| Michelangelo Buonarroti: his Life and his Art - Page 1
In Caprese in Casentino (Tuscany) on Sunday, the sixth of March 1475 at 8 O’clock in the evening,
Ludovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni and his virtuous wife became the proud parents to a
prodigious baby boy, that the father for good luck wanted to name Michelangelo.
The family lived in
Caprese because Lodovico, being a noble of florentin origin, was that year “Visiting Magistrate” at
the township of Chiusi and Caprese on behalf of the city of Florence. When his term ended the family
returned to their home in Settignano, 3 kilometers outside of Florence.
The stone quarries surrounding Settignano produced a grey stone locally called “Pietra Serena”. This
stone was continuously worked by the numerous local sculptors and stone cutters. The wife of one of
those stone-cutters was the wet-nurse to Michelangelo. It is for this reason that the artist often said
that his love for chisels, hammers and stone came from his nurse’s milk.
Soon afterwards the family moved to Florence in the Santa Croce quarter, more precisely on the small
street that bears the name “Via dei Bentaccordi”. Ludovico’s family grew in number but economically
fell on difficult times.
Michelangelo briefly attended the grammar school run by Francesco da Urbino but he spent most of
his time drawing and sketching. It was something he couldn’t live without, but brought him frequent
scoldings and even beatings by his father who considered Drawing and Fine Arts a waste of time that
brought neither money nor honour to the family.
A friend and neighbour Francesco Granacci was studying Painting in the workshop of the famous
Master Domenico Ghirlandaio. It is said that every day he would bring Michelangelo drawings by his
teacher and Michelangelo would study them religiously. By this time Ludovico realised it was
absolutely impossible to discourage his son from drawing and decided to enroll him as an apprentice
with Domenico Ghirlandaio. It was not long before Ghirlandaio saw how talented young Michelangelo
was and how quickly he improved his natural attitude for drawing. An agreement was met between
Ludovico and Ghirlandaio in which Michelangelo: was to remain at the Studio for 3 years and receive
the first year 6 florins, 8 florins the second and 10 florins the third. Michelangelo remained only one
year: it was Ghirlandaio himself who sent him to the “Medici Gardens Art School” that Lorenzo the
Magnificent had founded in Florence for young artists and sculptors.
The School was run by Bertoldo,
a former pupil of Donatello. The apprentices studied from a large collection of classical statues and
antiquities obtained by Lorenzo the Magnificent from Rome and even from Greece. During this first
year at the “Medici Gardens”, the young Buonarroti developed his innate quality by studying the
ancient masterpieces, sketching, drawing and fashioning clay models after the works of Donatello and
Masaccio. It is believed that during this period he carved two bas-reliefs: one depicting the “Battle of
Centaurs”, a subject taken from greek mythology in the style of the “Old Masters”, the second one
“Madonna on the stairs” is a flattened relief derived from Donatello. Michelangelo was soon
considered as the best pupil of the School and thus highly honoured and well paid.
All of this attention
created an atmosphere of jelousy among the other students. A story goes: one of them, Torrigiano,
who had been friendly to Michelangelo when he first arrived to the “School”, started to tease and to
moke him frequently. One day, for some stupid reason, he hit him and broke his nose. Torregiano was
immediately banished from Florence when Lorenzo the Magnificent heard about the episode. The
disfigurement marked Michelangelo for the rest of his life.