The Renaissance Period

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The Renaissance period came after the European Middle Ages, and it lasted from 1400 to 1600. This period was easily characterized by an increased interest in education, which came with a high amount of literacy. This made education, artistic styles, and different influential ideas spread easily and fast. Most importantly, the Renaissance period influenced the interest of people in classical Greece philosophies. This period also brought about an intense increase in artistic developments. One of the primary contributors of those inventive and innovative developments was Michelangelo, who was also a renaissance artist. Background Michelangelo was born on 6th March, 1475, at about 5 a.m., in Caprese. This was a small village located in Tuscany (Symonds 3). He spent his formative years living with a wet nurse, who was the wife of a stonemason, in Settignano. In fact, Michelangelo gave credit to the clean mountain air and growing up amongst stone cutters for his artistic abilities (Jones 14-5). Michelangelo’s father sent him to school when he was 6 years old. Despite this, he had little interest for school. Instead, he would watch painters working in the churches around his home and reproduce what he saw them painting. It was during this time that he started to spend time in Domenico Ghirlandaio’s workshop, as an apprentice. His experience in the workshop went on to become the founding stone for his future career as an artist. Ghirlandaio took notice of his talent, which he considered unique and beyond his age (Symonds 5-6).

Some of Michelangelo’s major exhibitions include the Pieta, which is a sculpture of Mary holding the dead body of Jesus in her arms (Jones 22). Another exhibition is the David sculpture, which was placed in front of the Pallazzi Vecchio. It was made out of marble, and was about 17 feet tall, the largest marble statue of his time. The Sistine Chapel paintings took Michelangelo a long time to finish. The most notable of these paintings, was the fresco painted on the church’s ceiling. The last judgment is another important exhibition, which is considered one of his masterpieces (Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo).

Michelangelo was considered a very proud man even during his years as a young man. He would often make fun of the paintings made by his counterparts in the Church of Camine, where he studied art with other young men (Jones 17). He was also very hot-tempered, often insulting people, particularly those that criticized his work. He is also known to have insulted Leonardo da Vinci. Michelangelo was never married, and he considered his work to be his mistress, which kept him away from socializing with other people (Symonds 4). Despite this, there is evidence of some romantic involvement with a woman and other men, whom he sent letters of endearment (Jones 24-8). He passed away in Rome at the ripe age of 88, a few weeks shy of his 89th birthday and buried in Florence.


Similar to most Renaissance artists, Michelangelo worked with various mediums. He worked with marble, oil and wood. However, his favorite medium was marble, and he preferred to be identified as a sculptor instead of a painter (Artble 2017). He preferred carving statues from stone, a major determinant in his decision to paint the Sistine Chapel using three-dimensional images. He even went as far as to include architectural details and sculptures in these paintings (DeWitte, Larmann and Shields 381). In his paintings, Michelangelo demonstrated a preference for frescos, as opposed to using oil. He also preferred to create clear outlines in his images instead of employing a soft focus, a style common amongst most artists during his time (Artble 2017). He had a keen eye for light and shadows, which allowed him to produce both volume and shape in all of his paintings and sculptures. Furthermore, he employed curves, which helped him twist different images around each other, allowing the images to fit in with each other like pieces in a puzzle.

His well-known works are considered to be his most successful masterpieces. They include the Sistine Chapel ceiling paintings, the last judgment, and the statue of David. David stands at 17 feet and was carved out of pure marble. The sculpture depicted values such as courage and power, which awarded the statue humanistic qualities that were prominent during the renaissance. In fact, Florence once treated the statue as their ‘representative’ to symbolize their freedom from the tyrannical Medici (DeWitte, Larmann and Shields 392). The last judgment is a depiction of Jesus’ second coming. Like most of his works, Michelangelo strays away from mainstream art of his time and paints a muscular and nude version of Jesus, who lacks a beard. The paintings demonstrate Michelangelo’s knowledge of the human body and his ability to duplicate human movements onto paintings (Jones 76). The Sistine chapel ceiling is a masterpiece, which depicts three dimensional images that look real. The paintings represent major Bible stories and are accompanies by pristine architectural details (Jones 57).


Three main events took place during Michelangelo’s life that eventually shaped his work. First, Lodovico’s decision to allow his son to become an apprentice at Domenico Ghirlandaio’s workshop had an immense effect on his later works. Here, Michelangelo reproduced images made by previous artists, as well as Ghirlandaio (Symonds 5). This allowed him to learn the art of fresco painting, which was one of Ghirlandaio’s areas of specialty.

Secondly, Michelangelo was sent by Ghirlandaio to Lorenzo Medici to attend the Humanist Academy. His visit to Lorenzo’s garden had such a great impact that he made the decision to stop working in Ghirlandaio’s workshop, choosing instead to remain in the garden, which contained antique statues and relics (Symonds 7). From this point onwards, h redirected his artistic genius to the art of sculpting, which was aided further by the knowledge of design and colors he had acquired while studying and working at Ghirlandaio’s workshop. Finally, Michelangelo’s upbringing also influenced his work. He was raised by a stonemason’s wife, which exposed him to the art of sculpting stone at an early age. His preference for stone, chisel and hammer are often attributed to this fact.


Michelangelo was influenced by many artists who either came before him or lived during his time. For instance, his works depict Donatello’s own style and approach to art. Michelangelo placed very large and long hands on David, an indication of Donatello’s influence (Symonds 74). In his painting of Madonna, Michelangelo employs a flat style, and his angels are dressed in tunics and they also lack wings. This style is reminiscent of Donatello’s approach as he often struggled to maintain originality in his work as opposed to producing paintings that upheld other approaches employed by other painters (Symonds 19). Dante, the poet, is also thought to have influenced Michelangelo’s work. He helped shape Michelangelo’s “pictorial imagination”. In fact, the last judgment borrows some of the aspects mentioned in Dante’s sonnet, the ‘inferno’ (Symonds 90). While studying in the Humanistic Academy, Michelangelo fell under Angelo Poliziano’s influence. This humanist and poet urged Michelangelo to read classical literature, which led him to start producing images that were not only youthful but also nude (Symonds 9).

Michelangelo’s legacy cannot be understated. He is known to have influenced artists such as Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin. Auguste credited Michelangelo for setting him free from the limits imposed on his academic study of the art. Drawing from Michelangelo’s ‘Dying Slave’ he created the ‘Age of Bronze’ statue, which depicted Michelangelo’s knowledge of the human form. Just like Michelangelo, the statue displayed his mastery of shadow and light, which made the life-size sculpture of a man appear very life-like (Sofiali, 2011). Michelangelo also exerted a great influence on the Western art. Besides Moore and Auguste, numerous artists have attempted to implements elements, such as spatial compression, serpentine poses, curves, anatomy of the human body, and inhibiting (Gilbert, 2017).


Michelangelo di Lodovico was a Renaissance artist, best known for his sculpting abilities. He was born in Caprese and was and is still considered a great artist. He demonstrated an interest in art as a child, which led him to become commissioned by numerous powerful individuals, such as the Pope and Lorenzo. His most successful work includes the Pieta, David, Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the Last Judgment. He has exerted a unique influence on Western art, particularly evident in subsequent works by artists such as Auguste Rodin.

Works Cited

DeWitte, Debra J. Larmann, Ralph M. & Shields, Kathryn M. Art of Renaissance and Baroque Europe (1400-1750). In Gateways to Art: Understanding the Visual Arts (pp.376-97). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2015.

Gilbert, Creighton E. Michelangelo: Italian Artist. Encyclopaedia Britannica, July. 2017. Accessed 16th Sep.2017.

Jones, Christopher E. A Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man: Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pieta in Late-Life Development. [Dissertation].Nashville: Vanderbilt University, 2009.

Michelangelo Style and Technique. Artble, 2017. Accessed 16th Sep.2017.

Symonds, John A. The Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Gutenberg, 2004.

Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. Michelangelo: Paintings, Sculptures, Biography, 2017. Accessed 16th Sep. 2017.

Sofiali, Eftychia. The Modern Object Sculpture Understood as a Work of Art. [Dissertation]. Cardiff: Cardiff University, 2011.

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