Michelangelo Violet Jane Greeley Art Appreciation. Da Vinci versus Michelangelo Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simone shared many similarities. Both were painters, sculptors, and poets. They both had a tendency to leave their works incomplete. Both artists quickly surpassed the talents of their instructors and achieved fame with ease. In addition, both artists were known to have studied anatomy by dissecting human cadavers. Together they make up two-thirds of the Renaissance’s three greatest artistic minds of all times, the other being Raphael. In this paper, I will first give a brief biography of each artist, then compare and contrast three works of art by Leonardo with three works of art by Michelangelo, followed by a discussion on how each artist made their own personal influence on the world of art in Italy and Europe during the 16th century, and provide supporting examples. Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, and passed away on May 1, 1519.
Leonardo’s first painting and the sculpting instructor was Andrea del Verrocchio, with whom he was apprenticed to and even surpassed in skill. During his apprenticeship to Verrocchio, Leonardo excelled at many skills including painting, sculpting, architecture, engineering, and mathematics. Still, further, he studied subjects such as botany, geology, geography, zoology, anatomy, hydraulics, and mechanics. Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, and passed away on February 18, 1565. When Michelangelo was fourteen years old, he was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandajo in April 1488. Before long, Michelangelo excelled in his artistic ability, surpassed his fellow apprentices, and at times even rivaled his master’s abilities. Additionally, he achieved exemplary skills in architecture, poetry, and engineering, but was most fond of sculpting above all else.
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Although Michelangelo wasn’t apparently influenced by Ghirlandajo in artistic methods or styles, his attitude and behavior reflected that of his master more prominently by his frequent displays of vigorous work ethics and an impatient temperament. While under the tutelage of Ghirlandajo, Michelangelo carefully analyzed old and new artists and their techniques. These included but weren’t limited to Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, Ghiberti, Benedetto da Majano, Mino da Fiesole, Antonio Rossellino, and Jacopo Della Quercia Rolland. Florentines whose influence can be seen in Michelangelo’s works are Giotto and Masaccio. A year after his apprenticeship to Ghirlandajo, he was also introduced to Bertoldo di Giovanni (who was himself once a student of Donatello) through Lorenzo the Magnificent, and was instructed on the art of sculpture in the Garden of Medici as well as being influenced by Lorenzo de Medici.
His original intent in joining with Giovanni was to gain experience with the tradition of Donatello and to enhance his knowledge of antiquities, but the most precious asset Michelangelo acquired from Giovanni was access to and the friendship of the Medici family. From 1492 to 1494, Michelangelo obtained an extraordinary opportunity to study anatomy in the hospital which was adjoined to San Spirito. Vasari stressed the importance of studying antique forms and the significance of such in the work of all of the most highly regarded master artists in the High Renaissance era. Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo were no exceptions to this rule, and Michelangelo especially applied himself in that aspect. Leonardo was a major contributor to the art world in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and a predecessor of many other artistic marvels including Raphael and Michelangelo. Here I will discuss St. Jerome in the Wilderness, The Last Supper, and Mona Lisa. St. Jerome in the Wilderness was begun in 1480 and is one of many of Leonardo’s unfinished products.
St. Jerome resides in the Vatican Museums in Rome. St. Jerome withdrew from society into the Syrian Desert and became a recluse. The painting illustrates a far off crucifix on the right side of the picture and St. Jerome kneeling down all the while fixing his eyes on the distant crucifix. A rock can be seen in St. Jerome’s hand and a lion is close by. The rock represents the object with which St. Jerome uses to punish himself for the purposes of atonement. The lion is indicative of the companion St. Jerome acquired after healing an injury to the lion's paw. A cardinal’s hat together with the lion and the stone are common traits associated with St. Jerome. Also on the right is a church between the rocks, the existence of which could indicate St. Jerome’s Doctoral position. Leonardo used a fresh, new technique in positioning St. Jerome in a disproportionate way so that his figure was vastly different than that of the lion. Through the passage of time, this painting has endured separation and the process of reassembly. The Last Supper came into creation beginning in 1495, was improved upon in sporadic periods, and was finished it in its entirety in 1498. Duke Ludovico Sforza and Duchess Beatrice d’Este commissioned The Last Supper who wanted it to be the centerpiece for the Sforza family mausoleum. However, the painting now serves as the wall covering for the dining hall in the monastery Santa Maria dell Grazie.
The Last Supper was an elaborately detailed representation of Jesus’ life as it neared its end in the Gospel of John chapter 13 verse 21. Jesus revealed his awareness of the upcoming betrayal from within his beloved discipleship as the Bible described the scene in the book of Matthew chapter 26, verse 21. The reactions of the disciples ranged in varying degrees of outrage, shock, horror, grief, and disbelief as continued in the book of Matthew chapter 26, verse 22. Another reference to Biblical doctrine included in the painting was the initiation of the Eucharist in the book of Luke chapter 22, verses 19 through 20. In the painting, Judas was clearly stunned at the announcement of his plot. In a state of reservation, he was grasping the money purse containing the silver which had been obtained in a trade for the betrayal. Some observers of the painting argue that the purse could also be suggestive of Judas’ status as treasurer of the group as well.
Close observers may take note of Judas tipping over the salt shaker, which may be a cleverly disguised reference to a phrase that signifies the betrayal of a master. Peter appeared to be perturbed all the while wielding a knife; this could have been a deliberate inclusion of the painting in order to give observers a sense of foreboding, a reminder of the violence to come in the midst of Jesus being arrested. John was painted in a manner portraying him in the throes of a fainting spell. As was commonly practiced at the time, Leonardo positioned all of the disciples and Jesus on one side of the table for the purpose of being able to see them all. Some other painters during later periods of time occasionally separated Judas from the other disciples by either seating him on the opposing side of the table or by neglecting to give him a halo-like the others in the painting, an obvious indication of his fall from grace. Rather than denoting Judas in that way, Leonardo uses the shadows as a safe haven for the villain to conceal his own guilt.
Jesus could be seen in the painting as he pointed toward the bread and persisted in foretelling pending events by stating that the traitor would break the bread simultaneously with himself as is suggested in the book of Luke chapter 22, verse 21. Judas reached for the bread as predicted because he was distracted by the conversation between John and Peter. In this painting, the artist used a definitive method of manipulating the lighting which in turn naturally brought the observers eyes to the central focal point of the painting behind Jesus’ head. Because Leonardo used an alternative method of painting, The Last Supper rapidly began deteriorating. Although efforts have been made to maintain its integrity, the quality of the painting has suffered substantially. The deterioration so compromised the painting can only be speculated upon that Leonardo originally intended for the positioning of Jesus’ feet to be suggestive of the forthcoming crucifixion. It’s quite apparent in this art piece that Leonardo did extensive research with the help of models and closes observational skills to create a psychologically provocative and visually pleasing scene. Mona Lisa otherwise known as La Gioconda was a portrait conceived in about 1503 and was completed in 1519. The commissioning was initiated by the woman in the painting, Lisa del Gioconda, and her husband who was a prosperous silk merchant in Florence.
At the beginning of its existence, Mona Lisa may have been housed at Chateau Fontainebleau, but was then relocated to the Palace of Versailles, then to the Louvre where it remains to this day. No other work of art in the world is more famous than Mona Lisa. Lisa del Gioconda was a member of the Gherardini family, who were prominent Florentines. The painting of this portrait was motivated by the acquisition of the couple’s new residence as well as in celebration of their second son having been born. Factors that aided in the promotion of this portrait gaining such colossal fame were the vague facial expression, the delicate method of painting the shapes, and the enormity of the composition. In creating the Mona Lisa, Leonardo used a pyramid shape as a basis of effortlessly positioning the subject into space permitted, with her hands folded demurely taking the shape of the obverse corner. The lighting of the portrait gently caressed her in various places including her breast, hands, neck, and face, giving the painting added fundamental dimensions. Lisa held an erect posture, and her fixed stare was another distinct feature that gave the portrait its signature quality. The darker elements of the painting such as Lisa’s hair and veil along with the encompassing shadows help to add radiance to her face that might otherwise have been less noticeable. Leonardo’s absence of outlining particular facial features enhanced the liveliness of the subject. As was typical of Leonardo, the comprehensive landscape, the general calmness, theatrical use of lighting and shadows, and the obscure outlining all contributed to this masterpiece.
It’s important to note the background contained a visual illusion in that one side was significantly higher than the other which would be unfeasible in reality. However, because of the discrepancy, Lisa seemed to move or smile if the viewer's eyes shifted from one side to the other. The painting survived a number of attacks over a period of time including theft, an acid spill, stone-throwing, and other such mishaps, but has been minimally damaged and on occasion repaired. Michelangelo created many great works in his time, and in conjunction with Leonardo and Raphael defined the artistic era of the Renaissance. I will focus on two of his statues; The Pieta and David, and one of his paintings; The Last Judgment. Before discussing Michelangelo’s statues, I’d like to restate that he’d previously gained extensive knowledge of human anatomy by secretly dissecting cadavers, which aided his ability to create accurate portrayals of human physique while sculpting and painting.
Since this practice was illegal as well as being considered morally corrupt behavior, having done so put him at an advantage over many other artists. Work on the Pieta, a life-size statue made of marble was set into motion in between 1498 and 1499 and reached its fruition in 1500. It was the French cardinal, Jean de Bilheres Lagraulas who commissioned the Pieta to be done so that it might enhance the appearance of the chapel in Saint Peters where he was intended to be buried. This statue, his first masterpiece was a representation of Mary holding Jesus after his crucifixion. Controversy surrounded this work of art regarding Mary’s appearance of being younger than Jesus. However, the artist was able to portray Mary’s loveliness as well as her grief in an intensely vivid manner. The artist’s intent in portraying such youth in Mary was that he’d been attempting to use that feature as a method of defining Mary’s purity. As a result of the youthful and tranquil appearance portrayed in the Pieta, Michelangelo’s statue was unique in comparison to other artists portrayals of the same scene in which their Mary was much older and broken-hearted. Michelangelo created such detailed imagery that the Pieta quite visibly displayed a variety of textures including hair, fabric, and flesh. This particular piece of artistry in addition to David has been replicated by numerous other painters and sculptors. It’s been said that Michelangelo wasn’t initially in the habit of signing any of his pieces of artistry. However, upon hearing observers crediting other artists with his accomplishment he began doing so with the Pieta. The Pieta originally was destined to occupy Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, however, it is now located in the church which took the place of Saint Peter’s. Michelangelo’s David wasn’t the first statue of the biblical hero, but it was the most impressive one which has ever been created thus far.
David was a popular biblical theme about a young shepherd boy purportedly the underdog who volunteered to enter into battle with a much larger adversary. In this story, David defeated his enemy with a slingshot, his skill, and his courage as the only weapons at hand, without even being protected with armor. Upon his return to Florence in 1501, Michelangelo received a warm reception regardless of his previous association with the Medici family. He began sculpting David immediately and completed this work in 1504. Donatello and Verrocchio both had previously created statues of David; however, unlike Michelangelo, theirs were symbolic of the hero after his battle with Goliath. Michelangelo created his personification of David to represent the events prior to the battle with Goliath. He used David’s anatomy to imbue strength, anticipation, and reserved energy. He even added the minute detail of engorged veins to emit a sense of the physical process of an adrenaline rush and the psyche which accompanies it.
David’s facial expression was indicative of having already decided to do battle, but not yet having completed the task. Clearly it was Michelangelo’s intent to portray David in the very moment in which the slingshot was about to be raised. Michelangelo’s David possesses a poignant connection with an imperceptible presence. It was unlike any other because of its overall size and slender physique, and to this day can be surpassed only by Michelangelo’s Pieta. Upon completion, this masterpiece further solidified Michelangelo’s reputation as a master sculptor and artist in all of Italy. David is now located in Florence and stands at an impressive fourteen feet high. Michelangelo’s knowledge of anatomy, balance, and proportion are prevalent, along with an aura of superhuman magnificence. David is but one example of Michelangelo’s personality which exemplified divine humanity. Divine humanity represented developing values in the Renaissance era.
The Renaissance began a movement away from centuries of control over human affairs on the part of the church and a restoration of humanistic values of the contemporary world. It was firmly held by Michelangelo that the human body was the living embodiment of God’s divine power. He successfully articulated man in its ultimately heroic status in creating his David sculpture. The spiritual closeness Michelangelo held to was in direct contrast with the scientific approach of Leonardo. Michelangelo began painting The Last Judgment in 1536 and completed it in 1541. In the midst of his work, the counter-reformation was in full force. An important issue affecting the world of art was the difference in religious beliefs between the Catholics and the Protestants. The Catholics valued artwork for its power to manipulate the people toward piety. Protestants, on the other hand, found the artwork to promote idolatry and distraction. To alleviate controversy regarding this issue, the Catholic Church reached an agreement that images should be visually and theologically unambiguous. The uproar of the counter-reformation was instrumental in Michelangelo’s decision to paint the altarpiece of the Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgment as a way of depicting the controversial times. The central figure of the altarpiece was the Lord, and all around the Christ figure were nudes. God was the unyielding authority over his human subjects and physically gestured his intent to utterly annihilate humanity.
It’s quite clear that the Lord had complete control over the destiny of all of the spirits around him. The Heavenly hosts emanated their unease, while angels trumpeted, and the Lord discerned between the just who ascended to Heaven and the damned who were thrown into the pits of Hell. Michelangelo further purveyed horror by including rising dead figures and demons provoking great suffering and agony upon the damned souls. Other known figures which complement this masterpiece were Saint Bartholomew and who was either the good thief or St. Andrew. The works of da Vinci and Buonarroti significantly influenced the world of art in the 16th century in Italy and Europe in numerous ways. The two artists shared many similarities in talent and scope of knowledge; however, it was their individual uniqueness that magnified their works to the status of masterpieces in their lifetimes and beyond. In 1476, Leonardo was permitted to paint an angel in Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ, in which he impressed his master with his superb display of talent. By that point in time, he’d already been elected to be a painter into the painter’s guild.
Other contemporaries alongside Leonardo under Verrocchio’s tutelage included such notable artists as Perugino and Lorenzo di Credi. By the year 1481, Leonardo’s talent was known all over Italy, and he was commissioned by the Saint Donato monastery to paint their altarpiece which is now known as The Adoration of the Kings. However as was Leonardo’s tendency, he neglected to complete the altarpiece and sought employment with Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. His first work for the Duke was to create a statue of Ludovico’s father. Approximately in 1496, Leonardo began planning and painting his famous Last Supper located in the Santa Maria Delle Grazie, which took about two years to complete. Around the year 1500, he created the painting known as The Battle of Anghiari, and soon after embarked on his most famous work, Mona Lisa. Francois, I was among the first patrons to passionately support the coming of the Renaissance to France and commissioned Leonardo to work around the year 1516 along with other prominent figures such as Rosso Fiorentino.
Following this event, he then created two more paintings for the French viceroy in Milan, The Virgin of the Rocks, and Saint Anne with the Virgin and the Infant Christ that ended up being his last masterpieces. Almost two centuries later, another artist known as Diego Velazquez would use similar painting techniques to Leonardo in which he wasn’t as concerned with every minute detail of a subject being so much as capturing their characteristic impressions. Leonardo was also the mastermind of a device known as sfumato which was used by many other artists who followed him even centuries later in order to overcome the problem of naturalism and perspective creating a rigid and wooden appearance on the subjects of the paintings. Unfortunately, another problem arose which this technique could not accommodate. The shadows used by Leonardo didn’t naturally occur in the light of day, therefore Impressionist artists had to resort to blurring some aspects of their painting to prevail over the dilemma. Michelangelo learned the fresco technique from his original instructor, Ghirlandaio. Later on, he was sent to the Medici Garden where he learned from Bertoldo di Giovanni. While in the presence of the Medici family, Lorenzo de Medici encouraged Michelangelo to involve himself in conversations with many of the most renowned men of the time. He achieved recognition for his talent in approximately 1492 when he constructed his first masterpiece The Battle of the Centaurs, which was a marble relief.
This statue remains unfinished as are many of Michelangelo’s works of art. By 1499, Michelangelo succeeded in creating a superb statue known as Pieta, which was completed in 1499 and caused him to gain worldwide recognition. In the next few years, he occupied his time by creating a statue of David, in the Accademia, Florence. Michelangelo’s depiction of David dwarfed those of Donatello and Verrocchio's inability, and talent. His next project, the tomb of Pope Julius II was to be the longest lasting one of his life, taking a full forty years to complete. One statue included in this great endeavor is Moses, arguably the most excellent work exhibited by this particular sculptor. The tomb also includes The Atlas Slave (incomplete), The Dying Slave, and a statue of Lorenzo de Medici, along with two supporting nudes below. In the midst of his work on the tomb of Pope Julius II, he worked on the Sistine Chapel ceiling from May 10, 1508, until October 31, 1512, this also being done for Julius II. This particular masterpiece is to this day incomparable to any other work of art.
Pope Julius II chose to employ Michelangelo for this task because his reputation throughout Italy and Europe was that of an outstanding sculptor who had an exceptional talent for using physical forms to express his own feelings and emotions. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in its entirety contains nine major panels; God Separating Light from Darkness, The Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, The Separation of Land from Water, The Creation of Adam, The Creation of Eve, The Temptation and Fall of Adam, The Sacrifice of Noah, The Flood, and the Drunkenness of Noah. Twenty-four years later, Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Paul III to paint a mural above the altar of the Sistine Chapel which was to be a companion piece to the ceiling; The Last Judgment. This altarpiece took him six years to complete beginning in the summer of 1536 and reaching its completion on October 31, 1541. According to records, Michelangelo employed a single assistant for this project; Urbino, a talented artist who showed a significant ability with the foreshortening technique. Numerous authorities on the matter believe Michelangelo’s source of inspiration for The Last Judgment was derived from a poem, The Divine Comedy was written by Dante who mentioned a Charon and Minossis both of whom are included in the painting. Much praise and criticism were heard for this painting, ranging from amazement and wonder to abhorrence for the scandalous nudity. Biagio da Cesena was one of the first among many who offered scathing disapproval of the nudity of the figures.
As a result, Michelangelo painted the face of Biago on the figure of Satan and a serpent slithering about the body while biting the groin area of Satan. Despite Biago’s complaints to the Pope, the painting remained as it was. Unfortunately, due to so much criticism over the nudity of the painting, modifications were later made by Daniele da Volterra, who was hired by the church officials to paint clothing on the genitals of the nude figures. However, another artist, Martino Rota made an engraved replica of the original Last Judgment prior to the alterations. Similar to the habits of Leonardo, Michelangelo frequently abandoned his paintings before completing them, and the only known finished easel painting is The Holy Family. Michelangelo’s reputation was far superior to those of his contemporaries in sculpture, even including the next generation. Many new and upcoming artists studied Michelangelo’s methods with great intensity and strived to imitate his level of distinction by painting nudes in their own works of art as he had done. These artists seemed to have overindulged themselves in this practice, and such behavior took away from the meaning of the paintings rather than adding to it. This fashion became known as Mannerism. In closing, I’ve mentioned a few similarities common between both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simone. In addition, I gave a summary of each artist's lives, compared a few of their art pieces, and finished off with a discussion on how each artist made their own personal influence on the world of art in Italy and Europe during the 16th century with supporting examples.
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