'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

05 January 2011

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Most photos can be enlarged.
Michelangelo was born in Tuscany, to Ludovico di Leonardo di Buonarroti di Simoni and Francesca Neri. He was the second of five brothers. His father noted "Today March 6, 1475, a child of the male sex has been born to me and I have named him Michelangelo. He was born on Monday between 4 and 5 in the morning, at Caprese, where I am the Podestà." Ludovico hoped that Michelangelo could become a successful merchant. When Michelangelo turned 13 became an apprentice to the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. Michelangelo went on to study sculpture in the Medici gardens and was invited into the household of Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent. He met the young Medici, two of whom later became popes (Leo X and Clement VII). He got permission study human anatomy/corpses, but contact with the dead bodies caused problems with his health. "Already at 16, my mind was a battlefield: my love of pagan beauty, the male nude, was at war with my religious faith."

Michelangelo went to Rome, where he studied newly unearthed classical statues. He produced his first large-scale sculpture, Bacchus. At the same time, Michelangelo almost 25 , did the marble Pietà (1498-1500). Just days after it was placed in Saint Peter's, Michelangelo overheard a pilgrim remark that the work was done by Christoforo Solari. That night in a fit of rage, Michelangelo took hammer and chisel and placed the following inscription on the sash running across Mary's breast : MICHEL ANGELUS BONAROTUS FLORENT FACIBAT (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this). This is the only work that Michelangelo ever signed. On August 4th, 1501, a republic was again proclaimed in Florence. Twelve days later the Wool Guild commissioned him to sculpt a statue of David. The 4.34 m marble giant was produced between 1501 and 1504. Michelangelo wrote in his diaries: "When I returned to Florence, I found myself famous. The City Council asked me to carve a colossal David from a nineteen-foot block of marble -- and damaged to boot! I locked myself away in a workshop behind the cathedral, hammered and chiselled at the towering block for three long years. ... I insisted that the figure should stand before the Palazzo Vecchio, as a symbol of our Republic. I had my way. Archways were torn down, narrow streets widened...it took forty men five days to move it." With this statue Michelangelo proved that he not only surpassed all modern artists, but also the Greeks and Romans. The statue which now stands in the palazzo is a copy with the original being placed indoors.

 Pope Julius II chose Bramante, Michelangelo, Raphael, the Sangallos, Peruzzi, Bramantino, Sodoma and Lorenzo Lotto to work on his grand visions. Julius II said Michelangelo "is Terrible, as you see, you can do nothing with him." He was brusque and rude, touchy and intransigent. He had no pupils, and always used boys from the workshop as his assistants. He and Leonardo da Vinci, twenty years his senior, were jealous enemies. In April 1508, Michelangelo was summoned to Rome to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Buonarroti who regarded himself as a sculptor, had to perfect the art of fresco. Bramante and others suggested this hoping he would refuse or fail. Julius II let himself be swayed by Michelangelo's creative frenzy, and both were carried away by their enthusiasm. In May 1508, Michelangelo began designs and months later he started the painting, with the assistance of Giuliano Bugiardini, Aristotele da Sangallo, Francesco Granacci, and a number of labourers. He soon fired all of his assistants, removed what had been painted and in January 1509, recommenced  on his own. Condivi recalls that "as a result of having painted for so long a time, keeping his eyes fixed on the ceiling, he saw little when he looked down; if he had to read a letter or some other small thing, he was obliged to hold it above his head." He refused to show it to anyone except the nagging Pope, but in August 1511 he relented and made such an impression on the artists of the time that Raphael altered his own style. "After four tortured years, more than 400 over life-sized figures, I felt as old and as weary as Jeremiah. I was only 37, yet friends did not recognize the old man I had become."

This comes from dangling from the ceiling–
I'm goitered like a Lombard cat
(or wherever else their throats grow fat)–
it's my belly that's beyond concealing,
it hands beneath my chin like peeling.
My beard points skyward, I seem a bat
upon its back, I've breasts and splat!
On my face the paint's congealing.
Loins concertina'd in my gut,
I drop an arse as counterweight
and move without the help of eyes.
Like a skinned martyr I abut
on air, and, wrinkled, show my fat.
Bow-like, I strain toward the skies.
No wonder then I size
things crookedly; I'm on all fours.
Bent blowpipes send their darts off-course.
Defend my labor's cause,
good Giovanni, from all strictures:
                        I live in hell and paint its pictures. Michelangelo Buonarroti

In Rome, he was protected by Pope Clement VII who, before his death, commissioned him to paint the fresco of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel but Michelangelo's crowning achievement was in his seventies, as chief architect of St Peter’s in 1546 becoming responsible for the altar end of the building on the exterior and for the dome.   He wrote to his nephew Lionardo: "Many believe, -- and I believe -- that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him." Michelangelo would not accept any payment for this sacred task ( he was already very rich). "I spend my days supervising the construction of St. Peter's. The Vatican's financial superintendent keeps harassing me for a progress report. My response: your lordship, I am not obliged to, nor do I intend to, tell you anything. Your job is to keep the money rolling in, and out of the hands of thieves. I will see to the building."

                    Michelangelo Buonarroti died, on February 18th, 1564, after a "slow fever. 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. As soon as they reached Florence, the mortal remains of the "divine artist" were taken to Santa Croce (where Michelangelo himself had wanted to be buried). The inhabitants of Florence turned out in large numbers, venerating the body of their illustrious fellow citizen, "father and master of all the arts," as if it were a sacred relic. After Michelangelo's death, it was decided to obscure the genitals of the nude males in the Sistine Chapel. An apprentice  Daniele da Volterra carried out the instructions of a scandalised cardinal but some but not all have been restored to their original splendour in a recent restoration.

The sonnets of Michelangelo's were once altered by his relatives and historians, to present them as heterosexual. In the nineteenth century, JA Symonds  restored their homoerotic nature, although some modern historians still argue over the nature of his sexuality.

"From thy fair face I learn, O my loved lord, 
That which no mortal tongue can rightly say; 
The soul imprisoned in her house of clay, 
Holpen by thee to God hath often soared:
And tho' the vulgar, vain, malignant horde
Attribute what their grosser wills obey,
Yet shall this fervent homage that I pay,
This love, this faith, pure joys for us afford.
Lo, all the lovely things we find on earth,
Resemble for the soul that rightly sees,
That source of bliss divine which gave us birth:
Nor have we first fruits or remembrances
Of heaven elsewhere. Thus, loving loyally,
I rise to God and make death sweet by thee."

"No mortal thing enthralled these longing eyes
When perfect peace in thy fair face I found:
But far within, where all is holy ground,
My soul felt Love, her comrade of the skies: 
For she was born with God in Paradise;
Nor all the shows of beauty shed around
This fair false world her wings to earth have bound;
Unto the Love of Loves aloft she flies.
Nay, things that suffer death quench not the fire
Of deathless spirits; nor eternity
Serves sordid Time, that withers all things rare.
Not love but lawless impulse is desire:
That slays the soul; our love makes still more fair
Our friends on earth, fairer in death on high."

Michelangilo di Lodovico Buonarroti-Simoni had passionate love for young men.  He lived in an age of magnificence and grandeur and when politics and art was overwhelmingly  masculine and phallic. Masculine passion exuded from his sculpture of mostly naked young men.  He even used male models  for his muscular female figures who are distinguished only by their longer hair. His nude youths in the Sistine Chapel outraged many for their Christian irrelevance and sensuality. He was sexist, and believed firmly in male superiority. In one sonnet he declares that the highest form of love cannot be for a woman, because a woman "is not worthy of a wise and virile heart.". Michelangelo often spoke exclusively of male love and gained a homosexual reputation. He recalled how a father offered his son as an apprentice: "Once you saw him, you'd chase him into bed the minute you got home!" When said that his behaviour had arisen because of his love of the nude male body, he retorted "Whose judgment would be so barbarous as not to appreciate that the foot of a man is more noble than his boot, and his skin more noble than that of a sheep, with which he is dressed?"

        Two of his great loves were, Gherardo Perini and Tommaso Cavalieri. The handsome model Gherardo Perini came to work for Michelangelo around 1520. Their love flourished in 1522-25, and lasted until the mid-1530s. Whenever Perini failed to show up he was distraught and lamented "I beg you not to make me draw this evening since Perino's not here."  - this scrawled on a page bearing a drawing of a naked cherub urinating into a vase. Scholar Robert Clements believes this affair was overtly homosexual, and he points to some  verses of 1520-30 probably written to Perini, ‘I had always thought I could come to terms with love, Now I suffer, and you see how I burn.’ In the early 1530s Michelangelo had a relationship with his much younger model Febo di Poggio. He calls Febo "that little blackmailer," because Febo adopted him as "my honorary father" and sought money, clothes, and gifts.  Their affair lasted through 1533-34, but ended when Michelangelo discovered that he had betrayed him.

Blithe bird, excelling us by fortune's sway,
Of Phoebus' thine the prize of lucent notion,
Sweeter yet the boon of winged promotion
To the hill whence I topple and decay!
Easily could I soar, with such a happy fate,
When Phoebus brightened up the heights.
His feathers were wings and the hill the stair.
Phoebus was a lantern to my feet.
Other lovers of Michelangelo may have included his servant and constant companion Francesco Urbino; Bartolommeo Bettini,  and Andrea Quaratesi (above) the 18-year-old boy with whose family he lived for several years. Letters show that Andrea was  extremely infatuated with Michelangelo, and  even wished to "crawl on all fours" to see the artist one night. On the back of a letter to Andrea, Michelangelo writes of himself being shot at by Cupid's arrows. His drawing of Andrea is his only finished portrait sketch.
In spite of other relationships Michelangelo in 1532 began wooing Tommaso Cavalieri. Cavalieri was a Roman nobleman, forty years younger than Michelangelo, and frightened by the amorous advances and gossip. The erotic statue of Victory is said to represent the standing figure of Cavalieri, and the kneeling figure is that of the devoted  Michelangelo. He sublimated his desires in this instance into some of the finest Platonic friendship poetry ever written. It is also believed that the face of Christ the Judge in the Sistine Chapel is that of Cavalieri.  He wrote to him: 'May I burn if I do not love thee with all my heart, And lose my soul, if I feel for any other! ' and various sonnets refer to Cavalieri.

  "Why should I seek to ease intense desire 
With still more tears and windy words of grief, 
When heaven, or late or soon, sends no relief 
To souls whom love hath robed around with fire.
Why need my aching heart to death aspire,
When all must die? Nay death beyond belief
Unto these eyes would be both sweet and brief,
Since in my sum of woes all joys expirel
Therefore because I cannot shun the blow 
I rather seek, say who must rule my breast, 
Gliding between her gladness and her woe?
If only chains and bands can make me blest, 
No marvel if alone and naked I go 
An armed Knight's cantive and slave confessed."
Others, however, did not reject Michelangelo. In 1542, at the age of 66, he was sleeping with a 13-year-old boy named Francesco de Zanobi Bracci, nicknamed Cecchino (bust above). But in 1544 Cecchino died,  and Michelangelo composed fifty four-line epitaphs (above right) for the boy's tomb, which he designed: "Buried here is that Bracci with whose face, God wished to correct Nature." Michelangelo spoke of the youth as "the flame who consumes me" ... "My love has ratified the agreement which I made of myself to him." Other quotes not used on the tomb include

The earthy flesh, and here my bones deprived
Of their charming face and beautiful eyes,
Do yet attest for him how gracious I was in bed
When he embraced, and in what the soul doth live.
I was only alive; but dead, I grew
Dearer to him who lost me when I died.
He loves me more than when I lay beside him;
Then good is death if love, for it, grows too.

    A religious man he feared for his soul, and formed a relationship with Vittoria around 1538 when he was 63 but  he called her "a man in a woman" His poems to her are  of Platonic affection. They are difficult to distinguish from poems to Cavalieri, as he sometimes changed the word Signor to Signora before circulating his verse.

    His grandnephew Michelangelo il Giovane in 1623 published an edition of the poetry in which all the masculine pronouns were changed to feminine pronouns, and this remained the standard  for nearly two hundred and fifty years. Poems and letters concerning Febo and Cecchino are still suppressed in modern editions of the Letters. The Cavalieri poems were not identified until 1897 and the  fifty epitaphs on Cecchino were not translated into English until 1960.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment here or in side bar or you can email me at pepispictures@gmail.com

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...