Sunday, 6 March 2016

ART SUNDAY - MICHELANGELO

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (March 1475 – 18 February 1564), was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered to be the greatest living artist during his lifetime, he has since also been described as one of the greatest artists of all time.

Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his fellow Italian Leonardo da Vinci. A number of Michelangelo’s works in painting, sculpture, and architecture rank among the most famous in existence.

His output in every field of interest was prodigious; given the sheer volume of surviving correspondence, sketches, and reminiscences taken into account, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century. Two of his best-known works, the “Pietà” and “David”, were sculpted before the age of thirty. Despite his low opinion of painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: The scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall.

As an architect, Michelangelo pioneered the Mannerist style at the Laurentian Library. At the age of 74, he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo transformed the plan, the western end being finished to Michelangelo’s design, the dome being completed after his death with some modification. In a demonstration of Michelangelo’s unique standing, he was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive.

Two biographies were published of him during his lifetime; one of them, by Giorgio Vasari, proposed that he was the pinnacle of all artistic achievement since the beginning of the Renaissance, a viewpoint that continued to have currency in art history for centuries. In his lifetime he was also often called Il Divino (‘the divine one’). One of the qualities most admired by his contemporaries was his “terribilità”, a sense of awe-inspiring grandeur, and it was the attempts of subsequent artists to imitate Michelangelo’s impassioned and highly personal style that resulted in Mannerism, the next major movement in Western art after the High Renaissance.

The Cumaean Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony located near Naples, Italy. The word sibyl comes (via Latin) from the ancient Greek word sibylla, meaning prophetess. There were many sibyls in different locations throughout the ancient world. Because of the importance of the Cumaean Sibyl in the legends of early Rome as codified in Virgil's Aeneid VI, and because of her proximity to Rome, the Cumaean Sibyl became the most famous among the Romans.

The Erythraean Sibyl from modern-day Turkey was famed among Greeks, as was the oldest Hellenic oracle, the Sibyl of Dodona, possibly dating to the second millennium BC according to Herodotus, favoured in the east. The Cumaean Sibyl was painted in the Sistine Ceiling of Michelangelo (above) and her powerful presence overshadows every other sibyl, even her younger and more beautiful sisters, such as the Delphic Sibyl. There are various names for the Cumaean Sibyl besides the “Herophile” of Pausanias and Lactantius or the Aeneid’s “Deiphobe, daughter of Glaucus”. Other sources give her the names: “Amaltheia”, “Demophile” or “Taraxandra”.

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