Michelangelo was born as Michelangelo Buonarroti, though he is more commonly known only by his first name. The only other artist that comes close to the fame and stature as Michelangelo is his contemporary Leonardo Da Vinci. Both contend for the right to be the ultimate Renaissance artists, if not the top artist in history. Michelangelo was apprenticed at only thirteen to the famous Renaissance artist Ghirlandaio. By fourteen he was being paid and treated like a full fledged artist, though his training was still incomplete. After living with the Medici family, who were probably the Renaissance’s single greatest patrons of the arts and humanities, he went back to his family before setting out on his own.
His first work is one of his most famous, the sculpture Pieta, finished when Michelangelo was only 21 years old. He rose to instant fame – at least, after he signed his name onto statue so it would not continue to be wrongly attributed to other sculptor, and, in fact, it is the only work he ever signed. After that there was no need for Michelangelo to put his name on anything. Everyone could recognize his hand.
Being a sculpture, first and foremost, it came as a great surprise to the general public when the Pope commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. It was an enourmous undertaking, and while Michelangelo was trained as a painter, he first love was always sculpture. The Sistine Chapel ceiling took nearly ten years to complete. Michelangelo and Pope clashed more than once during the period of time. When payments for work were slow from the Pope, Michelangelo was known to simply pick his things up and leave, heading back to his hometown of Florence. More than once the Pope recalled Michelangelo to finish his work and hand over adequate payment for the artist to continue. Once, it is said, the Pope physically dragged Michelangelo back to Rome. Had it been any other artist, it is safe to say that such great lengths wouldn’t have been taken to ensure that the artist stayed on.
Out of the hundreds of figures and scenes displayed across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, one in particular is recognized beyond all others. This is the Creation of Adam, a scene depicting the biblical telling of God’s creation of the first man. It differs from all paintings of the same story that come before it, however. God isn’t shaping Adam from dirt and clay, or is breathing the breath of life into him. Instead God and Adam are reaching towards each other, God about to put the spark of life into Adam. Their fingers, so near each other, do not touch, creating a moment of tension in the scene, though clearly we know how the story ends.Michelangelo is still a giant of an artist today, just as he was in his own time. Equally talented in sculpture and painting, along with languages, philosophy and all the other qualities of the perfect Renaissance man, Michelangelo will be hailed for his achievements throughout time.