene of depravity worthy of the repulsion that they so much stimulated in homosexuality, we can find curious references.
In fact, in the final wall where the Last Judgment is found, there are two gay men in the place where Michelangelo and all of us consider it right to find them: Heaven.
Clear message from the artist on the narrow vision of the Church in this topic, which for the record has always denied this interpretation, recognizing in these two figures a heated happiness but not of an affectional nature. Obviously.
IN YOUR FACE, BIAGIO
As if he did not already have had enough of almost completely painting this monumental work of art alone in those uncomfortable positions and in addition to the poisoning he was getting thanks to the colors that dripped on his face, one day the gentleman Biagio di Cesena had to come, he was a pontifical master of ceremonies, to judge the work that Michelangelo was carrying out up to that moment.
He probably covered his face with theatrical horror, I imagine, in observing so many nudes on the wall of the Chapel without any celestial veil magically suspended to cover them.
So he immediately launched himself to the Pope, who was Pope Paul III at the time, to complain that the Last Judgment was so full of shameless nudes, affirming with a distressing and contemptuous air, that more than in the Chapel it had to stay in a tavern.
Michelangelo did not wait long before dedicating a portrait to his new fan, precisely in the work he was painting.
He depicted him in place of the character of Minos, with a nice snake bite in the family jewels as a dedication, and nice donkey ears that framed Biagio di Cesena’s face to perfection, to which Michelangelo took care to paint scrupulously.
He had earned a place in Michelangelo’s personal hell.
When Biagio di Cesena saw this, he went to accuse him and to protest again to Paul III, but he, seeing him, shrewdly commented that Hell was unfortunately not his jurisdiction and therefore he could do nothing.
” If he put you in Purgatory, I would do anything to get you up, but in Hell I can’t do anything “
(“Se t’avesse messo nel Purgatorio, farei di tutto per levarti, ma nell’Inferno non posso fare nulla”)
cit. Pope Paul III
Precious quote reported by Giorgio Vasari, the historian and painter who was a bit of the Renaissance Gossip Girl, the friendly neighborhood drama lover, if you will.
Certainly his services have been very useful for us to get this great and comical comment up to our times, which certainly leaves us with some laughter at the thought of Biagio’s outraged reaction upon hearing the Pope’s response.
THE MICHELANGELO PHENOMENON
The so-called “Michelangelo phenomenon” was born in psychology as the social process for which in a couple, the members of the romantic relationship positively influence and therefore somehow “sculpt” their partners according to their own ideal that they encourage and inspire through continuous positive behavior towards each other.
A bit like when we try to bring out the best in others by looking for moments and opportunities to compliment and stimulate them so that they can prove to be the excellent people they are.
A very useful tool, and apparently also widely used in successful marital relationships, as these perceptual and behavioral affirmation techniques cause the other person to start changing their being according to that precise ideal that with so much care and attention their partner shows them to be every day, managing to improve both personally and emotionally thanks to the good feelings of approval and support that they have exchanged, and which characterize healthy and long-lasting couple relationships.
So what does our Michelangelo haveto do with marriage therapy?
As I have already suggested at the beginning, the act of sculpting one’s partner has been reconnected as a metaphor to one of the most famous quotes of the renowned sculptor, which, however, in reality has been erroneously attributed to him as there are no testimonials or documents attesting that the full quote really belonged to him, but we can assume that perhaps the concept itself was his.
” I saw an angel in marble and I sculpted to free him”
“Ho visto un angelo nel marmo e ho scolpito fino a liberarlo”
Whatever the story, it is still a beautiful iconic phrase that lives up to our Divine (called Il Divino in italian).
As a curious note, the opposite effect to the Michelangelo phenomenon is defined as the Blueberry phenomenon, which therefore instead of going to increase the self-esteem and personal growth of the life partner, the partners instigate the worst version in each other, denigrating and tormenting them at every opportunity.
For some reason, blueberry was chosen to symbolize this unhealthy couple relationship.
And here ends our artistic window on the curiosities of the life of Michelangelo Buonarroti, a man with a contemptuous and proud soul of whom no one could help but envy and admire.
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MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST MICHELANGELO THE DIVINE: 12 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF THE ARTIST