Great Italian Artists



Michelangelo di Ludovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) was the great Italian artist known simply as 'Michelangelo.' 
Let's investigate!  If you look carefully at the names you will see a 'secret code' that tells you that Ludovico was his father, Leonardo was his grandfather, Buonarrota was his great grandfather and Simone was his great great grandfather!


Michelangelo was born in the Tuscan village of Caprese on 6th. March, 1475.  He was the second of five sons.  His mother was Francesca.  His father, Ludovico, was the magistrate of the village and the family considered themselves to be upper-class. The house where he was born and lived for the first months of his life is known as Il Palazzo della Podestà (The Magistrate's Residence.)  Below is a photo of that house.

Michelangelo''s birthplace

 A few months after Michelangelo's birth, the family moved to Florence and for much of the time a nurse looked after the young Michelangelo at her house.  The nurse was the wife of a stonemason.  It is probable that this early contact with stone and marble influenced his love of sculpture.

When Michelangelo was six years old, his mother died - leaving her husband with a large family to look after. 

At first, Michelangelo's father did not really encourage his son's artistic talent.  In the 15th Century, artists were considered working-class.  Nevertheless, at the age of thirteen, Michelangelo became the apprentice of painter Domenico Ghirlandaio.  This apprenticeship lasted for a year. 

In Florence at that time, the city was ruled by the Medici Family.  Lorenzo de' Medici (known in Italian as Lorenzo il Magnifico) was a great lover of art and he kept classical Greek and Roman statues in his garden.  He invited Michelangelo to visit the garden of the Medici home on a regular basis.  It was here that Michelangelo received tuition from the sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni. 
Below is a photo of the palace of the Medici Family and a statue depicting Lorenzo de'Medici.

Lorenzo de'' MediciPalazzo of Medici family

Michelangelo created wonderful paintings and sculptures. His two most famous statues are 'David' and 'La Pietà.'  (Below.)

Statue of DavidLa Pieta

His most famous paintings are on the altar wall and ceiling inside the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican in Rome.  The Sistine Chapel is named after Pope Sisto IV (picture below) who arranged for various artists to paint the chapel walls between 1481 and 1483.  The method of painting on a wall is called 'fresco' - meaning 'fresh' because the paint is applied to fresh plaster whilst it is still wet on the wall.  In Italian it is called 'affresco.'

Pope Sixtus IV
(Pope Sisto IV.  The Sistine Chapel is named after him.)

However, it was in 1508, at the request of Pope Julius II, that Michelangelo contributed to the painting of the chapel by painting its ceiling.  Below is a picture of Pope Julius II.

In 1512, the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was complete and was revealed for the first time. (Below.)

 Sistine Chapel

Most of the ceiling depicts stories from the Old Testament of The Bible.  One of the most famous parts of the ceiling is called 'The Creation of Adam', (below.)  In Italian it is called La Creazione di Adamo.

The Creation of Adam (Sistine Chapel)

The ceiling is 20 metres high above the floor.  Michelangelo constructed a scaffold to reach it and it is known that he worked in a very uncomfortable position with his head looking upwards.  In fact, Michelangelo was also a poet and he wrote an amusing poem about the discomfort in painting the ceiling -

Here like a cat in a Lombardy sewer! Swelter and toil!
With my neck puffed out like a pigeon,
tummy hanging like an empty sack,
beard pointing at the ceiling,
and my brain fallen backwards in my head!
Breastbone bulging like a harpy eagle
and my face, from drips and droplets (of paint),
patterned like a marble pavement.
Ribs are poking into my stomach; the only way to balance my shoulders is to stick my bottom out.
I don't know where my feet are -they're just dancing by themselves!
In front, I've sagged and stretched; behind, my back is tauter than an archer's bow!

Between 1536 and 1541, Michelangelo painted the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel.  This painting is known as 'The Last Judgement.'  In Italian it is called 'Il Giudizio Universale.'

In 1546, Michelangelo designed the dome of St. Peter's Basilica (part of the Vatican) in Rome.  (Below.)

St. Peter''s dome, Vatican
To read a fun story about the dome, click HERE.

  An interesting note:- Michelangelo was left-handed!  The Italian word for 'left-handed' is mancino.

He never married and he had no children.  He died in Rome on 18th February, 1564, just a few weeks before his eighty-ninth birthday.  His last wish was to be buried in his home town of Florence and his tomb (below) can be seen there in the Basilica di Santa Croce.

Michelangelo''s tomb

Grazie Michelangelo! 
Thank you so much, Michelangelo, for spending your life creating such wonderful art for us to enjoy!  Your work will be forever precious.
  Grazie mille!


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