Michelangelo Buonarroti

11th Sep 2010Posted in: Michelangelo Buonarroti Comments Off on Timeline of Michelangelo’s Life Work

Timeline of Michelangelo’s Life Work


Michelangelo Buonarroti was born on March 6 in Caprese, a village near Florence, during his father’s short term as mayor and local magistrate. The family soon returns to Florence. The infant Michelangelo is placed in the care of a foster-mother in a town five miles from Florence. His mother dies when he is six.


… Michelangelo quits school and signs up for an apprenticeship as a painter with Domenico Ghirlandaio.


… Michelangelo leaves Ghirlandaio’s workshop and starts to study sculpture in the gardens of Lorenzo de Medici. He lives at the ducal palace for three years in the company of the learned Humanists and sculpts his first works (marble reliefs): THE MADONNA OF THE STAIRS and the BATTLE OF THE CENTAURS.


… Lorenzo de Medici dies and Michelangelo goes back to live with his impoverished father. Florence rebels against the leadership of Lorenzo’s son Piero.


… Michelangelo flees the city, goes to Bologna. There he sculpts three small statues for the tomb of San Domenico: ST. PETRONIUS, ST.PROCULUS, and an ANGEL.


… Back in Florence Michelangelo sculpts a CUPID (now lost) and sells it to the art dealer Baldassare del Milanese, who in turn sells it as an antique work to a Roman Cardinal.


… Michelangelo moves to Rome. For a banker-client he sculpts his first important work: the BACCHUS and another Cupid, now lost. He makes his first trip to Carrara for marble.


… Michelangelo sculpts the PIETÀ for the French cardinal Groslaye but receives no other important commissions for nearly two years.


… Cardinal Piccolomini orders 15 statues for the Cathedral of Sienna. Michelangelo begins three of them but then abandons the project.


… Michelangelo returns to Florence, which has become a republic, and receives an order from the local authorities for a bronze David (finished and sent to France, now lost) and a colossal marble statue of DAVID. The Cathedral Cabildo gives him an order for marble figures of the Twelve Apostles. Only the ST. MATTHEW is blocked out.

Michelangelo finishes a “Madonna with the Christ Child” (BRUGES MADONNA, sent to Bruges in 1506), and an oil painting, his first and only one, of the Holy Family (MADONNA DONI). He starts but does not finish two round marble reliefs, called tondi: the TONDO TADDEI and the TONDO PITTI.


… Michelangelo’s colossal DAVID is set up in front of the Palazzo de Signoria or City Hall.

He obtains a commission to paint a fresco (the BATTLE OF CASCINA) for the Council Room of the city of Florence. Leonardo da Vinci is commissioned to do a fresco on another wall of the Council Chamber. Michelangelo only finishes the cartoons—he never starts to paint the wall.


… Michelangelo is called to Rome to build a tomb for Pope Julius II. Then he spends nine months in Carrara, quarrying marble for it. Back in Rome he begins to block out some of the figures for the great tomb.


… Michelangelo leaves Rome in anger on learning that the Pope has given up the tomb project, and takes refuge in Florence under the protection of its governor, Piero Soderini. In November he goes to Bologna to apologize to the Pope, who pardons him and orders a colossal bronze statue of himself. Michelangelo spends more than a year modeling and casting the figure, which is finally set up on the facade of San Petronio in 1508. Three years later it is melted down to make a cannon.


… Pope Julius decides to decorate his uncle’s chapel and orders Michelangelo to fill the ceiling with frescoes. He protests that he is no painter but the Pope insists and Michelangelo begins to work alone and in great discomfort. He finishes the SISTINE CEILING frescoes for years later in 1512.


… Pope Julius dies. Michelangelo signs a new contract for his tomb with his heirs. He works on the MOSES and the so-called “Slaves”: The DYING SLAVE and the REBELLIOUS SLAVE (now in the Louvre, Paris).


… Michelangelo begins work on a RISEN CHRIST for the church of Sta. Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. It is unveiled only in 1521.


… Michelangelo signs another contract for the Julius tomb and goes to Carrara for marble. The Medici, now ruling again in Florence, ask him to design the facade for the family church of San Lorenzo. His design calls for 10 statues.


… Michelangelo spends most of the following three years in Carrara and Pietrasanta, quarrying marble for the facade of San Lorenzo and also for the Julius tomb. He signs a contract with the Medici for the facade of San Lorenzo, which now includes 22 statues. This project is suddenly and inexplicably canceled by Pope Leo in 1520.


… Michelangelo begins to work in the MEDICI CHAPEL and the BIBLIOTECA LAURENZIANA and continues through 1523. Part-time he still devotes to the Julius tomb project.


… Florence is besieged by a papal and imperial army and Michelangelo is named Chief of Fortifications and must devote himself to the defense of the city. Afterwards considered a traitor by the victorious forces, he goes into hiding. The Pope promises him immunity if he continues to work on the Medici Chapel figures. He finishes two of them (NIGHT and DAWN) by 1531.


… Michelangelo moves to Rome. He signs a new contract with Julius’ heirs for a smaller tomb—only six figures. The heirs accuse Michelangelo of lying about the money he received from Pope Julius for the tomb and he is never able to convince them of his honesty, which nearly drives him to despair.

Michelangelo meets Tommaso de’ Cavalieri and dedicates many poems and drawings to him.


… Pope Clement asks Michelangelo to paint the LAST JUDGMENT on the wall of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo returns to Florence for a short stay, then leaves it for the rest of his life. He lets assistants finish the Medici Chapel and the Laurenzian Library.


… Pope Clement dies and the new Pope (Paul III) orders Michelangelo to stop working on the Julius tomb and paint the LAST JUDGMENT frescoes. He finishes them in 1541. His friendship with Vittoria Colonna begins and he dedicates many religious drawings and poems to her.


… Michelangelo starts work on the CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL fresco in the the Pauline Chapel.


… The JULIUS TOMB is finally set up in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. Most of it is executed by other sculptors according to Michelangelo’s plan. He is unsatisfied with the results.


… Michelangelo finishes the second Pauline Chapel fresco, the CRUCIFIXION OF ST. PETER and begins the FLORENTINE PIETÀ for his own tomb.


… Pope Paul III appoints him official architect of ST. PETER’S BASILICA. With the help of an assistant he completes a model of the dome in 1561.


… In a moment of anger and frustration Michelangelo mutilates his FLORENTINE PIETÀ.


… Michelangelo’s friend Daniele da Volterra watches him work all day February 12 on the RONDANINI PIETÀ. Two days later he comes down with a fever but goes for a walk in the cold night air, saying he just can’t rest. The next day he spends sitting next to the fireplace but finally must crawl into bed. He dies on February 18. The Pope wants to have him buried in St. Peter’s but Michelangelo’s nephew and heir, Leonardo, takes the body back to Florence, where it is buried in Santa Croce. More than a hundred artists attend his funeral.

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