Michelangelo (1475-1564), arguably one of the most inspired creators in the
history of art and, with Leonardo da Vinci, the most potent force in the Italian

High Renaissance. As a sculptor, architect, painter, and poet, he exerted a
tremendous influence on his contemporaries and on subsequent Western art in
general. A Florentine - although born March 6, 1475, in the small village of

Caprese near Arezzo - Michelangelo continued to have a deep attachment to his
city, its art, and its culture throughout his long life. He spent the greater
part of his adulthood in Rome, employed by the popes; characteristically,
however, he left instructions that he be buried in Florence, and his body was
placed there in a fine monument in the church of Santa Croce. Early Life in

Florence Michelangelo's father, a Florentine official named Ludovico Buonarroti
with connections to the ruling Medici family, placed his 13-year-old son in the
workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. After about two years,

Michelangelo studied at the sculpture school in the Medici gardens and shortly
thereafter was invited into the household of Lorenzo de' Medici, the

Magnificent. There he had an opportunity to converse with the younger Medicis,
two of whom later became popes (Leo X and Clement VII). He also became
acquainted with such humanists as Marsilio Ficino and the poet Angelo Poliziano,
who were frequent visitors. Michelangelo produced at least two relief sculptures
by the time he was 16 years old, the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of
the Stairs (both 1489-92, Casa Buonarroti, Florence), which show that he had
achieved a personal style at a very early age. His patron Lorenzo died in 1492;
two years later Michelangelo fled Florence, when the Medici were temporarily

Expelled. He settled for a time in Bologna, where in 1494 and 1495 he executed
several marble statuettes for the Arca (Shrine) di San Domenico in the Church of

San Domenico. First Roman Sojourn Michelangelo then went to Rome, where he was
able to examine many newly unearthed classical statues and Ruins. He soon
produced his first large-scale sculpture, the over-life-size Bacchus (1496-98,

Bargello, Florence). One of the few works of pagan rather than Christian subject
matter made by the master, it rivaled ancient Statuary, the highest mark of
admiration in Renaissance Rome. At about the same time, Michelangelo also did
the marble Piet? (1498-1500), still in its original place in Saint Peter's

Basilica. One of the most famous works of art, the Piet? was probably finished
before Michelangelo was 25 years old and it is the only work he ever signed. The
youthful Mary is shown seated majestically, holding the dead Christ across her
lap, a theme borrowed from northern European art. Instead of revealing extreme
grief, Mary is restrained, and her expression is one of resignation. In this
work, Michelangelo summarizes the sculptural innovations of his 15th-century
predecessors such as Donatello, while ushering in the new monumentality of the

High Renaissance style of the 16th century. First Return to Florence The high
point of Michelangelo's early style is the gigantic (4.34 m/14.24 ft) marble

David (Accademia, Florence), which he produced between 1501 and 1504, after
returning to Florence. The Old Testament hero is depicted by Michelangelo as a
lithe nude youth, muscular and alert, looking off into the distance as if sizing
up the enemy Goliath, whom he has not yet encountered. The fiery intensity of

David's facial expression is termed terribilit?, a feature characteristic of
many of Michelangelo's figures and of his own personality. David, Michelangelo's
most famous sculpture, became the symbol of Florence and originally was placed
in the Piazza della Signoria in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine
town hall. With this statue Michelangelo proved to his contemporaries that he
not only surpassed all modern artists, but also the Greeks and Romans, by
infusing formal beauty with powerful expressiveness and meaning. While still
occupied with the David, Michelangelo was given an opportunity to demonstrate
his ability as a painter with the commission of a mural, the Battle of Cascina,
destined for the Sala dei Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio, opposite

Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari. Neither artist carried his assignment beyond the
stage of a cartoon, a full-scale preparatory drawing. Michelangelo created a
series of nude and clothed figures in a wide variety of poses and positions that
are a prelude to his next major project, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in
the Vatican. The Sistine Chapel Ceiling Michelangelo was recalled to Rome by

Pope Julius II in 1505 for two commissions. The most important one was for the
frescoes of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Working high above the chapel