He is the best-documented artist of the 16th century.
Here is a list of Michelangelo's great works – and where to find them – in Rome and the Vatican City.
Sistine Chapel Frescoes
In order to see the incredible frescoes that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling and altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, we paid a visit to the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) in Vatican City. Michelangelo painstakingly worked on these incredible images of scenes from the Old Testament and The Last Judgment from 1508-1512. The Sistine Chapel is the highlight of the Vatican Museums and it is located at the end of the tour.
he Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508–12)
Michelangelo began painting with the later episodes in the narrative, the pictures including locational details and groups of figures, the Drunkenness of Noah being the first of this group. In the later compositions, painted after the initial scaffolding had been removed, Michelangelo made the figures larger. One of the central images, The Creation of Adam is one of the best known and most reproduced works in the history of art. The final panel, showing the Separation of Light from Darkness is the broadest in style and was painted in a single day.
As the model for the Creator, Michelangelo has depicted himself in the action of painting the ceiling.
The first group shows God creating the Heavens and the Earth.
The second group shows God creating the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and their disobedience of God and consequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden where they have lived and where they walked with God.
The third group of three pictures shows the plight of Humanity and in particular the family of Noah.
The three sections of Creation, Downfall, and Fate of Humanity appear in reverse order, when read from the entrance of the chapel. However, each individual scene is painted to be viewed when looking toward the altar.
However, the three sections are generally described in the order of Biblical
Detail of the Face of God
The scenes, from the altar toward the main door, are ordered as follows:
1. The Separation of Light and Darkness
2. The Creation of the Sun, Moon and Earth
3. The Separation of Land and Water
4. The Creation of Adam
5. The Creation of Eve
6. The Temptation and Expulsion
7. The Sacrifice of Noah
8. The Great Flood
9. The Drunkenness of Noah
Of the first scene ! Michelangelo depicted God dividing Light from Darkness, showing him in all his majesty as he rests self-sustained with arms outstretched, in a revelation of love and creative power."
Adam and Eve
This famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her dying son in her arms is one of Michelangelo's most tender and refined works and it is located in Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Michelangelo completed this sculpture in 1499 and it is a masterpiece of Renaissance art. Due to past attempts to vandalize the sculpture, the Pieta is located behind glass in a chapel to the right of the basilica entrance.
|St Peter's Basilica|
He sculpted two of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, before the age of thirty. Despite holding a low opinion of painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall.
|St Peter's Basilica|
|St Peter's Basilica|
At the age of 74, he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter's Basilica. Michelangelo transformed the plan so that the western end was finished to his design, as was the dome, with some modification, after his death.
In the year 1506, Pope Julius conceived a program to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The walls of the chapel had been decorated twenty years earlier. The lowest of three levels is painted to resemble draped hangings and was (and sometimes still is) hung on special occasions with the set of tapestries designed by Raphael. The middle level contains a complex scheme of frescoes illustrating the Life of Christ on the right side and the Life of Moses on the left side. It was carried out by some of the most renowned Renaissance painters.
The upper level of the walls contains the windows, between which are painted pairs of illusionistic niches with representations of the first thirty-two popes. A draft by Matteo d'Amelia indicates that the ceiling was painted blue like that of the Arena Chapel and decorated with gold stars, possibly representing the zodiacal constellations. It is probable that, because the chapel was the site of regular meetings and Masses of an elite body of officials known as the Papal Chapel who would observe the decorations and interpret their theological and temporal significance, it was Pope Julius' intention and expectation that the iconography of the ceiling was to be read with many layers of meaning.
Michelangelo, who was not primarily a painter but a sculptor, was reluctant to take on the work. Also, he was occupied with a very large sculptural commission for the pope's own tomb. The pope was adamant, leaving Michelangelo no choice but to accept. But a war with the French broke out, diverting the attention of the pope, and Michelangelo fled from Rome to continue sculpting. The tomb sculptures, however, were never to be finished because in 1508 the pope returned to Rome victorious and summoned Michelangelo to begin work on the ceiling. The contract was signed on 10 May 1508.
The scheme proposed by the pope was for twelve large figures of the Apostles to occupy the pendentives. However, Michelangelo negotiated for a grander, much more complex scheme and was finally permitted, in his own words, "to do as I liked".
His scheme for the ceiling eventually comprised some three hundred figures and took four years to execute, being completed and shown to the public on All Saints Day in 1512 after a preliminary showing and papal Mass on August 14, 1511. It is unknown and is the subject of much speculation among art historians whether Michelangelo was really able to "do as he liked".
Michelangelo read and reread the Old Testament while he was painting the ceiling, drawing his inspiration from the words of the scripture, rather than from the established traditions of sacral art. A total of 343 figures were painted on the ceiling.
The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art.
The ceiling is that of the Sistine Chapel, the large papal chapel built within the Vatican between 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV, for whom the chapel is named. It was painted at the commission of Pope Julius II.
The ceiling's various painted elements form part of a larger scheme of decoration within the Chapel, which includes the large fresco The Last Judgment on the sanctuary wall, also by Michelangelo, wall paintings by several leading painters of the late 15th century including Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Pietro Perugino, and a set of large tapestries by Raphael, the whole illustrating much of the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Central to the ceiling decoration are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis of which The Creation of Adam is the best known, having an iconic standing equaled only by Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the hands of God and Adam being reproduced in countless imitations.
Michelangelo was a devout Catholic whose faith deepened at the end of his life.
He was abstemious in his personal life, and once told his apprentice, Ascanio Condivi: "However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man. Condivi said he was indifferent to food and drink, eating "more out of necessity than of pleasure" and that he "often slept in his clothes and ... boots." His biographer Paolo Giovio says, "His nature was so rough and uncouth that his domestic habits were incredibly squalid, and deprived posterity of any pupils who might have followed him."He may not have minded, since he was by nature a solitary and melancholy person, bizzarro e fantastico, a man who "withdrew himself from the company of men."
Some of the most famous works by Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarotti are located in Rome and the Vatican City. Famous masterpieces, such as the frescoes on the Sistine Chapel, can be found in the Italian capital as can other fantastic sculptures and architectural designs.
|PAINTINGS BY MICHELANGELO|
1. The Sistine Chapel ceiling’s most famous panel, entitled “The Creation of Adam.”
2. Contrary to popular belief, Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in a standing position.
When they picture Michelangelo creating his legendary frescoes, most people assume he was lying down. But in fact, the artist and his assistants used wooden scaffolds that allowed them to stand upright and reach above their heads. Michelangelo himself designed the unique system of platforms, which were attached to the walls with brackets. The impression that Michelangelo painted on his back might come from the 1965 film “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” in which Charlton Heston portrayed the genius behind the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.
Sections of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.
3. Working on the Sistine Chapel was so unpleasant that Michelangelo wrote a poem about his misery.
In 1509, an increasingly uncomfortable Michelangelo described the physical strain of the Sistine Chapel project to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia. “I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,” he wrote in a poem that was surely somewhat tongue-in-cheek. He went on to complain that his “stomach’s squashed under my chin,” that his “face makes a fine floor for droppings,” that his “skin hangs loose below me” and that his “spine’s all knotted from folding myself over.” He ended with an affirmation that he shouldn’t have changed his day job: “I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.”
4. Michelangelo’s masterpiece has proven highly resilient.
The Sistine Chapel’s frescoed ceiling has held up remarkably well in the five centuries since its completion. Only one small component is missing: part of the sky in the panel depicting Noah’s escape from the great biblical flood. The section of painted plaster fell to the floor and shattered following an explosion at a nearby gunpowder depot in 1797. Despite the ceiling’s apparent hardiness, experts worry that foot traffic from the millions of people who visit the Sistine Chapel each year continues to pose a serious threat.
5. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel art was touched up—and stripped down—in the 1980s and 1990s.
Between 1980 and 1999, experts restored selected artwork in the Sistine Chapel, including Michelangelo’s ceiling and his famed fresco known as “The Last Judgment,” which he created in his later years. Specialists meticulously dissolved layers of grime, soot and deposits, substantially brightening the colors of the centuries-old paintings. The restoration also undid the work of Pope Pius IV, who ordered the placement of fig leaves and loincloths on Michelangelo’s nudes during the 1560s.
6. The Sistine Chapel ceiling’s most famous panel might depict a human brain.
In the section entitled “The Creation of Adam,” figures representing God and Adam reach for each other with their arms outstretched. Their almost-touching fingers are one of the world’s most recognizable and widely replicated images. Some theorists think the scene also contains the unmistakable outline of a human brain, formed by the angels and robes surrounding God. According to Frank Lynn Meshberger, a doctor who pioneered this hypothesis, Michelangelo meant to evoke God’s bestowal of intelligence on the first human.
7. New popes are elected in the Sistine Chapel.
Built in the 1470s under Pope Sixtus IV, from whom it takes its name, the Sistine Chapel is more than just Vatican City’s most popular tourist destination. In fact, it serves a crucial religious function. Beginning in 1492, the simple brick building has hosted numerous papal conclaves, during which cardinals gather to vote on a new pope. A special chimney in the roof of the chapel broadcasts the conclave’s results, with white smoke indicating the election of a pope and black smoke signaling that no candidate has yet received a two-thirds majority.
The Madonna of the Steps is Michelangelo's earliest known work in marble. It is carved in shallow . While the Madonna is in profile, the easiest aspect for a shallow relief, the child displays a twisting motion that was to become characteristic of Michelangelo's . Here, the Christ Child, restrained by his mother's clasping hand, is about to step off into the world.
Madonna and Child. Bruges, Belgium (1504)
The Creation of Adam
In the pictures, and one of the most widely recognised images in the history of painting, Michelangelo shows God reaching out to touch Adam, who, in the words of Vasari, is "a figure whose beauty, pose and contours are such that it seems to have been fashioned that very moment by the first and supreme creator rather than by the drawing and brush of a mortal man." From beneath the sheltering arm of God, Eve looks out, a little apprehensively. The "glory" of God, represented by a dark shaded area around him, has the same anatomical geometry as a human brain.
The central scene, of God creating Eve from the side of the sleeping Adam has been taken in its composition directly from another Creation sequence, the relief panels that surround the door of the Basilica of San Petronio, Bologna by Jacopo della Quercia whose work Michelangelo had studied in his youth.
In the final panel of this sequence Michelangelo combines two contrasting scenes into one panel,that of Adam and Eve taking fruit from the forbidden tree, Eve trustingly taking it from the hand of the Serpent and Adam eagerly picking it for himself; and their banishment from the Garden of Eden, where they have lived in the company of God, to the world outside where they have to fend for themselves and experience death.
Michelangelo in Florence
|CITY OF FLORENCE|
Born and raised in Tuscany, Michelangelo Buonarotti has long been associated with the city of Florence, which holds a small trove of many of his masterpieces. Florence is where you will find the sculpture of David, which is one of the great icons of Renaissance art, as well as numerous sculptures, architectural projects, and a painting from the Italian artist. Here is a list of Michelangelo's great works - and where to find them - in
Michelangelo's Art in the Galleria dell'Accademia
|DAVID AT MICHELANGELO POINT IN FLORENCE|
The Galleria dell'Accademia houses the original sculpture of David, considered one of Michelangelo's finest works of art. David once stood in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's City Hall, as a symbol of the city's independence. There are now copies of David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio and in the center of Piazzale Michelangelo, a hilltop square famous for its panorama of Florence.
|SANTA MARIA AT PIAZZALE IN FLORENCE|
A few other Michelangelo works reside in the Accademia. They are "The Four Prisoners," a marble group designed for the tomb of Pope Julius II, and a statue of Saint Matthew.
Michelangelo's Art in Palazzo Vecchio
Florence's City Hall is the site of yet another Michelangelo sculpture, "The Genius of Victory." But it is also where Michelangelo was to paint a monumental "Battle of Cascina." This painting was never initiated, though some art historians believe it may be "lost."
The Piazza della Signoria is top among Florence's most important squares. In the heart of the city, dominated by city hall - the Palazzo Vecchio - and skimmed by one wing of the Uffizi Gallery, the Piazza della Signoria is Florence's primary meeting place for both locals and tourists. Several concerts, fairs, and rallies are held in the Piazza della Signoria throughout the year.
Florence's most famous square started to take shape in the mid- to late-13th century when the Guelphs defeated the Ghibellines for control of the Florence.
The piazza's L shape and the lack of uniformity of its surrounding buildings is the result of the Guelphs leveling many of their rivals' palazzi. The piazza gets its name from the towering Palazzo Vecchio, whose original name is the Palazzo della Signoria.
Numerous statues designed by some of the most famous Florentine artists decorate the square and the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, which serves as an outdoor sculpture gallery. Almost all of the statues located on the square are copies; the originals have been moved indoors, including to the Palazzo Vecchio and the Bargello, for preservation. The most famous of the piazza's sculptures is a copy of Michelangelo's David (the original is in the Accademia), which stands watch outside the Palazzo Vecchio. Other must-see sculptures on the square include Baccio Bandinelli's Heracles and Cacus, two statues by Giambologna - the equestrian statue of Grand Duke Cosimo I and Rape of a Sabine – and Cellini's Perseus and Medusa.
At the center of the piazza is the Neptune Fountain designed by Ammanati. Here's what to see inside Palazzo Vecchio.
Besides the statues and the buildings that circle it, Piazza della Signoria is perhaps best known as the site of the infamous Bonfire of the Vanities of 1497, during which followers of the radical Dominican friar Savonarola burned thousands of objects (books, paintings, musical instruments, etc.) ordered-list__counter-rail Sandro end figure Sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti's artistry is on display on the north and east doors of the Baptistery, considered to be the oldest building in Florence. Check out the beautiful replicas of Ghiberti's bronze doors, particularly the panels on the east doors, also known as the "Gates of Paradise," then head to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, the museum that houses many original artworks associated with Florence's Duomo, to see the real thing
The symbol of Florence, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (aka il Duomo), is distinct for its soaring red brick dome visible from miles around. This amazing feat of engineering and artistic elegance is thanks to Filippo Brunelleschi. While Brunelleschi is best known for his dome, he also had a hand in the design of several other buildings in Florence, including the Basilicas of San Lorenzo and Santo.
Few artists have left such a deep and enduring mark in art history like the one left by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Born in Tuscany in a small town near Arezzo, above the Casentino valley, near La Verna Michelangelo was quickly whisked off towards Florence and in particular Settignano where due to his mother’s poor health he had a wet nurse. Michelangelo would often tease that he received more than milk from his nurse, absorbing her family’s tradition: stone carving.
Though having spent the majority of his life in Rome, Michelangelo considered himself a Florentine, and it is in Florence where many of the artist's masterpieces are proudly on exhibition. Exploring the city of Michelangelo means retracing the steps of his artistic experience and visiting places inextricably linked to his memory.
The proposed itinerary will show you both some of the most famous works of the great artist and some of the most important monuments of Florence. We suggest you read through this article and use it as a reference as you explore the many wonders of Florence. We hope you have fun identifying as many as possible of these perfect masterpieces by Michelangelo.
Start at CASA BUONARROTI
Michelangelo created some of his most famous works of art, the Pietà in Rome and the David in Florence before he was even 30 years old?! Truly a man born with creative genius in his blood.
To better understand the evolution of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s style, we will first head to Casa Buonarroti, situated in the vibrant and picturesque district of Santa Croce. Despite the name, Casa Buonarroti (House of Buonarroti) is not the place where the artist lived. The palace was built by his beloved nephew, Leonardo, and it passed from one generation to another until the extinction of the family.
|TOWER IN PIZZALE|
It houses two pieces which the great artist sculpted in his twenties - both are in the style of a bas-relief: the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna della Scala. The first would not have been possible without the knowledge of the classical statuary which he acquired while studying at the Garden of San Marco as a young teenager (the open air academy sponsored by the Medici family). The second is a clear homage to great sculptor Donatello.
Next stop SANTO SPIRITO
If we are following a chronological itinerary, then we can admire the work of a young Michelangelo at the church of Santo Spirito.
Situated in the popular district of Oltrarno, the church Santo Spirito is one of the most beautiful Renaissance churches in Florence. It is here where Michelangelo, as a young man, found shelter as an artist after the death of his patron Lorenzo de’ Medici, known as the Magnificent, in 1492.
While at Santo Spirito, Michelangelo was granted permission by the Prior to dissect the corpses of the nearby hospital to learn more about the human body and translated it into his artwork. To show his appreciation for this unusual experience, he carved a touching wooden Crucifix in 1493.
The cross is a unique image of Christ as a frail teenage body, most certainly inspired by the many corpses of young men he saw at the hospital. It represents a sad and introspective allegory of human weakness facing death.
Head Over to BARGELLO...
The rooms on the ground floor of this wonderful museum exhibit Tuscan 16th century works, focusing in particular on four masterpieces by Michelangelo (1475-1564) such as the Bacchus and Brutus. Here you will also find the Tondo Pitti (also known as the Madonna and Child). The tondo or round shape was typical of art for the home, and many times wealthy families would have one in their homes.
The fourth piece is David / Apollo. The last piece was created for Baccio Valori, a Medici ally and the Governor of Florence, around 1530 and due to the unfinished status of the marble carving there appears to be some doubt as to who it should present.
...then on to the ACCADEMIA
He returned to Florence in 1501, where he created some of his most famous masterpieces, inlcluding the magnificent David, now at the Accademia Gallery. This masterpiece is carved from a block of marble which remained neglected for 25 years, after two attempts at “finding” the Davide inside by previous artists it was finally given to Michelangelo, who at only 26 years of age, convinced the Florentine government to let him finish the work thus leaving us today with an undisputable masterpiece.
“Non-finito” (or Incomplete)
The common theory is that Michelangelo left many sculptures incomplete because he was unsatisfied with the development...though there are some who suggest that a great artist could abandon his work because the idea was more important than the finished results thus he did it on purpose to leave them in an “unfinished” state.
Many other statues by the great artist are displayed at the Accademia. These works are “non-finito” sculptures and the figures appear the be stuck within the marble block, struggling to come out. We will be astonished by the “non finito” statue of St. Matthew, made for the Cathedral of Florence, or the famous Prigioni, a marble group planned for the for the tomb of Pope Julius II in Rome. To learn more about the Prisoners and Michelangelo's style, read this page.
A Change of Styles at the UFFIZI
During his stay in Florence between 1501-1504, Michelangelo accomplished another masterpiece: the Tondo Doni, which is displayed today at the Uffizi Art Gallery. Unknown to many, this was his first painting on canvas and the only work of this kind in Florence.
Stop at PALAZZO VECCHIO
The Genius of Victory is another statue conceived for one of the many versions of the tomb of Pope Julius II in Rome and displayed in the Palazzo Vecchio (or Palazzo della Signoria), inside the magnificent Salone dei Cinquecento.
This statue was placed in Palazzo Vecchio after the death of Michelangelo, when Vasari pressured the artist’s nephew to “gift” it to to Duke Cosimo I de' Medici who used it to symbolize Florence's conquest of Siena.
Walk over to SAN LORENZO
In the meantime, from 1515 to 1534, two members of the Medici family became popes: Leo X and Clement VIII, respectively son and grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent.
The two popes commissioned Michelangelo to build the Sagrestia Nuova in the Medici Chapels and the Laurentian Library for the Basilica of San Lorenzo. These are both excellent examples Michelangelo’s diverse skills, since he was the architect and artist behind both - and even if he left Florence before either was finished both are credited to him. Michelangelo's work showed an innovate use of space which was considered revolutionary for its time.
Though not open to the public, this chuch is home to the "secret room" just to the left of the Sacrestia Nuova where Michelangelo escaped for three months during the last stages of the Spanish seige against Florence. Only 7 meters long and 2 meters wide, in 1530 Michelangelo covered the walls with sketches and designs while he waited out the attack of the city above.
Last stop: OPERA DEL DUOMO
Though Michelangelo’s spirit and genius will forever walk the streets of Florence and be on display throughout the city, for our itinerary this is the last stop. The last work is the dramatic Pietà Bandini, carved in Rome in 1550 to decorate his tomb. It is now housed in the recently restored Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. This sculpture is one of the most interesting masterpiece by the great master displayed in the Tuscan capital. The pathos of the composition is palpable. What adds a special significance to this work is the self-portrait of Michelangelo in the likeness of Nicodemus, the male figure holding the lifeless body of Christ flanked by Mary and Magdalene.
The tour ends therefore at Piazza del Duomo. To learn more about the historical events behind the works mentioned above, you can read the biography of Michelangelo Buonarroti. The in-depth article provides further details about the long.
He wrote over three hundred sonnets and madrigals.
I feel as lit by fire a cold countenance
That burns me from afar and keeps itself ice-chill;
A strength I feel two shapely arms to fill
Which without motion moves every balance.
— (Michael Sullivan, translation)
He was in love with Cavalieri who wrote to him , "I swear to return your love. Never have I loved a man more than I love you, never have I wished for a friendship more than I wish for yours." Cavalieri remained devoted to Michelangelo until his death.
Late in life, Michelangelo nurtured a great platonic love for the poet and noble widow Vittoria Colonna, whom he met in Rome in 1536 or 1538 and who was in her late forties at the time. They wrote sonnets for each other and were in regular contact until she died. These sonnets mostly deal with the spiritual issues that occupied them. Condivi recalls Michelangelo's saying that his sole regret in life was that he did not kiss the widow's face in the same manner that he had her hand.