Michelangelo Buonarroti

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Sculptor, Artist, Architect, Poet and Engineer



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


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 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 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.



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.)



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 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 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.


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.
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.


Link 1 and    Link 2