It passes through various artistic stages:
a) Youth (1491-1505), in Florence, very classical, which seeks the ideal beauty, as in the Pieta in the Vatican.
These years were marked by the bankruptcy and fall of the Medici family and the rise of the Monk Savanarola, who took control of Florence in November 1494, ousting Lorenzo’s son Piero.
By that timeMichelangelo, who had first tried his luck in Venice, was already established in Bologna. Several marble statuettes for the Arc of San Domenico in the Church of same name were executed by Michelangelo in 1494 and 1495, during this stay. In 1496, realising he was only wasting his time, he decided to return to Florence. Back home he made a sculpture of a sleeping cupid. The story came out eventually andas a consequence Michelangelo was invited by Cardinal San Giorgio to move to Rome, where he stayed for a year in the latter’s service.
In Rome he made a statue of cupid and the first of his great works: the statue of Bacchus, now at the Bargello Museum, in Florence. Both works are from 1496.
On 26 August 1498, Michelangelo signed a contract with Cardinal San Diogini and, with the backing ofJacopo Galli, began to sculpt a Pietà to be placed in St Peter’s, in Rome. It was ready in 1499 and placed in the St Petronilla Chapel, being moved in the XVIII century to its present location. This Pietà is perhaps one of Michelangelo’s most famous works. It is a highly refined work and shows that he had already mastered anatomy and the disposition of drapery, but above all it shows that he hadsolved the problem of the representation of figures in unusual positions, in this case of Jesus stretched on Mary’s lap, even though he was criticised for the extreme youth of Mary. Contrary to the usual practice of the times, the statue is signed.
He returned to Florence in 1501 in glory. The period from 1501 to 1505, the length of his Florentine stay, proved to be extremely fertile.
In 1501Michelangelo received a commission for a sculpture of a Madonna to be placed in the church of Notre Dame in Bruges and he was invited to visit the city in 1504.
In May of the same year he received a commission from the Cardinal of Siena for 15 statues for the Piccolomini altar in the Cathedral of Siena. Only four were completed, those of Sts. Paul, Peter, Gregory and Pius.
In August he was given, athis request, a gigantic block of marble which had been abandoned for 36 years at the Opera del Duomo. A statue had been begun by another sculptor, but so badly, that the whole piece was given as lost. Michelangelo, however, believed it could be saved and promised to deliver a statue in two years’ time. He started work on 1 September and was careful to leave some of the signs made by the previousartist. The figure was ready in April 1504 and proved to be the gigantic David, which was initially placed in front of Palazzo Vecchio. In the XIX century it was replaced by a copy, while the original was moved to the Museo dell’Accademia.
In 1503 he began a series of the 12 apostles for the Cathedral, but only the statue of Matthew, now at the Museo dell’Accademia, was ever completed.
In 1504 hewas commissioned by Pier Soderini to paint a fresco in the Council Hall, in Palazzo Vecchio, opposite the one which had been commissioned from Leonardo. Michelangelo chose as subject the Battle of Cascina. This work was actually begun in 1504 but was not finished by the time Michelangelo was called to Rome by the new Pope, Julius II, but the cartoons became an inspiration for all contemporaryartists. Only a few of these are still in existence. As the fresco was to represent the Florentines surprised by enemy troops while bathing in the River, it became known as “The Bathers”. It became a highly influential work, as it stresses almost exclusively the nude human body as a means of expression.
b) Maturity (1505-1534) in Rome and Mannerist trends are beginning to dissolve the classical...