Michelangelo Buonarroti lived from 1475 to 1564. Best known as a sculptor, he also excelled as a painter, architect and military engineer. He painted the ceiling of the Papal chapel and sculpted the tomb of one of the most powerful families in Italy. However, Michelangelo's greatest achievement was that he embodied the ideal of the "Renaissance Man," a widely studied person who excels at many things.
Michelangelo was one of the most important painters of the Renaissance. His best known painting is a gigantic fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It took Michelangelo four years, from 1508 to 1512, to finish it. The Sistine Chapel is visited by millions of art lovers every year. It has also been the pope's personal chapel since its completion in 1487. New popes are elected in the Sistine Chapel.
Art historians agree that Michelangelo remains the most important European sculptor. Working in marble, his most famous sculptures include the fierce, muscular David, the seated, horned Moses, the grief-stricken Virgin Mary cradling the slain Jesus in "Pieta" and the monumental tomb of the Lorenzo di Medici in which Lorenzo in classical Roman armor sits enthroned above a nude male figure representing dawn and a nude female representing dusk. To this day, aspiring sculptors from all over the world study these works of art.
Michelangelo was a prolific architect who designed many civic and religious buildings. He designed Italy's most famous library, the Laurentian Library, in 1525. Among his most important achievements is the design of the massive, self-supporting dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Michelangelo died two years before the project was completed. Dr. William Thornton drew inspiration for the U.S. Capitol dome from Michelangelo's design.
In 1527, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain challenged the authority of the pope and sacked Rome. This encouraged the citizens of Florence to expel the Medicis who were ruling the city at this time. Michelangelo rushed to the aid of Florence and redesigned and built its fortifications. It was a project that would consume two years of his life, from 1528 to 1529. His efforts were fruitless. Florence fell in 1530, and the Medici, restored to power, expelled him.
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