(b Caprese, Italy 1475; d 1564) One of the most important artists of the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo excelled in the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture. As was the practice at the time, he was apprenticed at the age of twelve to the Florentine painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. His interest soon shifted to sculpture and he attracted the patronage of the wealthy and powerful Lorenzo de Medici. Michelangelo benefited from studying Classical Greek and Roman models in Lorenzo’s sculpture garden, and the influence of this experience can be seen throughout his life’s work. Among his most notable early works are his Pieta for the Vatican in Rome and his colossal sculpture of David in Florence, both completed before the age of thirty. Despite his preference for working in sculpture, perhaps his single greatest artistic achievement was the decoration of the Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius II. Representing scenes from Genesis on the ceiling and the Last Judgment on the wall, Michelangelo painted his frescos single-handedly in the span of just four years. His infamously tempestuous and melancholy personality contributed to his reputation as a tortured artistic genius, and many of his later works were either left unfinished or destroyed by the artist. Nevertheless, Michelangelo enjoyed papal patronage in Rome throughout most of his lifetime, and upon his death in 1564, his body was returned to Florence and interred in Santa Croce in a state ceremony of a grandeur normally accorded only to the higher aristocracy.
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