March 6 – Happy Birthday, Michelangelo

Posted on March 6, 2014

One of the most famous sculptors of all times, one of the most famous painters of all times, and one of the most famous architects of all time was born on this date in 1475.

Of course, as you probably guessed, they were the same guy. He was also a poet and an engineer. So, yeah: a true “Renaissance Man”!

Of course, we're talking about Michelangelo. Actually, his full name was Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni! He was born in the Republic of Florence, which is now part of Italy.

Michelangelo's story is not one of those typical starving-artist, only-discovered-after-he's-dead stories. Instead, Michelangelo was highly praised even during his lifetime. As a matter of fact, during his lifetime he was sometimes called “the divine one” (but in Italian). 

He inspired the Mannerist movement, and he created pieces that were considered masterpieces during his lifetime and still are today, centuries later.

Michelangelo sculpted two of his most famous pieces, Pieta and David, before he was thirty years old. One of his greatest architectural works is the dome and western end of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and one of his greatest paintings is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

One might think that, with so many of his works being so large-scale and amazing, Michelangelo didn't make a LOT of works. I mean, can you have quality and quantity? Well...with Michelangelo, yes, you can. He did create many works, and he made a lot of sketches and wrote a lot of letters to others and journaled about his own memories. With all of these sketches and writing, he is the best-documented artist of the 1500s.

Okay, so he was a genius. Do you ever wonder how geniuses get their start?

When Michelangelo was quite young, his mother fell ill, and Michelangelo was sent to live with a stonecutter and his wife. The boy remained there for a while after his mother died, when he was just six years old. There he learned how to handle a chisel and hammer.

Michelangelo just so happened to grow up in the greatest cultural center of Italy, at the time (Florence) so he was surrounded by art. He used to skip his school assignments in order to copy paintings from churches and talk to painters. One of these Florentine painters, a man named Domenico Ghirlandaio, was called to the Vatican to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel. When Michelangelo was just thirteen years old, he was apprenticed to Ghirlandaio. When he was fourteen, Michelangelo's father convinced the established artist to pay Michelangelo as an artist (rather than just feed and house him as an apprentice), and soon after than Ghirlandaio chose Michelangelo, as one of his two best pupils, to go to the university-like academy that the ruler of Florence had established.

So the answer to the question, how do geniuses get their start is (in this case at least): young!

  • Try an art project inspired by Michelangelo, using directions found here or over here

Also on this date:

Independence Day in Ghana 

Alamo Day in Texas

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