Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in the Tuscan town of Caprese, the second of five sons. He grew up in Florence. At the age of thirteen he was apprenticed to the painter Domenico del Ghirlandaio, in whose workshop he learned the rudiments of fresco painting and studied drawings of classical monuments. After approximately a year, Michelangelo joined the household of Lorenzo the Magnificent, where he came into contact with the Neo-platonic philosophers and was given the opportunity to study sculpture with Bertoldo di Giovanni, a pupil of Donatello. After Lorenzo died in 1492, Michelangelo was in Florence, where he fell under the spell of the charismatic preacher Fra Girolamo Savonarola. The preacher''s execution for heresy in 1498 had a traumatic effect on Michelangelo.
By nature, Michelangelo was an intense man who alternated between periods of depression and frenzied activity. He was difficult and often arrogant, yet he was devoted to his friends and helpful to young artists. He believed that his art was divinely inspired; later in life, he became deeply absorbed in religion and dedicated him-self chiefly to religious works.
Two of his best-known works, the "Pietà" and the "David", were sculpted before he turned thirty. His major early work was a "Pieta", commissioned by a French cardinal and installed in Old Saint Peter''s in the Vatican. Michelangelo''s "Pieta" is a very young Virgin of heroic stature holding the lifeless, smaller body of her grown son, with the sweet expression, the finely finished surfaces, and the softly modeled forms.
In 1501 Michelangelo accepted a commission for a statue of the biblical David for an exterior buttress of the Florence Cathedral. When it was finished in 1504, the David was so admired that the Florentine city council placed it in the square next to the seat of Florence''s government. Although Michelangelo''s David embodies the athletic ideal of antiquity in its muscularity, here the male nude implies, as it had in classical antiquity, heroic or even divine qualities. No match for his opponent in experience, weaponry, or physical strength, David represents the power of right over might.
Michelangelo traveled to the marble quarries at Carrara in central Italy to select the block from which to make this large work, a practice he was to follow for nearly all of his sculpture. The choice of the stone was important because he envisioned the statue as already existing within the marble and needing only to be "set free" from it. He later wrote in his Sonnet 15: "The greatest artist has no conception which a single block of marble does not potentially contain within its mass, but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image."
In 1505 Michelangelo was invited for commission to build the Pope''s tomb. Under the patronage of the Pope Julius II, Michelangelo''s work was interrupted, and lasted for 40 years. The tomb, of which the central feature is statue of Moses, was never finished to Michelangelo''s satisfaction. It is located in the Church of S. Pietro in Vincoli in Rome.Despite his low opinion of painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential works in fresco in the history of Western art: the scenes from "Genesis" on the ceiling and "The Last Judgment" on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It took four years to complete (1508 - 1512). Later in life he designed the dome of St. Peter''s Basilica in the same city and revolutionized classical architecture with his invention of the giant order of pilasters.
Michelangelo worked on many projects that had been conceived by other men, most notably in his work at St Peter''s Basilica, Rome. The Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo during the same period, rationalized the structures and spaces of Rome''s Capitoline Hill. Its shape, more a rhomboid than a square, was intended to counteract the effects of perspective.
The major Florentine architectural projects by Micelangelo are the unexecuted façade for the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence and the Medici Chapel (Capella Medicea) and Laurentian Library there, and the fortifications of Florence.
Whether in painting, sculpture or architecture, Michelangelo''s influence has been immense. Although he restricted himself to the nude in painting, his expressive use of the idealized human form had a tremendous impact on contemporaries and future generations – even Raphael was not above directly referring to the Sistine Chapel sibyls, with his fresco of Isaiah in Sant'' Agostino. Furthermore, there was not a major Italian sculptor of the 16th century whose style was not formed under the influence of Michelangelo, or in direct reaction against him (e.g. Bandinelli). He was the first artist to be the subject of two biographies in his lifetime ,those of Condivi and Vasari - with the latter doing much to promote the view of Michelangelo as the consummation of a progression towards artistic perfection that had begun with Giotto.