Michelangelo was born in 1475 in Caprese to a family of nobles. Following the death of his mother, he was placed with a stonemason until the age of ten. Fascinated by drawing, he quickly made a name for himself and his abilities. Despite the resistance of his father, who thought the pursuit was beneath the family’s social status, he became apprentice to the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio in 1488.

Recommended to Laurent de Médicis, Michelangelo was then entrusted to the sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni. He then discovered the ducal collections of antiques and was inspired by pieces such as the Belvedere Torso. Among his first works, the bas-relief of the Virgin on the Staircase (1490) bears witness to the influence of Donatello as well as the intellectual debates of the time.

After the death of Laurent de Médicis in 1492, Florence fell under the control of the Savonarola monk. Michelangelo fled the regime of austerity and took refuge in Bologna. Here he created two statues for the church of St Dominic, St. Petronius and St. Proculus.

In 1496, the Vatican called Michelangelo to Rome. He received important commissions and sculpted two of his first masterpieces: Bacchus (1497) and Pietà (1499). Their reception however was conflicted; Bacchus was refused by its sponsor, being deemed too provocative, while Pietà intrigued audiences by its youthful aspect. For the artist, the mystical youth of the Virgin was an embodiment of virtue and chastity. Aware of his own talent, Michelangelo bravely signed this piece in a conspicuous way for all to see.

Returning to Florence in 1501, Michelangelo began to work on new sculptures. The statue of David (1504) was carved from a single block of Carrara marble. Its nude form reflects inspiration from Donatello’s David, and thus justified its presence at the Palazzo Vecchio. The disproportionate size of the figure, which measures in at over 4 metres high, testifies to the ambitions of the Florentine city and the artist.

Michelangelo, in search of a consecration, embarked on an incredible project that would last for four years – the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The complex composition illustrates scenes from the Old Testament. The artist diverts it and covers the ceiling with contorted figures flanked by an excess of ignudi. This reinterpretation of biblical scenes was striking to the clergy: once again, Michelangelo proved himself as a paradoxical genius, both grandiose and decadent.

The artist’s unprecedented glory from this achievement was tarnished by the death of Julius II in 1513. In 1519, Michelangelo returned to Florence. He returned to the service of the Medici and created the new Sacristy, the Medici Chapel and the Laurentian Library. However, the princely family was exiled from the city in 1527. Michelangelo then returned to the Vatican in 1532.

In 1535, Pope Paul III appointed Michelangelo as the official architect, painter and sculptor of the Vatican. This began with the decoration of the wall of the altar of the Sistine Chapel. The Last Judgment, completed in 1541, became a manifesto of the terribilità often employed by the artist. The fresco bears witness to the apocalyptic climate of the period following the rise of Protestantism. Together with the painted ceiling, it forms a complete scene that extends from Genesis to Parousia, along an axis of destruction and creation. The angelic bodies of the ignudi respond to the corpses of the damned.

At the height of his glory, Michelangelo enjoyed an incredible reputation. During his last years, he worked on various projects at the Farnese Palace and at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. He died in 1564 at the age of 88, leaving his last work, Pietà Rondanini, unfinished.

Today, Michelangelo's work is famous worldwide. His presence on the market consistently remains extremely rare and highly sought after, and even his smallest works reach the highest of prices. In 2000, a sheet entitled The Risen Christ sold for £8 million at Christie’s London. In 2011, a study sold for £3 million at Christie’s London. The works of Michelangelo continue to inspire awe in modern audiences across the world and will likely continue to do so for millennia; it is no wonder that he is considered one of the most brilliant artists that ever lived to this day.

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