Michelangelo Biography: The Early Years

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born March 6, 1475 in Caprese to a relatively wealthy patrician family. His father, Ludovico di Leonardo di Buonarroti Simoni, had occasional jobs with the government in Florence, and his mother, Francesca di Neri del Miniato di Siena, died when he was six.

Since he came from a patrician family, he was expected to be a banker or government official, but instead he took a liking to drawing from a very young age, and so at the age of 13 was reluctantly made an apprentice of Domenico Ghirlandaio, a respected artist of the time. After a year, unsatisfied with the pace Domenico was teaching, Michelangelo instead became a student of Bertoldo di Giovanni.

Then, he moved again and from 1490 to 1492 he stayed with the ruling Medici family in Florence, who his father was supposedly remotely related to. With the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici in 1492, Florence was thrown into political turmoil and Michelangelo was forced to flee the city and the rising followers of Girolamo Savonarola, a priest who was extremely opposed to the secular direction of modern art.

As long as they were present in Florence, it would have been difficult for an artist to find work, and so for the next few years he wandered around Italy, finding sculpture work where he could until he came to Rome in 1496. It was there, in 1498, that he was commissioned to sculpt Pietà, one of his most famous works of all time, which he finished around 1500.

He then returned to Florence, which had regained political stability, and there he began work on another of his most famous works, David. He continued working in Florence on things like the Battle of Cascina until he was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II in 1505. There, he began work on the pope’s tomb, a job which would take him 40 years to complete while the pope himself would only live another eight.  Around the same time though, he also began work on yet another of his most ambitious projects: the Sistine Chapel.

Continue to Michelangelo Biography Part 2 - The Middle Years

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“I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.”

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