Michelangelo Buonarotti: His Art, Influences & Rivals

Ghirlandaio, Medici Sculpture Garden, National Gallery, The Pieta and David sculptures, Battle Of Cascina, Sistine Chapel, San Lorenzo, Medici Chapel, Daniel da Volterra, Sebastiano del Piombo. Mannerism, Pellegrino Tibaldi, Bronzino, Girolamo Francesco

22 April – 24 June 2021
Thursdays 10.45am - 12.45pm
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, London W1K 1DB
Leslie Primo
Full course (10 lectures) £520.00
Single lecture £63.00
(includes morning coffee, tea and biscuits)

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During the Renaissance just one artist achieved immeasurable fame within his lifetime and would tower over all others for centuries thereafter. He was Michelangelo Buonarotti. No artist had ever been so naked in his ambition. He would invent the modern superstar celebrity, setting the standard so high that all subsequent artists would struggle to emerge from his vast shadow. This series of lectures will unpack his long and extraordinary life and shed light on how his early childhood and family circumstances fuelled his relentless work ethic and fierce hatred of rival artists. It will conclude with the triumph of the Sistine Chapel, the tragedy of the Papal Tomb of Julius II, and his intimate personal relationships played out through his ‘Presentation Drawings’ concluding with the legacy of his art.

David Statue
Tondo Doni, Michelangelo Buonarroti The Creation of the Sun and the Moon, Michelangelo (1508-1512)

Course outline

The Early Years: Beginnings & The Ghirlandaio Workshop

We will look at the unconventional circumstances surrounding the birth of Michelangelo, his family background, his father’s profession and how that impacted on his early education particularly his training in the Florentine workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio. We will examine the techniques and working practises of the latter, the students who passed through this workshop and what possible impact it may have had on the future development of Michelangelo’s art practises.

Legendary Medici Sculpture Garden: Architetto E Scultore Del Giardino

The story of Michelangelo’s early sculptural works will continue with an examination of his time spent in the Medici sculpture garden. What was he trying to achieve? What were his first works, how was he trained and how did he come to be in the garden in the first place?

First Works: The Emergence Of The Painter

We will look at Michelangelo’s emergence as a painter, (both his earliest pieces are in the National Gallery, London) and compare the influences he gleaned from artists of an earlier generation as well as his fast‐emerging use of different mediums and growing confidence in this area of work.

The Fame Establishing Sculptural Works

We will not only look at two of Michelangelo’s greatest sculptural works ‐ The Pieta and David ‐ and the circumstances surrounding their commission, but also at the early works that led up to these iconic masterpieces. We will examine the prodigious output that ran concurrently with these extraordinary endeavours.

Rivalry, Competition And The Battle Of Cascina

With surviving drawings, we take an in‐depth look at Michelangelo’s great battle project, their place, use and varied mediums in the proposed fresco and how these drawings were used in competition against his rivals in both Florence and Rome.

The Sistine Chapel Projects

The Sistine Chapel projects were the most significant of Michelangelo’s career, but how did the circumstances come about to enable him to gain such lucrative work, what was his relationship with the notorious Julius II ‐ the famed Pope who commissioned this iconic ceiling? We will also examine the later part of this project ‐ the back wall Last Judgement fresco ‐ and the subsequent controversy surrounding this.

San Lorenzo, The Medici Chapel, And The ‘Tragedy Of The Tomb’

One of his longest, most factious and protracted projects was the tomb of Julius II. It would spawn some of his most significant sculptural works and span a 40‐year period. Why did this project go on for so long and what were the circumstances and pressures that kept it going? We will also look at Michelangelo’s other architectural projects, including the Medici church of San Lorenzo in Florence and St Peter’s in Rome.

Presentation Drawings Become Art

In the last decade of Michelangelo’s life, he began producing bespoke drawings for favoured clients. These would include personal letters and inscriptions to the recipients which tell us much about his state of mind at this late stage in his life. Who and why were these particular clients favoured and what did they mean to him.

Final Days And Final Works

At the very end of Michelangelo’s life, he returned to his first love ‐ sculpture ‐ he produced a few pieces, some of which were left in an unfinished state at the time of his death. This session will examine those pieces and their relationship with his late drawings.

His Legacy, School, Influences And Followers

In the final session, we will look at the artists Michelangelo worked with and influenced, Daniel da Volterra (about 1509 ‐ 1566) and Sebastiano del Piombo (1485 ‐ 1547) comparing their works with those of the Master. We will also look at his followers in the Mannerist style, Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527 ‐ 1596), Agnolo Bronzino (1503 ‐ 1572) and Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola (1503 ‐ 1540), also known as Francesco Mazzola or, more commonly, as Parmigianino. What is the Mannerist style and how did it manifest itself in Michelangelo’s works and what did his followers learn from these works?