Michelangelo Buonarroti

MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI (1475-1564) Italy

Sculptor, Artist, Architect, Poet and Engineer

Michelangelo

PIETÀ

Michelangelo was only 25 years old when he created Pietà (Compassion or Pity) from a single piece of Carrara marble. The statue was commissioned as a memorial to be placed on a tomb. The term Pietà applies to any depiction of Mary and the body of Christ whether it is a sculpture or a painting.
 Christ's Hand The mastery of this extraordinary young man is revealed in the meticulous attention he paid to detail as shown in the delicacy of the veins on Christ’s hand, and the precision of the nails and tendons on Christ’s feet.

Christ’s hand

The flow of the folds is remarkable as is the tension in Mary’s hand holding the body. Here too, the definition of the arm muscles and the fold in the flesh in response to Mary’s hold is incredibly detailed. Christ's feet

Christ’s feet

Folds Mary's Hand

Folds

Mary’s hand

Mary's head Michelangelo hit a problem with proportions to which he found a creative solution. Mary’s head is rather small for the size of her body. If he had carved it in proportion to her body, she would have been 15 ft (4.5m) tall, so he bulked it out by covering her head in draped cloth to balance the rest of the body.

Mary’s head

Pieta David

Michelangelo’s Pietà in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome

The statue of David displayed at the Academia Gallery in Venice

This figure of male perfection is probably one of the most famous statues in the world which took Michelangelo two years to complete. Standing at nearly 14ft (4.2m) tall it is carved from a single block of marble which had lain abandoned for over 25 years as no other sculptor was prepared to work with it because of the proliferation of flaws. The statue weighs over 4500kgs (nearly 12500lbs) and it took 40 men four days to drag it a couple of blocks.
The marble was originally intended to be one of a series of statues to be placed in the niches in the Cathedral of Florence. The other sculptors feared that the flaws would compromise the stability of such a statue, but not the 26 year old Michelangelo.
Other statues of David depict him after his battle with Goliath, but not Michelangelo who chose to sculpt a contemplative David, armed only with his sling before the mammoth encounter. The statue portrays the tension David was experiencing but also exudes his confidence in himself.
David's eyes When one looks at busts and some statues, the eyes are often blank orbs. Michelangelo carved the pupils and irises which add to the intensity of David’s look. The detail of the musculature in David’s back is phenomenal. Little wonder that this statue is regarded as perfection.

David’s eyes

David's back Circular Hall

David’s back

The circular hall in which this spectacular statue is displayed in the Academia Galleria was specially designed for him. The dome allows for natural light

SISTINE CHAPEL, VATICAN CITY, ROME

Sistine Chapel Michelangelo was very reluctant to take on the commission of painting the ceiling of the Chapel. He felt that he was more of a sculptor than a painter, and secondly he had limited knowledge about painting a fresco. Frescos are created when paint is applied to wet plaster. He must have got the formula right as it has stood the test of time, unlike da Vinci’s Last Supper which has had to have extensive restorative and preservative work.
Since 1492, the Chapel has been the enclave where the cardinals gather to elect a new pope.

SISTINE CHAPEL CEILING

 Sistine Chapel ceiling Contrary to popular belief, Michelangelo did not lie on his back to paint the ceiling but he did create a complex set of scaffolding to support him. It was not an experience he enjoyed, he said his face felt like the floor to catch the drips and he wrote this poem to express himself:
The ceiling, completed in 1512, measures 40mX14m (131ftX45ft) M14.jpg
I’ve grown a goitre by dwelling in this den –
As cats from stagnant streams in Lombardy,
Or in what other land they hap to be –
Which drives the belly close beneath the chin:
My beard turns up to heaven; my nape falls in
Fixed on my spine: my breast-bone visibly
Grows like a harp: a rich embroidery
Bedews my face from brush-drips, thick and thin.
My loins into my paunch like levers grind:
My buttock like a crupper bears my weight;
My feet unguided wander to and fro;
In front my skin grows loose and long; behind,
By bending it becomes more taut and strait;
Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow:
Whence false and quaint, I know,
Must be the fruit of squinting brain and eye;
For ill can aim the gun that bends awry.
Come then, Giovanni, try
To succour my dead pictures and my fame;
Since foul I fare and painting is my shame.
The nine central panels take one through the story of Genesis. On either side are a series of Old Testament characters mixed with a few of the pagan figures which were regarded as also being prophets leading the way to the advent of Christ.
The ceiling is actually curved – it is not flat like a canvas, yet such is the artist’s genius, the figures appear as if they are in 3D form. The technique he employed is similar to that used by 3D Chalk artists Julian Beever and Kurt Wenner. This process is illustrated in the following clip: Link 1Link 2
A closer examination of the arches and columns separating each fresco depiction reveals that all is not as it seems. These are not architectural features but are painted to appear like concrete as shown in the following three images:
The detail of the ceiling The detail of the ceiling

The detail of the ceiling

The detail of the ceiling The detail of the ceiling
This particular scene shows God giving life to Adam, and is perhaps the most reproduced of all the ceiling frescos:
God and Adam width= God and Adam
The Michelangelo Links page has sites which take you on virtual tours, with highlighted details of all the frescos in the Sistine Chapel.

 

THE LAST JUDGEMENT

20 years after painting the ceiling, Michelangelo was commissioned to paint “The Last Judgement” above the altar.
The last judgement The Last Judgement
As he had done earlier with the ceiling, Michelangelo chose to represent both saints and pagan figures in this fresco, and in later years this upset some of the prelates who commissioned the ‘naughty’ bits to be covered up. Recent restoration has cleared the fresco of all these additions.
Christ as a Judge The Central Scene depicts Christ as judge
(Go to Michelangelo Links page for close-ups of this fresco.)

ARCHITECTURE

THE LAURENTIAN LIBRARY

The library was built on top of an existing convent. The staircase appears to flow up to the Reading Room in a style described as Mannerist Architecture and the entire room in which it is built is dedicated to it. He also designed the benches, made of walnut – the backs of which form lecterns. The floor is a mosaic made from wood. The Library was built to house the Medici Collection which is contained on a separate floor.
The staircase

The Staircase

The reading room

The Reading Room

The reading room benches

The Reading Room Benches

THE MEDICI CHAPEL, FLORENCE

The chapel is a mausoleum, and is an extension of the San Lorenzo Basilica. It is the only completed architectural structure in which Michelangelo was involved. Again he used architectural illusion, this time to make the room seem larger and higher.

The Medici Tombs

Medici tomb1 Medici tomb2
The interior and the dome which is modelled on the Pantheon
Interior Interior

PIAZZA DEL CAMPIDOGLIO, ROME

Piazza del Campidoglio Piazza del Campidoglio
This project involved either the creation or the restoration of three buildings. The building is now the City Hall and fittingly, tucked into a niche at within the apex of the stairs is a statue of the goddess Roma in whose hand is a globe symbolising the far reaching power of Rome in ancient times. A bronze statue stands at the centre of the courtyard. It is a reproduction of what is thought to be the only surviving bronze statue from bygone age which was relatively intact. Michelangelo designed the plinth on which it stands. The original statue is in the Capitoline Museum.
Piazza del Campidoglio Michelangelo moved the tower to a central position which served as an additional focal point to the stairs.
Piazza del Campidoglio The flat roof is a signature of Michelangelo’s architecture and the effect of the added pilasters serve to unite the two storeys.
Piazza del Campidoglio The starburst design whether viewed from above or laterally seems to pull the surrounding buildings in to create a more intimate space. It also creates an optical illusion.

ST PETER’S BASILICA, ROME

Michelangelo designed the dome, construction of which started in 1547, but did not live to see its completion in 1590. He died at the age of 89 in 1564.
ST PETER’S BASILICA ST PETER’S BASILICA
Please go to the Michelangelo Links Page where you will find additional sites covering all his achievements plus links to clips and videos with plenty more information about this fascinating and extraordinarily talented man.

MICHELANGELO THE ENGINEER

Link 1 and    Link 2

Siefried Sassoon


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SASSOON: Siegfried CBE MC

S Sassoon
Born: 8 September 1886, Matfield, Kent, United Kingdom
Died: 1 September 1967, Heytesbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom

BRIEF BACKGROUND

Siegfried made his mark on World War One poetry by refusing to sentimentalise it. He tackled the subject head-on, sparing no-one with his brutal accounts of the horrors of trench war. He was critical and intensely contemptuous of those in the higher echelons of society who blindly supported the war, and often used satire to get his point across. He received the Military Cross and was injured. While recuperating, he fired off a letter to Parliament refusing to return to battle, becoming one of the first conscientious objectors. He escaped court-martial through the intervention of the poet Robert Graves, and was later hospitalised for shell shock (PTSD). It was here that he met, and inspired the young poet Wilfred Owen.

QUOTATIONS

“I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.”

“I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.”

POETRY (Better known)

Sick Leave: When I’m asleep, dreaming and lulled and warm, –
They come, the homeless ones, the noiseless dead.
The Dug-Out: Why do you lie with your legs ungainly huddled,
And one arm bent across your sullen, cold,
Exhausted face? It hurts my heart to watch you.

Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy


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STUDDERT KENNEDY: Geoffrey Anketell (Military Cross 1917)

G A Studdert Kennedy
Born: 27 June 1883, Leeds, United Kingdom
Died: 8 March 1929, Liverpool, United Kingdom

BRIEF BACKGROUND

Studdert Kennedy was an Anglican priest who volunteered his services. He was a down to earth chaplain and who always handed out Woodbine cigarettes to the troops, earning the nickname ‘Woodbine Willie”. After the war he became a pacifist. He was taken ill during a 1929 crusade in Liverpool where he died. He has the honour of having a feast day (8 March) on the USA Episcopal Church calendar.

QUOTATIONS

“It’s much easier to do and die than it is to reason why.”

POETRY (* Better known)

WASTE
Waste of Muscle, waste of Brain,
Waste of Patience, waste of Pain,
Waste of Manhood, waste of Health,
Waste of Beauty, waste of Wealth,
Waste of Blood, waste of Tears,
Waste of Youth’s most precious years,
Waste of ways the Saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, waste of God, – War!

Woodbine Willie: They gave me this name like their nature,
Compacted of laughter and tears,
What’s the use of a Cross to ‘im: Parson says I’m to make ‘im a cross
To set up over his grave,
‘E’s buried there by the Moated Grange,
And I ‘ad a damn close shave,
But ‘e were taken and I were left,
To Stretcher Bearers: Easy does it — bit o’ trench ‘ere,
Mind that blinkin’ bit o’ wire,
There’s a shell ‘ole on your left there,
Lift ‘im up a little ‘igher.
Stick it, lad, ye’ll soon be there now,
Want to rest ‘ere for a while?

Rupert Brooke


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BROOKE: Rupert

Rupert Brooke
Born: 23 April 1915, Aegean Sea
Died: 3 August 1997, Rugby, Warwickshire, United Kingdom

BRIEF BACKGROUND

Brooke’s poetry made its mark before the outbreak of the First World War where it was widely panned as being sentimental, and as it so happens, it was only after his death that positive recognition came his way through endorsements from Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf and Henry James. Brooke died three weeks after his poem The Soldier was read on at an Easter Sunday service in St Paul’s Cathedral. He succumbed to blood poisoning from an insect bite – very similar to Lord Byron.

QUOTATIONS

“Breathless, we flung us on a windy hill, Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.”
“Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night.”

POETRY (Better known)

The Soldier: If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.

John Mcrae


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McCRAE: John

John McCrae
Born: 30 November 1872, Guelph, Canada
Died: 28 January 1918, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

BRIEF BACKGROUND

John was a physician, author and artist and is best known for poem In Flanders Fields. Flanders, near Ypres in Belgium is where some of the heaviest fighting took place during the Second Battle of Ypres and is where the Germans used deadly chlorine gas on the enemy. To this day, red poppies are found around the cemetery where the war dead are buried. His poem struck a chord with the general populace and the poppy was adopted as the flower of Remembrance. His premature death was due to meningitis and pneumonia. (He was also present at Isandlawana and wrote a poem with that title.)

QUOTATIONS

“That day of battle in the dusty heat
We lay and heard the bullets swish and sing
Like scythes amid the over-ripened wheat,
And we the harvest of their garnering.” (The Unconquered Dead)

POETRY (Better known)

In Flanders Fields: In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Wilfred Owen


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OWEN: Wilfred (Military Cross 1918)

Wilfred Owen
Born: 18 March 1893, Oswestry, Shropshire, United Kingdom
Died: 4 November 1918, Sambre-Oise Canal, France

This young man produced over 80 poems, only four of which were published in his lifetime, in the year before he was killed – a week before Armistice. The conditions in the trenches were absolutely horrific – reflected by the evocative language describing the physical and psychological making an intense impact on the reader. Two years after he enlisted, Owen underwent treatment for shellshock (PTSD) during which time he met his literary hero, Siegfred Sassoon. Owen returned to the trenches and was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery when he seized a German machine gun killing a number of Germans. Quite a few of his poems amongst which are Insensibility and Apologia Pro Poemate Meo describe the psychological impacts of war. He was killed in the last week of the war.

QUOTATIONS

  • “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”
  • “All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true poet must be truthful.”
  • “Be bullied, be outraged, be killed, but do not kill.”
  • “Ambition may be defined as the willingness to receive any number of hits on the nose.”

POETRY (* Better known)

Anthem for doomed Youth: What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
1914: War broke: and now the Winter of the world With perishing great darkness closes in.
Disabled: He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,

NOTE

Wilfred was very close to his mother and his letters to her give insight into the bravery of this young man.

William Golding


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Golding: William (Nobel Peace Prize for Literature 1983)

william_golding
Born: 19 September 1911, Newquay, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Died: 19 June 1993, Perranarworthal, Cornwall, United Kingdom

Lord of the Flies was Golding’s first novel and in it he sets out his theme for future books exploring the struggle between good and evil. He was a teacher and drew his inspiration from the boys he taught. In his private notes which were only published after his death, Golding admits to being a bully when he was at school and to also manipulating his pupils recording the results in Lord of the Flies. His writing is filled with symbolism

Quotations

“What a man does defiles him, not what is done by others.”
“My yesterdays walk with me. They keep step, they are gray faces that peer over my shoulder.”

Books

  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Double Tongue
  • Rites of Passage (Booker McConnell Prize 1980)
  • Pincher Martin
  • Free Fall
  • The Pyramid

Scott Fitzgerald


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Fitzgerald: Francis Scott Key

scott-fitzgerald
Born: 24 September 1896 in St Paul, Minnesota
Died: 21 December 1940 in Hollywood, California (Heart attack)

In Fitzgerald’s own words describing the Roaring Twenties which was also known as the Jazz Age: It was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire. The Great Gatsby is regarded as the definitive novel of this age, but was only recognised as such in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Fitzgerald died believing he was a failure.

Quotations

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.
You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.
First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you. (Fitzgerald was an alcoholic)

Selected Bibliography

Books

  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Camel’s Back
  • The Last of the Belles.
  • The Beautiful and Damned
  • This Side of Paradise
  • Tender is the Night
  • The Love of the Last Tycoon (Unfinished)

James Ngugi


Kani: Bonisile John (Playwright and Actor)

Ngugi_wa_Thiong'o
Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Born James Thiong’o Ngugi)

Born: 5 January 1938, Limuru, Kenya

This highly regarded prolific Kenyan born writer holds numerous degrees (many of them honorary) from Universities around the world. He is currently lecturing at UCLA. His output ranges across political commentary, novels, short stories, plays and children’s books. He holds an additional distinction in that Dictator Moi issued a warrant of arrest for the main character in a novel, and on finding him fictional, had the novel arrested instead! He writes in Gikuyu which is his native language and translates his work into English himself.

Quotations

“The condition of women in a nation is the real measure of its progress”.
“Written words can also sing”.

Books

  • Weep not Child
  • The River Between
  • A Grain of Wheat
  • Petals of Blood
  • Devil on the Cross
  • Matigari
  • Wizard or the Crow
  • Something Torn & New: An African Renaissance

Bonisile Kani


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Kani: Bonisile John (Playwright and Actor)

john_kani
Born: 30 November 1942, New Brighton, Eastern Cape

In 2014, the Main Theatre of the New Market Theatre in Johannesburg, was renamed the Jon Kani Theatre. Kani is both an actor and a playright, and also co-authored the 1975 Tony Award Siswe Banzi is Dead with Winston Ntshona and Athol Fugard. Of his play Nothing but the Truth this is what the New York Times had to say:

“A deeply felt portrait that delicately weaves the extraordinary and the ordinary in its characters’ lives”.

Books

  • The Ghost and the Darkness 1996
  • Siswe Bansi is Dead 1972
  • The Wild Geese 1978
  • The Island 1973
  • Nothing but the Truth 2008