Fair warning: I’m about to get excited.
One of the greatest advantages of my high school was the fact that it offered Art History. Not many schools have the staff to, and very few have staff of the quality we did. The course I took focussed on the Renaissance, and more than any other artist, I fell for Michelangelo.
Michelangelo is breathtaking as an artist, of course. Any single being who can produce the Sistine chapel, the pieta and the tomb of Julius II in a single lifetime deserves to be memorialised. But more than that, it’s interesting. Compelling.
What I find most interesting is the stamp of Michelangelo. He was himself was a magnificent personality. A poet, a grumbly incessant bickerer with the most powerful man in Italy, a fiercely pious Christian despite his obsession with the masculine form, an unlikeable, bitter figure who was at the same time hugely respected and admired – he was a colossus. So was the shadow he cast on the artists who followed him.
And it’s that stamp of character which you can see in his works. Sibyls who look like bodybuilders. Discomfortingly sensual figures of Christ. Tortured souls with his own face. A background of ignudi in an image of the Madonna and Child. But also, incredible beauty. He remains vivid and unmistakable, despite the time that’s passed.
All images from the amazing collection at the Web Gallery of Art.