8 Amazing Facts About Michelangelo That Will Surprise You

Most people know Michelangelo Buonarroti to be one of the greatest artists ever. He was a prolific artist who sculpted and painted the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, the Pieta in Rome, and the David in Florence. Peter’s Basilica to name a few. Behind this famous artist was a man with more quirks than most.

Self-portrait of Michelangelo

We think these 8 facts about Michelangelo will be quite surprising to you.

01. He was a world-famous sculptor, painter and architect, as well as a …. poet?

We all know his paintings and sculptures, but one thing we don’t know about Michelangelo is that he was also a prolific writer. There are more than 300 letters and poems that he wrote, of which there are hundreds. Poetry that discusses love, lust and ecstasy as well as spirituality and loyalty, and the human soul, is quite suggestive.

02. He was a forger

Although he was not a prolific counterfeiter, he did copy an ancient Roman sculpture called Sleeping Cupid, and passed it off as his original. He then buried the replica underground and dug it up to give the statue a worn, scratched appearance.

Whether he had been urged by Lorenzo de Medici or out of his own volition, he sold the piece to Cardinal Riario, who paid a substantial sum. Although it may seem shocking to us, art forgery or embellishment was not as common in the past. It meant that the artist could duplicate the greats! The young Michelangelo was able to launch his career thanks to this clever act.

03. He was not originally selected to finish the Sistine Chapel

Raphael was the most popular painter in town at the time of Michelangelo’s rise. It was Raphael that Pope Julius II first chose to work on the Sistine Chapel. Here is where the rivalry begins. Michelangelo was becoming more famous due to his commissions, and Raphael was starting to steal some of Raphael’s business. Raphael, out of jealousy or pride convinced the Pope instead to hire Michelangelo, hoping to prove that the young artist could only sculpt and was not capable of painting as well as he is. He was obviously disappointed.

More than 25,000 people visit the stunning chapel every day. It appears that Michelangelo had the last laugh.

04. He was able to paint himself in the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo signed the Pieta. It was his first sculpture and it was so beautiful that no one could believe it came from such a young artist. He also inscribed his name on a sash that ran diagonally across the chest of the Virgin Mary. He never signed any other work of art after that. He would instead paint himself into them. The Most famous example of self-portraits is The Last Judgment fresco, which covers an entire wall in the Sistine Chapel. St. Bartholomew holds the skin of what appears to be Michelangelo’s face.

05. David was made from a marble block that had been thrown away.

This is perhaps the most remarkable fact about Michelangelo’s career. Michelangelo, who is known for being very picky about the marble he uses, chose a tall and slim piece of marble for the Dave. This led many to believe that it would not be possible.

The marble slab, known as the “Giant”, was quarried but then left for 40 years before Michelangelo took possession. The stone was already more than one chisel mark on its surface and had begun to deteriorate.

Michelangelo still managed to create a statue of David that stands nearly 17 feet tall. It was considered structurally perfect even though it was not by any of the best artists or sculptures in the world. It is a must-see despite the large crowds. We just have to pray that it lasts. Recent analyses revealed that the marble’s poor quality contributed to the sculpture’s rapid deterioration.

Today, there are many replicas of Michelangelo’s ‘David’. Along with four other sculptures left unfinished by the artist, the original is kept in the Accademia gallery.

06. He was a terrible fashionista and had a tendency to make people mad.

Michelangelo was never married, and he had no children. However, it is believed that he had many love affairs with both men and women. Michelangelo grew up to become a wealthy man. However, it is interesting that he lived in near poverty and never changed or bathed. His clothes were so filthy and sticky that they had to be taken off his body when he died. The artist was a lonely man in his old age, and only came into contact with other people when he was forced to.

Michelangelo embodied many of the great artist personality traits. He was very harsh with himself and his work. He wrote in one of his many letters, “I am no painter” regarding his work on the Sistine Chapel.

He was known for his volatile, critical moods and frequent dissatisfaction. Pietro Torrigiano was actually one of his classmates in study and was so mad at Michelangelo’s talent or his smart mouth that he punched his nose, making it permanent crooked.

07. He was the first to publish an autobiography during his lifetime.

It was despite, or perhaps because of, his fascinating personality that the Italians loved Michelangelo during and after his lifetime. His nickname was “Il Divino”, which means the Divine. Everyone wanted to know his story, or at the very least, a vivid recount of it. This is what likely led Michelangelo not to publish one but two full-length autobiographies during his life.

We know more about Michelangelo than any other artist of his time. We know more about Michelangelo than his autobiographies. We also have letters, diaries, and sketches from artists who were in touch with him. Each project, whether it was for the government or the papal, was meticulously documented and kept. This gives us insight into Michelangelo’s work, timeline, and pay.

08. He was 74 years old when he was “saved” St. Peter’s Basilica.

When he was 74 years of age, the Catholic Church called upon the retired painter to ask him for help in completing the seemingly endless work on St. Peter’s Basilica. The building was not completed until his death. However, Michelangelo continued to work hard for 14 years, until his death at the age of 88. This is well beyond the average age of the period. After he became unable to physically visit the site, he continued to oversee the work at home by sending drawings, designs, and answers to the foremen. Michelangelo was instrumental in the construction of St. Peter’s was granted its magnificent dome and is still visited by pilgrims from around the globe.

Though technically Michelangelo was the second architect for St. Peter’s Basilica, his famous green Dome is clearly the cherry on top of the beautiful church.

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