Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italy, 1475-1564)

Figure 1.--Michelangel's genius is apparent in the drawing seen here of a Florentine boy with no fasade of grandeur to obscure the inspiration. This is an detailed example of how a Florentine boy dressed. I am not sure when this drawing was made. Note in particular the cap. We suspect that this is how Micelangelo dressed as a boy.

Michelangelo Buonarroti was one of the greatest artists of all time. He had an enormous influence on the art of the Renaissance. He was universally in his time along with Leonardo considered the consumate artists of their era. Incredibly he felt it was not painting that was his calling, but sculpture. As a result the number of his paintings are limited, but there are numerous drawings, each a masterpiece in their own right. We note one that is a dazzling image of a Florentine boy.


Michelangelo was a well-born Florentine. His family was a member of the minor aristocracy. His father, Ludovico Buonarroti, was a Florentine official who had connections to the ruling Medici family.


Micelangelo always considered himself a Florentine He was, however, in Caprese, a small village near Arezzo.


Muchelangelo at age 13 was apprenticed to the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio (c.1448-94). As an adult, however, Micheangelo claim that he never had a teacher. Art historians, however, see the influence of Michelangelo in his handling of the claw chisel. At about age 15, Michelangelo began studying at the sculpture school in the Medici gardens.


Michelangelo grew up in Florenze and did his aprentenship there. As an adult he lived much of his life in Rome and did most of his great works there, but this was largely at the Pope's insistance. Even so, throughout his life he retained a deep and abiding attachment to Florence, its art, and vibrant culture. Florence in often seen as the heart of Renaissance Italy. The sheer quanity of Renaissance artists emerging from from Florence is staggering. Micelangelo assisted as a boy by the great Renaissance leader of Florence, Lorenzo the Magnificent, is but one of the great artists.

The Medici

Florence at the time Micelangelo arrived was dominated by the Medici. Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent noted Micelangelo's work as a youthful aprentice and student. He brought the boy into his household. It was an invigorating experience for an apprentice to be brought into one of the most dazzling courts of Renasissance Italy. He grew up with the younger Medicis. Two of them would become popes (Leo X and Clement VII). He was exposed to some of the most important humanists of the day, men like Marsilio Ficino and the poet Angelo Poliziano and many other important thinkers. Michelangelo by this time had already to begun to produce his own works. The earliest were two relief sculptures completed by the time he was only 16 years old: "the Battle of the Centaurs" and "the Madonna of the Stairs" (1489-92). His patron Lorenzo died (1492). Micelangelo was forced to flee Florence when the Medici fell from power and were exiled (1494). It was dangerous for those close to the Medici to remain in Florence, even a young sculptor. Micelangelo stayed for a while in Bologna, where he produced several marble statuettes for the Arca di San Domenico in the Church of San Domenico (1494-95).


Michelangelo's focus was on the human body. This was one reason his focus was primarily on sculpture. He had no interest in landscape and deried artists who persued landscape/


On viewing Michelangelo's work, such as his gigantic David sculpture or the paintings in the Vaticam Sistine Chapel, one is immediately struck by the imposing almost aggresive muscularity of his figures, convey imposing grandeur. This visual assault may hide the inspiration behind his work. This is much more apparent in the drawing seen here of a Florentine boy with no fasade of grandeur. The artist has left us more than 500 deawings.


Micelangelo exhibited virtuosity in many areas, he worked as a sculptor, architect, painter, and poet. Michelangelo did not, however, want to paint. He vowed with considerable force that his sole tool was the chisel. He was insistent on the subject. But an even more headstrong man, none other than Pope Julius II, directed him to Rome to decorate the Sistine Chapel. The result was the single greatest fresco ever painted.


Art historian report that once Micelango became a respected artist that he began working with assistants. This varied over time, depending upon the commissions he received. As far as we know there are no records as to how this fluctuated and the identity of these individuals. One art historian estimates that 12 assistants helped him paint the Sistine Chapel in Vatican. This of course complicates the ability of art experts to authenticate his work.

Protestant Reformation

Micelangelo lived in tumultous times. Micgaelangelo and Luthur were contempraries. Luther posted his 95 Thesis igniting the Refornmation (1519). One of the his chief concerns was indulgences and other income generating measures. The money generated was being used to finance Renaisance art such as the building and decoration of St. Peter's. Luther and other Germans were not only concerned about the theological issues, but the siphoning off of vast wealth from Germany. As a result, as the Reformation took hold, the wealth needed to finance great art began to decline and the Church's energy began to be directed in the effort to fight the Reformation.


Michelangelo's influence was enormous. He had an enormous influence not only on his contemporaries but on all of Western art.


When Michelangelo died he left instructions that he be buried in hisloved Florence. He lies in a suitable monument in the church of Santa Croce.


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Created: March 31, 2004
Last updated: 5:58 PM 6/30/2011