If there ever were a ‘Renaissance Man,’ Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni would be it. History has proven a man as well versed in architecture, sculpture, poetry, and engineering only requires one notorious name, Michelangelo. He was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was still alive, a testament to his impact on society. With two skillful hands and a brilliant mind, he left a permanent mark on the world.

Bacchus of Wine by Michelangelo

 Through his twenties Michelangelo was working on his most notable sculptures, showcasing his lasting impact. At the ripe age of 21 he was commissioned to do a piece for Cardinal Raffaele Riario. Upon completion his interpretation of Bacchus of Wine was rejected by the Cardinal. Nonetheless, the statue became apart of Michelangelo’s well known repertoire. Through intricate detail, Michelangelo depicts the physical and mental state of the subject. The backward drooping left shoulder, the listless tilt of the head, the utterly relaxed left arm clasping the bunch of grapes, the belly protruding above unsteady legs, the face transformed by a vacuous gaze, the parted lips, the expressionless features fixed upon the cup which is wearily supported by his right arm, all speak of a mind and body dulled by inebriation. To a classical form Michelangelo has added his own interpretation, displaying a marvelous sensitivity to the expressiveness of the human body. This is a theme that will continue on through the rest of his work.

Full Scale Pieta by Michelangelo

Four years later, Michelangelo was was commissioned to do a life size sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her son in her arms. It would be the first of four that he would create and the only one he completely finished. The Pieta was to be unveiled in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Jubilee of 1500. In less than two years Michelangelo carved from a single slab of marble, the most magnificent sculpture ever created. Michelangelo decided to create a youthful, serene and celestial Virgin Mary instead of a broken hearted and somewhat older woman. When it was unveiled a proud Michelangelo stood by and watched as people admired the beautiful Pieta. What was pride turned into anger as he overheard a group of people attributing the work to other artists of his time. That anger caused Michelangelo to add one last thing to his sculpture. Going down the sash on the Virgin Mary, Michelangelo carved his name. He later regretted that his emotions got the best of him and vowed to never sign another one of his works again.

David by Michelangelo

A year after the Jubilee Michelangelo would be commissioned to sculpt quite possibly his most famous statue (And a Statue.com favorite). The commission was sponsored by by the Arte della Lana, who were responsible for the upkeep and the decoration of the Cathedral in Florence. For this purpose, he was given a block of marble which Agostino di Duccio had already attempted to fashion forty years previously, perhaps with the same subject in mind. Michelangelo broke away from the traditional way of representing David. He does not present a winner, the giant’s head at his feet and the powerful sword in his hand. Rather, he portrayed the youth as tense with a sense of gathering power immediately preceding the battle. Perhaps he has caught him just in the moment when he has heard that his people are hesitating, and he sees Goliath jeering and mocking them. Michelangelo places him in the most perfect contraposto, as in the most beautiful Greek representations of heroes. The right-hand side of the statue is smooth and composed while the left-hand side, from the outstretched foot all the way up to the disheveled hair is openly active and dynamic. The muscles and the tendons are developed only to the point where they can still be interpreted as the perfect instrument for a strong will, and not to the point of becoming individual self-governing forms. Once the statue was completed, a committee of the highest ranking citizens and artists decided that it must be placed in the main square of the town, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Town Hall. It was the first time since antiquity that a large statue of a nude was to be exhibited in a public place.

Dying Slave by Michelangelo

Dying Slave by Michelangelo

Michelangelo has many other notable sculptural projects that were largely unfinished. The classic statue of the dying slave, expresses the soul’s struggle for freedom. Magnificently sculpted for the tomb of Pope Julius II in 1513. The project was never completed. In 1546, Michelangelo gave this nude male statue along with its companion statue, the Rebellious Slave, to Ruberto Strozzi, who in turn presented them to King Francois I of France.

Michelangelo devoted the middle to end of his career towards painting, architecture and poetry.

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