Michelangelo

Michelangelo was pessimistic in his poetry and an optimist in his artwork.
Michelangelo’s artwork consisted of paintings and sculptures that showed humanity in it’s
natural state. Michelangelo’s poetry was pessimistic in his response to Strazzi even
though he was complementing him. Michelangelo’s sculpture brought out his optimism.
Michelangelo was optimistic in completing The Tomb of Pope Julius II and persevered
through it’s many revisions trying to complete his vision. Sculpture was Michelangelo’s
main goal and the love of his life. Since his art portrayed both optimism and pessimism,
Michelangelo was in touch with his positive and negative sides, showing that he had a
great and stable personality.
Michelangelo’s artwork consisted of paintings and sculptures that showed
humanity in it’s natural state. Michelangelo Buonarroti was called to Rome in 1505 by
Pope Julius II to create for him a monumental tomb. We have no clear sense of what the
tomb was to look like, since over the years it went through at least five conceptual
revisions. The tomb was to have three levels; the bottom level was to have sculpted
figures representing Victory and bond slaves. The second level was to have statues of
Moses and Saint Paul as well as symbolic figures of the active and contemplative life-
representative of the human striving for, and reception of, knowledge. The third level, it
is assumed, was to have an effigy of the deceased pope. The tomb of Pope Julius II was
never finished. What was finished of the tomb represents a twenty-year span of frustrating
delays and revised schemes. Michelangelo had hardly begun work on the pope’s tomb
when Julius commanded him to fresco the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to complete the
work done in the previous century under Sixtus IV. The overall organization consists of
four large triangles at the corner; a series of eight triangular spaces on the outer border; an
intermediate series of figures; and nine central panels, all bound together with architectural
motifs and nude male figures. The corner triangles depict heroic action in the Old
Testament, while the other eight triangles depict the biblical ancestors of Jesus Christ.
Michelangelo conceived and executed this huge work as a single unit. It’s overall meaning
is a problem. The issue has engaged historians of art for generations without satisfactory
resolution. The paintings that were done by Michelangelo had been painted with the
brightest colors that just bloomed the whole ceiling as one entered to look. The ceiling
had been completed just a little after the Pope had died. The Sistine Chapel is the best
fresco ever done.
Michelangelo embodied many characteristic qualities of the Renaissance. An
individualistic, highly competitive genius (sometimes to the point of eccentricity).
Michelangelo was not afraid to show humanity in it’s natural state - nakedness; even in
front of the Pope and the other religious leaders. Michelangelo portrayed life as it is, even
with it’s troubles. Michelangelo wanted to express his own artistic ideas. The most
puzzling thing about Michelangelo’s ceiling design is the great number of seemingly
irrelevant nude figures that he included in his gigantic fresco. Four youths frame most of
the Genesis scenes. We know from historical records that various church officials
objected to the many nudes, but Pope Julius gave Michelangelo artistic freedom, and
eventually ruled the chapel off limits to anyone save himself, until the painting was
completed. The many nude figures are referred to as Ignudi. They are naked humans,
perhaps representing the naked truth. More likely, I think they represent Michelangelo’s
concept of the human potential for perfection. Michelangelo himself said, “Whoever
strives for perfection is striving for something divine.” In painting nude humans, he is
suggesting the unfinished human; each of us is born nude with a mind and a body, in
Neoplatonic thought, with the power to be our own shapers. Michelangelo has a very
great personality for his time. In Rome, in 1536, Michelangelo was at work on the Last
Judgment for the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, which he finished in 1541. The largest
fresco of the Renaissance, it depicts Judgment Day. Christ, with a clap of thunder, puts
into motion the inevitable separation, with the saved ascending on the left side of the
painting and the damned descending on the right into a Dantesque hell.