I refer, of course, to “Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, known simply as Michelangelo. . . the Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance. Wikipedia
He is best known for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome. A feat that took him about four years while he was suspended on scaffolding between 1509 and 1512.
By chance I visited the chapel a few weeks ago during a trip to Italy, where I and about 1000 other people crammed into the dimly lit sanctuary and stared at the ceiling as two palace guards shouted “QUIET !” and “NO PHOTOS!”
It was annoying. . . in a Da Vinci’s Code kind of path.
In terms of sculpture, Michelangelo chiseled the Madonna of Bruges– as well as other marvelous statues – made of cream-colored granite blocks.
The Madonna of Bruges was stolen by the Nazis and later discovered by the ‘Monuments Men’ in the final years of World War II. There is a book by the same title which is a great read. There is also a movie called Monuments Men directed by George Clooney which is not worth the price of admission.
(Sorry George, but the truthful exploits involving the heroic service of real monument men — to include a notable woman named Rosa Valland — are far more interesting than the Hollywood version.)
Of course, Michelangelo was also a poet. I did not know. What I do know is that, like most writers, Michelangelo doesn’t earn a dime with his writings, but today online booksellers are sure!
Will you follow Michelangelo’s Instagram page?
All of this has me wondering. . . if Michelangelo had a TikTok, Facebook or Instagram account, would he have a huge following?
I mean, Michelangelo lived over 400 years ago. But from the look of his paintings and sculptures, it took about as many years to complete. (At least it would take me years.) Given that the best way to generate a social media following is to post great content every day, I doubt Michelangelo could have kept up. He could never have produced a painting, a poem or a sculpture in a day!
That said, the statistics almost confirm 7 million people visited the Vatican in 2019. Many of them traveled specifically to see Michelangelo’s paintings in person. So, I would say that the Renaissance man is still very successful today!
Michelangelo’s notoriety is based on the fact that his art is really, really good. Amazing in fact. Skated genius! This is because he took a phenomenal amount of time to complete his pieces to make sure they were as perfect as possible.
Today’s artists have little reason to devote so much time to their craft. (Unless they’re working in marble.) That doesn’t mean modern artists are lazy. The reality is that, given how much social media has reduced everyone’s attention, the average viewer struggles to appreciate the merits of art that takes years to come to fruition.
Did Michelangelo succeed because of his devotion to God?
Perhaps it was Michelangelo’s devotion to the divine that inspired him to create the masterpieces he painted, wrote or chiselled?
Michelangelo spent years creating his masterpieces, but he also understood the inspiring nature of his work. He felt compelled to create works that not only delighted the senses of the God he sought to please, but understood that his art could also lead others to Christianity.
As a humanist and lover of the arts, I can appreciate Michelangelo’s skills, but not so much the biblical myths he sought to recreate. Indeed, much of the art produced by him and other past artists of Christendom can be characterized as being limited by the stories emanating from their religious faith.
On the other hand, I appreciate more the reasons that motivate humanists, secularists and atheists to create. Because the modern secular artist is free to express himself as he sees fit. It is neither constrained by technique nor by logic. In fact, his work is likely to be judged not so much by his ability to render realistic themes with Michelangelo precision, but rather by his vision – or lack thereof.
If I had to sum up humanist artists today, I would say that they enjoy the luxury of being inspired by a wide range of philosophies and challenging ideas about life, and then channeling those ideas into an artistic vision; a vision that goes more to the heart of what it means to be human than simply recreating a perfect rendition of the human form.
Like this form of the biblical David also sculpted by Michelangelo, filled with an uncircumcised appendage.