Michelangelo Biography: Between Rome and Florence

The small chance of having made a fake antique (a statue of Cupid), turned Michelangelo to Rome. It is said that the Cardinal of St. Giorgio, who had bought the statue, invited Michelangelo to Rome, willing to discover the author of the supposed antique. We do not know for sure if this is true, what we know for sure is that, in 1497, for another Roman gentleman, Gallo, Michelangelo made the Bacchus, now at Bargello in Florence. Of all Michelangelo's works, this statue is maybe the most realistic and least dignified. It represents a youth in the first stage of intoxication, holding a cup in his right hand and in his left a bunch of grapes, from which a little Satyr is helping himself.

His new friend Gallo obtained for Michelangelo the order for what is called Pietà. The work was completed in 1499. Another Madonna, that of Bruges, must have been made about these days; it may have helped to fill the young workman’s time until he was recalled by his father in 1501 to Florence. He was still a minor, subject to his father's rule. He returned to his home, apparently because he was needed and his help vas more accessible than at a distance.

He had already begun the support of his family, which was in reality the main occupation that he followed, treating himself harshly that he might give more to them, and meeting with the usual experiences of miscomprehension by his relatives, who could not understand why he did not make more money since he was paid so much. It must have been entirely from a desire to save money for his family that Michelangelo acquired almost sordid habits. He gave freely, but lived abstemiously.

When Michelangelo returned to Florence, the fame of his great creations in Rome had already preceded him, and he was generally considered the best sculptor. Commissions came in great numbers, most of them neglected by the artist, who was more attracted by another grandious task, and between 1501-1504, Michelangelo created the famous David.

In 1505 Michelangelo was invited back to Rome by the newly appointed Pope Julius II, and he was commissioned to build the Pope's tomb. Michelangelo had to constantly stop work in order to accomplish an ever increasing number of other tasks, and the tomb, of which the central feature is the statue of Moses, was never finished the way Michelangelo desired. It is located in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome.

A brief absence to Florence and Michelangelo was again called back to Rome. We know the date, because his father emancipated the son, March 13, 1508, which gave him full mastery over his property and his person. The Pope delayed the work on the tomb. He had the wish to have the Papal Chapel of Pope Sixtus, now known as the Sistine, painted as to its vault. The magnificent painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel took almost 4 years of work and was completed in 1512.

When Michelangelo returned to Florence in 1527, after the revolted citizens exiled the Medici, the now republican city was fortified in expectation of an attack sure to come. Michelangelo was made Commissary-General, and worked on the fortifications of the city in 1528 and 1529.

Still, the city was captured by the Imperial army in 1530, Alessandro de' Medici reinstalled as the ruler, and Michelangelo went into hiding to escape certain death. Pope Clement, however, wrote to the new government, asking protection and courteous treatment for Michelangelo, who if found was to go on with his work, so that he again returned to the sculptures of the Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo, "driven," says Condivi, "by fear rather than love". "There is no doubt," says Condivi in his Michelangelo biography, "that but for the Pope's protection Michael would have been removed from this world."

More on Michelangelo's life:

Michelangelo's Biography

Michelangelo and Lorenzo de' Medici

Michelangelo returning to Rome

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