Michelangelo Buonarroti - Renaissance Artist


This  narrative on Michelangelo and his famous Renaissance art is among the most comprehensive on the Web.  It details the story of Michelangelo's life followed by specific discussions on his famous Renaissance paintings depicting the Story of Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.


The Life of Michelangelo


Michelangelo Buonarroti was born to Ludovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni and his wife, Francesca Neri, on March 6, 1475 in Caprese in Casentino. He came from a respectful family, 2nd born of three brothers. His family had connections with the ruling Medici Family. His mother was frail and sick and could not nurse Michelangelo, and so he was placed with a wet nurse of a stone cutting family.

At the age of six, Michelangelo's mother passed away and the family moved to Settignano.  Around the age of 12, Michelangelo attended grammar school, which was run by Francesca da Urbino. After his brief education, he was enrolled as an apprentice for Domenico Ghirlandaia.

Michelangelo’s first relief sculpture was of a battle done at age 16. This battle, the Battle of Centaurs demonstrated the talent developing in this young man. He then created the Madonna of the Stairs, which confirmed his talent. In this work, he began to show movement and force. 

Michelangelo began to travel. He lived in Rome for 5 years from 1496 to 1501, where he carved a marble statue of Bacchus. Michelangelo also carved a statue of Mary with the dead Jesus lying across her lap. This piece, the Pieta, was created at age 23. This statue is bigger than life size and is now being shown in St. Peter’s Church in Rome.

After returning to Florence, Michelangelo produced the magnificent David, manly and athletic looking, projecting heroic courage. 

Michelangelo met Leonardo da Vinci in Florence in between the year 1501 and 1505. Together, they created the masterpiece of the large battle scenes for the walls of the city hall. From then on, Michelangelo only made large size projects. He began work on statues of marble for Pope Julius II’s Tomb.

Before finishing his work on the tomb, Michelangelo was commissioned the project of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. In these panels,  he illustrated the Story of Genesis with Scenes of God creating the world, the story of Adam of Eve, the story of Noah and the great flood. He completed these works in four short years, 1508-1512.  He then returned to his work on the tomb for Pope Julius II, ultimately making statues of Moses and two prisoners and 37 other beautifully sculpted masterpieces.

Michelangelo spent from the years 1515 to 1534 working on the Medici Chapel. He made two statues of Princes as well as figures of Dawn and Evening. He also designed the blueprints of the Chapel. This was his first Architectural project. 

Pope Paul III asked Michelangelo to continue painting the walls of the Sistine Chapel. In this painting, he showed the Resurrection and judgment of humanity.

Later, Michelangelo created another Pieta, for himself.   Michelangelo died of old age on February 18th, 1564. The body of the dead artist was deposited in a sarcophagus in the church of Santi Apostoli, but a few days after the burial his nephew, Lionardo Buonarroti, who had arrived in Rome, took possession of his uncle's property and carried off the corpse, concealed in a bale.  Upon reaching Florence, the mortal remains of the "divine artist" were taken to Santa Croce, where they remain until this day.



Michelangelo's Story of Genesis on the Ceiling  of the Sistine Chapel


Scenes from Genesis


The Separation of Light and Dark

God said, “Let there be light.” And light appeared and God liked how the light was and so he separated the light from the dark. He called the light day and the dark was called night.

In this panel,  Michelangelo’s shows God with Light and Dark on Each side of him as he expresses his satisfaction with the creation of the earth.


The Creation of the Stars and Planets

Here God is surrounded by angel’s and his arms are extended pointing to the sun and a moon.


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The Creation of the Creatures of the Sea (or The Congregation of the Waters)

God said, “Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures.” He saw how good it was and said for the creatures to be fertile, multiply, and fill the waters of the sea.

God is shown surrounded by four angels. God’s arms are extended and are pointed to an oval and a forming fish. The angels are holding down the fish and the other two angels surround the oval.


Genesis: The Creation of Adam


The Creation of Adam

God who formed Adam out of clay. God blew into Adam’s nostrils, which gave him the gift of life.

In this painting, God  has his right arm extended to Adam,  their fingers touching as God awakens his human creation.  Eve is emerging from under God's left arm, and the human race is to follow.  


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The Creation of Eve

In this painting, God creates Eve from the rib of Adam.


Genesis: Expulsion from Paradise


The Temptation and Expulsion from Eden

God told Adam not to eat any fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. The moment Adam ate a piece of fruit he was doomed to a life of toil.

Tempted by the serpent to taste the forbidden fruit,  God expels Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise.


Scenes from Genesis: Noah


The Sacrifice of Noah

God warned Noah of the flood and told Noah to build a large ark filled with pitch in compartments. God also told him to bring two of every living creature on earth. Noah did as told by God and he and the animals were saved from God’s attempt to wipe out all evil.

This painting shows Noah supervising the care taking and careful handling of the animals. A lot of Noah’s men are helping him to take care of the animals and helping with building of the ship and animal stalls.


The Flood

It rained for forty days and forty nights in attempt for God to wipe out every moving creature he made. He thought the creatures were evil, and wanted to start over. Noah and all on the ark survived.

In this painting  a town is being drowned out for their sins. People are clinging to trees to escape the quickly rising waters.


The Drunkenness of Noah

Noah planted a vineyard and drank some wine. Noah’s sons saw him lying naked and covered him with a robe. Noah got mad when he woke and found out that his son saw him naked, and cursed him to be the slaves of his brothers.

Here you see Noah lying down with a jug of wine next to him.  Others are placing clothes around him.


Scenes from the Old Testament

Paintings that comprise these panels:

Judith and Holofernes

David and Goliath

The brazen Serpent

The Punishment of Homas

Destruction of the House of Ahab


Prophets and Sibyls



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The Prophet Zechariah

Zechariah was the king of Israel and son of Jeroboam II. He was also the prophet of Judah. He wrote about visions of historic and messianic restoration of the temple, city, and the people of the city.

This old man is wearing red and green clothing and is flipping through the pages in a book. He has a white beard which symbolizes he is old and wise.


The Prophet Joel

The Prophet Joel  prophesized on oracles, on future restoration of Israel, on his visions, and on symbolic actions.

A bald old man seen looking at a scroll held out in front of him. He is dressed in red, white, and green garments.


The Prophet Ezekiel

The Prophet Ezekiel described the plague of locusts that invaded Judea like an army. He also tells of the prophetic spirit of Israel. He describes of the mountains dripping wine.

This old man is seen holding a scroll in one hand and looking at an angel behind him scornfully. He is wearing red and white garments.


The Prophet Jonah

Jonah was the son of Amittai. God ordered him to go to Nineveh to preach against the wickedness of the town. Jonah did not do this. God sent a storm and it brought Jonah’s ship close to shipwreck. Then God sent a large fish which swallowed Jonah. Jonah prayed in the fish’s belly for three days and three nights and God ordered to fish to spit him up on the shore.

Jonah looks like a middle-aged man. He is leaning back and looking up and there is a huge fish next to him. Two angels who seem to be guarding him accompany him.


The Delphic Sibyl

Here you see a young woman covered in blue and red garments holding a scroll.

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The Cumaean Sibyl

This middle-aged woman is seen reading a huge book and is wearing red and white garments.


The Libyan Sibyl

This young woman is picking up a large book from behind him. She is dressed in orange and white garments.


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The Last Judgment

The last judgment is a magnificent painting. It shows the judge, Christ, in heaven with many elects around him. He is in the center and floating on a cloud. Angels are seen carrying the cross in the upper left hand and right hand corners.  In the left center, Saints Lawrence, Andrew, and John the Baptist are illustrated. Center rights are Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine, Sebastian and Simon. Lower left is a scene of the resurrection of the dead. Lower center are Angelic Trumpeters with books of good and evil. Lower right are the damned dragged into hell.









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