A FAMOUS RENAISSANCE ARTIST
Michelangelo was born near the city of Florence and when he was a teenager he joined the school of sculpture that was run by Lorenzo de Medici. Lorenzo became his patron and treated the young artist like a member of his own family.
When Lorenzo died Michelangelo moved to Rome and one of his first projects was the “Pieta”, a white marble sculpture of Mary and her dead son. This world famous statue is today in the church of St. Peter in the Vatican and is protected by bullet proof glass. Another famous statue he carved was that of “David” which he did for the city of Florence and it was around five metres tall. It is carved out of a single block of white marble and is considered a masterpiece.
Pope Julius II was a famous patron of artists and he asked Michelangelo to carve his tomb and later to paint frescoes on to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He spent around four years working on these frescoes and these were all scenes from the Old Testament. One of the most famous sections is that of God creating Adam. The whole ceiling is 36 metres long and 13 metres wide. He also painted a huge fresco on the wall of the Chapel behind the altar and this was called the “Last Judgement”.
Michelangelo was also involved in the design and building of the new St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He designed the dome. He also wrote poetry so today he is recognised as an artist, sculptor, architect and poet. He died at the age of 89 years in the city of Rome but the people from his native city stole his body and had it buried in his native city of Florence.
LEONARDO DA VINCI
Leonardo da Vinci was born in Vinci, near Florence. He was the son of a rich lawyer. From an early age he was full of curiosity and also showed a love of drawing. He was apprenticed to an artist called Verrocchio, one of Florence’s best-known artists. Like all other apprentices, he learned to draw, to prepare colours and varnishes and to sculpt. He used a sketchpad to make his own study of Florence’s famous works of art. The first known work of Leonardo’s is an angel for a painting that Verrocchio was working on called The Baptism of Christ.
When Leonardo was trained he tried without success to get work in Florence. He wrote instead to the ruler of Milan and he invited him to work in Milan. Here Leonardo painted The Virgin of the Rocks on canvas. This painting shows his use of sfumato – a ‘smoky’ technique, first used by Leonardo, in which the outlines of the figures were blurred or smudged to make them blend into their surroundings. The painting also shows his love of nature. Leonardo also painted The Last Supper in Milan. This was painted on the dining room wall of a monastery. Very soon the paint began to peel off one of the greatest works of art.
Leonardo was interested in many different subjects, and he kept notes on these. He studied astronomy (stars and planets), geology (rocks) and engineering. He had a special interest in anatomy (the study of the human body) and dissected ‘more than thirty bodies of men and women of all ages’. He made detailed drawings of the human body. He designed machines – tanks, cannons and an aeroplane with flapping wings. In all, about 7,000 pages of his notes still exist. He wrote left-handed and backwards (mirror writing), so for many years people did not understand what he had written.
After the ruler of Milan fell from power, Leonardo returned to Florence, where he painted the Mona Lisa, who is believed to have been the wife of a merchant. The painting took two years to complete and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Leonardo went to live in France in 1516 at the invitation of the king, Francis I. Three years later he died, still dreaming of new projects. He left unfinished many of the works he was asked to do.