Michelangelo (1475-1564)

Michelangelo's profound influence on art is matched only by Leonardo and Raphael. His understanding of classical art, and his concentration on heroic and idealized male nudes, was profoundly influential. The British Museum has over eighty drawings by Michelangelo, the largest group outside Italy.

Born near Florence in 1475, Michelangelo was a pupil of Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-94). As a young man, he painted the Manchester Madonna (National Gallery, London) and carved the Battle of the Centaurs. In 1494 he left Florence and travelled to Venice and Bologna. From 1496 Michelangelo was working in Rome on the marble Pietà (St Peter's, Rome) and the painting of the Entombment (National Gallery, London). He returned to Florence in 1501 where he drew the cartoon of the Battle of Cascina to rival Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari, and in 1502-4 he carved the marble David (Accademia, Florence).

In 1505 he was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II, who commissioned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the unrealised project for his tomb. Figure studies from two famous scenes in the Sistine Chapel, the Creation of Adam and the Crucifixion of Haman, are in The British Museum. From 1534, Michelangelo concentrated on rebuilding St Peter's and painting the Last Judgement (1536-41, Sistine Chapel, Rome). His finest late drawings are the 'Presentation Drawings', which he drew as gifts for his closest friends and supporters. They are profound meditations on Michelangelo's spiritual and emotional struggles. He died in Rome in 1564, and was buried in his native Florence.

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