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Michelangelo’s Life and Work Essay

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Updated: Dec 13th, 2018

Born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni in 1475, Michelangelo remains one of the most influential artists in the 15th century. In fact, most analysts consider Michelangelo as one of the best artist of his times. His works ranged from poems, sculptures, architecture to drawings (Barenboim, 2006).

His work started when he was in his late teens and early twenties. Michelangelo’s creativity and sensitivity in artistic details contributed to his accomplishment, and among his most popular sculptures are, ‘David and Pieta’. Domenico Ghirlandaio, a famous painter and friend to his father, was responsible for giving Michelangelo the first painting lessons when Michelangelo was an apprentice in his workshop.

The artist, who revolutionized renaissance art, went to live with Medici family, from where he managed to get most of his artistic works commissioned (Barenboim, 2006). Due to his immense skills and wide collection of artistic works, early museums documented his works and as it turns out, he was the most famous artist of the 16th century. The existing political, religious and philosophical contents in the 16th century influenced Michelangelo first works.

Upon the death of Medici, Michelangelo returned to his father’s place, from where he proceeded with his sculpture making works and painting. When political upheavals rocked the town of Florence, Michelangelo shifted his working base to Bologna. One of the historical works he created while at Bologna was making final carvings at the Tomb of St. Dominic.

Michelangelo continued with his artistic works in other areas including Rome, with his most significant architectural design being the Dome of St Peters Basilica, which he designed in 1546 (Barenboim, 2006). His autobiography was written while he was still alive, and he remains the only artist to have achieved this in the 16th century. In 1564, Michelangelo died at the age of 88.

Michelangelo based most of his drawings on historical and religious events. One of his drawings is the crucifixion, which the artist made for his friend Vittoria in the mid 1530’s. Michelangelo makes extensive use of shading in order to emphasize on the areas exposed to light, as well as elaborate on depth. The Crucifixion has elaborate shading along the edges of the crucified image, bringing out some aspect of depth.

The drawing is in black chalk, and it has its background being darker to emphasize on the lurking death from the crucifixion. The other famous drawing is the Battle of Cascina, which has extensively used contour lines to emphasize on motion (Barenboim, 2006). The artist emphasized on the movements and direction by using contour lines when shading some parts of the painting.

The combination of color and shading makes the drawings to appear in motion and emphasize on depth by creating a three dimensional perspective. The Doni Tondo is another painting completed in 1504. Michelangelo painted a family of three on a piece of wood and elaborated on creating shapes while drawing.

From its name, Tondo represents a circular artistic work and Michelangelo ensured that the family fit proportionally in the circle. Shading and hatching are elaborate in the painting, with Michelangelo artistically manipulating the hands to form triangles.

Brush strokes replace the use of lines to elaborate on depth and perspective. Charon the Boatman is another drawing on the wall of Sistine Chapel, and it combines cool and warm colors to create a sense of space.

Contour lines are also elaborate on the man holding the oar as well as on the floating man above the boat. Using colored shades, Michelangelo creates some depth in the two dimensional drawing. Crucifixion of St Peter is another painting on the ceiling of the Pauline Chapel and it has extensive shading and use of contour lines to elaborate on space, depth and perspective.


Barenboim, P. (2006). Michelangelo Drawings – Key to the Medici Chapel Interpretation. Moscow: Letny Sad.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "Michelangelo’s Life and Work." December 13, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/michelangelos-life-and-work/.


IvyPanda. (2018) 'Michelangelo’s Life and Work'. 13 December.

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