Michelangelo: A Film (2005)
BBC, British Museum
Michelangelo: A Film
Closer to the Master
A joint BBC/British Museum production about the drawings of Michelangelo and the way that they illuminate his life, his artistic development, his religion and his inner torments. The film is presented Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, and is filmed on location in Florence and in the Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo's drawings are some of the greatest of all time. Fragile survivals from over 500 years ago, they can be studied and admired as things of great technical skill and enormous beauty, but they show us something else as well: they show us Michelangelo thinking. Michelangelo would have felt exposed seeing us look at his drawings. And that's what makes them exciting: they give us a thrilling insight into how this genius sculptor, architect and painter worked: they bring us closer to the master. From pen studies made when he was in his early twenties to the visionary crucifixion scenes carried out six decades later, shortly before his death, this film illuminates the high points of Michelangelo's career.
The film observes a life class at the Prince's Drawing School and uses the male sitter they are drawing to see how precisely Michelangelo studied his great obsession: the human body. From the sketch of God giving life to Adam for the Sistine Ceiling, to drawings in preparation for the Last Judgement and the great last works on the crucifixion, the film traces the remarkable evolution of some of the world's most celebrated artworks.
Michelangelo's drawings offer a unique insight into how the artist worked and thought. They are beautiful artworks in their own right but also provide a crucial link between his work as a sculptor, painter and architect. This tour traces Michelangelo's life from youth to old age through drawings.
Michelangelo was extraordinarily famous during his lifetime, so much so that other artists produced portraits of him and three biographies were written. His artistic achievements set him in a class apart from his contemporaries; after the death of his main rival Raphael in 1520, he was to dominate the Roman art world for more than four decades. His primary focus as an artist was the male body, and his drawings chart his relentless search to find poses that would most eloquently express the emotional and spiritual state of his subjects.
Most of Michelangelo's drawings were never intended for public display. In fact, he would have been appalled to see them exhibited as he hated showing them to outsiders. He destroyed a large number before he died, probably to prevent them from falling into other hands; he may also have wished to conceal the amount of preparation behind his major works.
This tour was written to accompany the exhibition Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master, at the British Museum from 23 March to 25 June 2006 (Room 5). The exhibition included drawings from the collections of three museums: the British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the Teyler Museum in Haarlem.
Source: British Museum
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
Michelangelo was a painter, sculptor, architect and poet and one of the great artists of the Italian Renaissance. Michelangelo Buonarroti was born on 6 March 1475 in Caprese near Florence (Italy) where his father was the local magistrate. A few weeks after his birth, the family moved to Florence. In 1488, Michelangelo was apprenticed to the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. He then lived in the household of Lorenzo de' Medici, the leading patron of the arts in Florence.
After the Medici were expelled from Florence, Michelangelo travelled to Bologna and then, in 1496, to Rome. His primary works were sculpture in these early years. His 'Pietà' (1497) made his name and he returned to Florence a famous sculptor. Here he produced his 'David' (1501-1504).
In 1505, Pope Julius II summoned Michelangelo back to Rome and commissioned him to design Julius' own tomb. Due to quarrels between Julius and Michelangelo, and the many other demands on the artist's time, the project was never completed, although Michelangelo did produce a sculpture of Moses for the tomb.
Michelangelo's next major commission was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican (1508-1512). It was recognised at once as a great work of art and from then on Michelangelo was regarded as the greatest living artist.
The new Pope, Leo X, then commissioned Michelangelo to rebuild the façade of the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. The scheme was eventually abandoned, but it marks the beginning of Michelangelo's activity as an architect. Michelangelo also designed monuments to Giuliano and Lorenzo de' Medici in the Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo.
In 1534, Michelangelo returned to Rome where he was commissioned to paint 'The Last Judgement' on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel (1537-1541). From 1546 he was increasingly active as an architect, in particular on the great church of St Peter's. He died in Rome on 18 February 1564.