Imagine being so talented at your trade that you are compared to a divine being, sent from God to enlighten the world through your mastery of sculpture. Michelangelo Buonarroti was one such artist who was also dubbed “the divine one” in his era for creating some of the most exquisite and detailed sculptures Europe had ever seen. In this article, we will enlighten you on some of the most interesting and unique facts about Michelangelo that will give you a new perspective on the master sculptor. Keep reading for a summary of the top 15 interesting facts about Michelangelo!
- 1 The Divine Sculptor: Michelangelo Buonarroti
- 2 15 Michelangelo Facts You Need to Know
- 2.1 Michelangelo Was His Own Muse
- 2.2 Michelangelo’s Sculptures Were Publicly Attacked
- 2.3 Michelangelo Used a Discarded Block of Marble to Carve David
- 2.4 Michelangelo’s Art Fraud Aided His Recognition
- 2.5 Michelangelo Had His Nose Broken by a Rival
- 2.6 Michelangelo Worked for Nine Popes
- 2.7 Michelangelo Was a Defense Fortification Designer
- 2.8 Michelangelo Was the First Living Artist to Have a Published Autobiography
- 2.9 Michelangelo Was Called Out of His Retirement
- 2.10 The Sistine Chapel Commission Was a Sabotage Attempt
- 2.11 Michelangelo Wrote Over 700 Sonnets
- 2.12 Michelangelo Was Infatuated With Tommaso dei Cavalieri
- 2.13 Michelangelo Surpassed the Average Life Expectancy of His Time
- 2.14 Michelangelo Did Not Die a Starving Artist
- 2.15 Michelangelo Remained Single Until His Death
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
The Divine Sculptor: Michelangelo Buonarroti
Who was this divine sculptor? Michelangelo Buonarroti is a name that set the tone for classical art and its revival during the Renaissance. Michelangelo was a prominent Italian sculptor during the 16th century, who is credited with creating masterpieces such as Pietà (1498-1499) and David (1504), while also being one of the youngest, most recognized artists of his day.
The Temptation of Saint Anthony (c. 1487 – 1488), by Michelangelo; Attributed to Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Having achieved quite the record of fame and recognition, Michelangelo was also a known poet, architect, and painter, who produced one of the world’s most famous frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512. In this article, we will explore some of the most interesting facts about Michelangelo and his career that will not only surprise you but will also give you insight into the artist’s personal growth.
15 Michelangelo Facts You Need to Know
While there are loads of opinions about Michelangelo Buonarroti on the internet, it is important to gather the facts, such that your understanding of master artists is well-rounded and in-depth. Below, we will cover the top 15 Michelangelo facts that will provide you with many interesting details about his life and work.
Creation of Adam (1511) by Michelangelo; Michelangelo (1475–1564), circa 1511, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Michelangelo Was His Own Muse
Contrary to most beliefs about the models that Michelangelo used in his works, many will be surprised to learn that Michelangelo often used his own image as the inspiration for his sculptures. The master sculptor also rarely signed his works and left no traces of self-portraits behind. The only traces of his own image was found in The Last Judgment (1535–1541) fresco for the Sistine Chapel, which included a piece of flayed skin, believed to represent the artist’s face. The image can be seen with St. Bartholomew, who holds the skin.
Michelangelo also included a self-portrait as the character Saint Nicodemus in the Florentine Pieta with many art historians suggesting that his face may have been included in a crowd scene in The Crucifixion of St. Peter (1546–1550).
Michelangelo’s Sculptures Were Publicly Attacked
One may be surprised to find out that Michelangelo’s sculptures were publicly attacked on more than one occasion. The first attack occurred in 1972 when a man named Laszlo Toth, who was mentally unstable at the time, attacked Michelangelo’s sculpture Pieta. This act of vandalism resulted in significant damage to the Madonna’s forearm, nose, eyelid, and veil. Luckily the restoration team managed to piece together the shattered pieces of marble from the priceless sculpture, which included a piece of marble that was picked up by an American tourist during the attack. Michelangelo’s David sculpture was also attacked in 1991 when a man hammered at the statue, destroying parts of its left foot.
Michelangelo Used a Discarded Block of Marble to Carve David
David is one of the most famous sculptures created by Michelangelo in the 16th century. The renowned marble sculpture is also known to have been imperfect before David was created by Michelangelo. The block of marble that Michelangelo used to create the statue had already been worked on by two other artists before Michelangelo resumed the project. Previously, the other artists deemed the slab unworkable since it had many flaws, however, it took Michelangelo’s genius to fully realize the potential of such a massive slab, which was quarried approximately 40 years before he began the project. In addition to the subtle flaws within the piece of marble, the marble had also been exposed to the elements which made working on it a challenge.
Although the marble was a previously discarded block, Michelangelo leveraged his talent for sculpture to produce one of the most magnificent works of art to date.
Michelangelo’s Art Fraud Aided His Recognition
Among the top Michelangelo fun facts is his history in art fraud. Michelangelo was not always an honest artist since early in his career, he attempted art fraud and deceived a client by creating a sculpture, which was sold off as a work of antiquity. Considering Michelangelo’s circumstances, he was simply following the suggestion of his patron Lorenzo de Medici, who suggested that he prepare a sculpture of a cupid and sell it off to Cardinal Raffaele Riario, as an archaeological artifact. The cardinal who purchased the sculpture later discovered that Michelangelo scammed him and eventually got his money back. However, he was also incredibly impressed by the artist’s refined skills, such that he even sent him an invite to Rome. Michelangelo spent the next seven years in Rome, leading him to create the masterpiece Pieta, which earned him significant recognition.
Michelangelo Had His Nose Broken by a Rival
During his teenage years, Michael Angelo was sent to study and live at the residence of Lorenzo de Medici, who was among the most prominent art patrons of the 16th century. Michelangelo’s talent was realized by the Medici’s, who employed his superior talent, which also earned him significant attention from rivals and fellow pupils who envied his skills and position. It came as no surprise that Michelangelo had his nose broken by one of his younger rivals named Pietro Torrigiano, who allegedly shattered Michelangelo’s nose and left him permanently disfigured.
Torrigiano also bragged about the fight, stating that Michelangelo would remember his mark and carry the event with him to the grave.
Michelangelo Worked for Nine Popes
In the early 16th century, Michelangelo was known to have been working for nine different Catholic pontiffs, including Pious IV and Julius II. Michelangelo created many commissioned works for the Vatican, including various objects such as a papal bid and elaborately carved knobs in addition to the frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Although he did not always get along with the popes that he worked with, Michelangelo still enjoyed his partnerships with other pontiffs such as Pope Paul III, who stood up for the artist’s painting The Last Judgment after a few members of the church spoke out against the nude figures in the artwork.
Sistine chapel ceiling (1508-1512) by Michelangelo; Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Michelangelo Was a Defense Fortification Designer
When the ruling Medici family was expelled from Florence in 1527, a Republican government stepped up, which saw Michelangelo’s employment as a director for Florence’s fortifications. Michelangelo designed defense fortifications by making many extensive sketches and conducting frequent studies of other regions’ defense walls. Apart from his art career, he took his new job quite seriously, however, his designs were not realized since the pope already dispatched his troops to reclaim Florence.
Michelangelo was close to being dubbed a traitor, however, he was forgiven by Clement VII and offered a new opportunity. It was only after 1534 that Michelangelo fled Florence.
Michelangelo Was the First Living Artist to Have a Published Autobiography
It is no secret that Michelangelo was adored during his lifetime, as an artist, poet, and architect, who was dubbed “the divine one”. Many people wished to learn more about Michelangelo’s life and how he came to learn such talents. During his lifetime, Michelangelo published two full-length autobiographies, which established his legacy and reputation as the first living artist to have their autobiography published. In addition to his autobiographies, scholars are lucky enough to also have information from the diaries and letters of people who came into contact with the artist, as well as the many sketches purchased from patrons and collectors who admired his work.
Memories of Rome II (Raphael and Michelangelo at the Sight of St. Peter) (1839) by Carl Gustav Carus; Carl Gustav Carus, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Michelangelo Was Called Out of His Retirement
As one would expect, many were perhaps disappointed by the fact that Michelangelo had to retire, however, even after his retirement, the Catholic Church requested that Michelangelo help complete the construction of Saint Peter’s Basilica. At the time, Michelangelo was around 74 years old, however, the building was still not complete, even after his death at the age of 88.
Due to old age, Michelangelo had to supervise the operations of the construction from his home and would send his designs and drawings to the foremen, while overseeing the construction of the majestic dome.
The Sistine Chapel Commission Was a Sabotage Attempt
Back in the day, Raphael was among Michelangelo’s contemporaries and was also a known rival of Michelangelo. A few fellow Renaissance painters were involved in convincing Pope Julius to employ Michelangelo for the commission on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It is believed that this was done to sabotage Michelangelo’s career since he was prominently known as a master sculptor and not necessarily a “master” painter. Michelangelo confidently took on the job, which took him four years to complete and resulted in one of the most famous and well-executed paintings in history.
The Last Judgment (1537–1541) by Michelangelo; Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Michelangelo Wrote Over 700 Sonnets
In addition to creating some of the world’s most famous sculptures and paintings, Michelangelo was also known to be an accomplished poet. During his lifetime, he wrote over 700 sonnets, including madrigals, which discussed multiple personal subjects, including his opinions on sex, his overactive bladder, and his experience of aging.
His poetry was never officially published; however, it did circulate in the 16th-century Roman literati circles and was even included in music pieces by a few 16th-century composers.
Michelangelo Was Infatuated With Tommaso dei Cavalieri
It has been speculated that Michelangelo was perhaps queer since he never married and very little is known about his personal life. Apart from his art career, there was evidence that Michelangelo was infatuated with a young man named Tommaso de Cavalieri. Michelangelo also wrote many love poems to several young men and later had a romantic relationship or suspected platonic friendship with a fellow poet named Vittoria Colonna, who exchanged loving sonnets with Michelangelo.
Tommaso die Cavalieri (nd) by Michelangelo; unknown, possibly Daniele da Volterra or Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Michelangelo Surpassed the Average Life Expectancy of His Time
How old was Michelangelo when he passed away, and how did Michelangelo die? Surprisingly, the Renaissance master lived a long life and surpassed the average life expectancy for most people who lived between the 12th and the 19th century. Michelangelo lived until the age of 88 and continued to create work until he died in 1564. The cause of his death was found to be a short illness, which he succumbed to while working from his home studio.
The cause of his sickness was never recorded.
Michelangelo Did Not Die a Starving Artist
As is the common stereotype of famous artists in art history who have squandered their financial gains and fallen into poverty, Michelangelo is an exception. Michelangelo’s estate was worth up to 50,000 florins when he died, which equates to approximately $35 million today.
Michelangelo Remained Single Until His Death
Was Michelangelo married, and if so, who did Michelangelo marry? While Michelangelo was found to have experiences with romantic interests throughout his life, he remained single until his death and never married.
Portrait of Michelangelo (c. 1545) by Daniele da Volterra; Attributed to Daniele da Volterra, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Michelangelo Buonarroti was by far one of the most fascinating icons in art history, whose unique legacy had many plot twists. We hope that these 15 Michelangelo fun facts have added a new level of understanding to the creator of some of the world’s most cherished artworks!
Frequently Asked Questions
Was Michelangelo Married?
Michelangelo Buonarroti was known to have engaged in romantic relationships with Tommaso dei Cavalieri and Vittoria Colonna, however, he never married and remained single until his death.
How Did Michelangelo Die?
It is believed that Michelangelo died from an unknown illness, the cause of which was unrecorded. However, Michelangelo did live beyond the normal life expectancy for 16th-century men.
How Old Was Michelangelo When He Died?
Michelangelo Buonarroti was 88 years old when he passed away at his home studio. He was known to suffer from an unknown illness, which perhaps caused his death.
Who Did Michelangelo Marry?
Michelangelo never married, although, he did have relationships with a female poet and a nobleman, both of whom did not engage in a commitment with the artist.
Liam Davis is an experienced art historian with demonstrated experience in the industry. After graduating from the Academy of Art History with a bachelor’s degree, Liam worked for many years as a copywriter for various art magazines and online art galleries. He also worked as an art curator for an art gallery in Illinois before working now for artfilemagazine.com
Liam’s passion is, aside from sculptures from the Roman and Greek period, cave paintings, and neolithic art.