Fresco of the Libyan Sibyl, ca. 1511, Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo
Michelangelo Buonarroti’s artistic career spanned more than seven decades, during which he produced some of the most extraordinary works of art in history. Dividing his time between his native city of Florence and his adopted city of Rome, the “Divine Michelangelo,” as he was known, was the first true master of the major artistic disciplines of sculpture, painting, and architecture. Rocky Ruggiero, a specialist in the Early Renaissance, examines his epic life, using milestone works of art and architecture to illustrate the chapters of his artistic biography.
10–10:45 a.m. The Early Years (1475–1498)
After a year in the workshop of the Florentine painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, the 14-year-old Michelangelo was invited to join the Medici Garden Academy, Lorenzo de’ Medici’s school for the artistically gifted. Surrounded by il Magnifico’s great humanist court, he was exposed to classical art, literature, and philosophy, all of which would contribute to his unique artistic vision.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Stardom (1498–1506)
In 1498, a 23-year-old and relatively unknown Michelangelo exploded onto the Roman art scene with his Pieta’. Its international acclaim earned him the commission in 1501 that resulted in the statue of David. By the time he had turned 30 years of age, Michelangelo had carved two of the greatest statues in history and established himself as the preeminent European sculptor.
12:15–1:15 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:15–2:30 p.m. Julius II and the Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1506–1515)
In 1506, after Michelangelo contracted for 100 tons of marble for the ornate tomb commissioned to him by Pope Julius II, the project was put on hold. Julius instead wanted Michelangelo to cover the nearly 10,000 square feet of ceiling in the chapel built by his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, with a dazzling fresco cycle. For the next 4 ½ years of his life, Michelangelo would endure tremendous physical strain and dramatic conflicts with the pope, all the while producing some the most beautiful and revolutionary paintings in history.
2:45–4 p.m. The Medici Popes and the Roman Exile (1515–1564)
Michelangelo spent 15 years on the design and construction of a burial chapel for the brother and nephew of Julius’s successor, Pope Leo X—who as Giovanni de’ Medici was a childhood friend of the artist. After the Medici installed themselves as dukes of Florence in 1531, Michelangelo, a staunch supporter of republicanism, went into self-imposed exile in Rome and never again saw his native city. In 1536, he returned to the Sistine Chapel to begin his other great painting, The Last Judgement. At 71, he was appointed as head architect of St. Peter’s Basilica, a project that would occupy the rest of his life.
Ruggiero, who divides his time between Italy and the United States, has lectured on Italian art and architecture for American university programs in Italy for the past 20 years, including those of Syracuse, Kent State, Vanderbilt, and Boston College.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)