Polymath of the High Renaissance
“renaissance man”, two great geniuses automatically come to mind - the first is Leonardo Da Vinci and the other, his
foremost rival during the period of the high renaissance, is Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni.
A polymath of the arts, and possibly the greatest
artistic genius who ever lived. He was a renowned sculptor, painter, poet and architect, and like Leonardo, he made intensive studies of the human form by dissecting corpses, in order to bring a life-like realism to his sculptures, a realism that had not been seen since the times of the ancient Greeks. And as everyone knows, he achieved artistic immortality with his marble statue of
David, that along with Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the Vitruvian Man, are the best known works of art ever conceived in the mind of man.
“Genius is eternal patience” - Michelangelo
Influenced by the ancient Greeks and Romans
Lorenzo de' Medici s sculptured garden, decorated with classic Roman and Greek statues and where Michelangelo was said to have worked and carved a Faun’s head, perhaps inspired him to equal or surpass the ancient Greek’s standard of excellence.
Indeed much of Michelangelo’s style is a reflection of the glory and detail displayed in the old Greek and Roman sculptures - from their anatomical accuracy to the golden ratio harmonic, which both he and Da Vinci incorporated into their own sculptures and paintings. This was essential if they wanted their art to be a reflection of the original creation. Indeed the Romans themselves had a strong admiration and respect for Greek sculpture, which they copied with remarkable accuracy, thereby helping to preserve the ancient Greek legends of gods, heroes and mythical creatures, many of which would have been lost to antiquity otherwise. The golden ratio was also incorporated into the temples and sanctuaries of the ancient Greeks, such as the Parthenon in Athens, which has classical Greek architectural features, many of which include the Golden Mean Geometries. The documentary “Nova Secrets of the Parthenon” goes deeper into its construction.
This aesthetic appreciation and incorporation of the Golden Mean Geometries into ancient Greek art, architecture, and “Pythagorean Math - Music of the Spheres” has been studied in-depth by the Australian scientist-artist Professor Robert Pope and is directly linked to fractal geometrical logic. Both in sculpture and architecture, the ancient Greeks set the standard for others to follow!
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free”! - Michelangelo
The anatomical gem that is Michelangelo’s “ David ” is a perfect example of classical Greek inspiration. It is a masterpiece of renaissance sculpture which was created between 1501-1504. “David” is the marble statue of a male nude being 5.17 meters tall. Michelangelo successfully completed it in just 4 years at the age of 26, even though the huge piece of marble had defeated a number of other sculptors and was left unfinished, the problem being due to the difficulty in working on such a thin piece of marble that had faults running throughout its matrix. When completed by Michelangelo, the sculpture represented “civic liberty”.
“ Only God creates. The rest of us just copy”. - Michelangelo
“Moses” is another masterpiece that came from the chisel of this Italian aesthetician and is housed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. “Moses” is an imposing figure almost eight feet high, sitting down. It was commissioned by Pope Julius 2 for his tomb. The sculpture portrays a robust body with muscular arms and a intensity of anger in his eyes. Moses’s right hand clutches the stone tablets containing the ten commandments of God, while his left hand, pressed to his body, muscles tense, seems to be holding back from violent action
The entire figure seems to be filled with thought and energy. When seeing the sculpture it is observed that Moses is not just sitting - his left leg is pulled back showing as if he is ready to rise, and because of the leg being pulled back, his hips also face left. Michelangelo, to create an interesting, energetic figure where the forces of life are pulsing throughout the body, pulls the torso in the opposite direction. And so his torso faces to his right.
Michelangelo’s intimate knowledge of the human body’s internal anatomy, which he gained from his study of cadavers and performing dissections, was put to a more esoteric use in his fresco painting, “The Creation of Adam”, in which he depicts shapes and figures behind the figure of God, as an anatomically accurate picture of the human brain, with God and his cherubs superimposed over the brains structural, ancient limbic system.
Michelangelo was definitely a practitioner of the polymathic outlook. His sculptures give evidence of his profound knowledge, and once his multiple skills where combined with his desire to create art that was a reflection of the Devine as he perceived it, the result would immortalise him as the greatest artist of all time.
"Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture." - Michelangelo
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