If you lose yourself in art, chances are that you are intimately familiar with the famous artist, painter and sculptor, Michelangelo Buonarroti. As a polymath genius, he is credited as one of the most brilliant artists of the Italian Renaissance.
From painting in the gorgeous gardens of the powerful Medici family to creating iconic artworks that have stood the test of time, Michelangelo has defined modern history in ways that few have been able to. But there is more to the artistic aficiando than you may know.
Top Fascinating Facts about Michelangelo
1. Besides Painting And Sculpting, He Was Also A Proficient Poet
Besides being a master with paint brush, hammer and chisel, Michelangelo also had a flair for words. He is credited for writing hundreds of original letters and poems, but only 300 exist today for his adoring fans. The poetry is pretty raunchy as it delves deep into lust, ecstasy, but some pieces are quite sensitive as they explore the human soul. Given his devil-may-care nature, the suggestive nature of his literary works is not surprising.
2. He Became Famous After A Failed Attempt At Fraud
You would think that an artist whose entire modus operandi was originality would baulk at forgeries, but that is exactly what Michelangelo did. Ironically, it also led to his fame. During the years when he was trying to carve out a name for himself, he took inspiration from Greek cupid statues to carve out a sculpture for his patron, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici.
Due to the quality and remarkable likeness of the piece, his patron tried to sell it off as a recently uncovered antique to Cardinal Raffaele Riaro. While the scam didn’t work, the cardinal was so impressed with the sculpture that he was invited to Rome to create more works. It was there that he made his famous ‘Pieta’, a sculpture that made him take off as an artist.
3. He Was Pranked Into Painting The Sistine Chapel
As an artist par none, Michelangelo had his fair share of rivals who would do anything to bring him down a peg. One of them was Raphael, the hot painter in town before Michelangelo arrived on the scene.
Here’s what went down. Raphael was first commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel (yes, THAT Sistine Chapel). At that time, our boy Michael was gaining popularity and attracting clients from rivals such as Raphael. Thinking of sabotaging him, Raphael convinced the Pope to hire Michelangelo to paint the chapel instead in the hopes that he would bomb and prove that he was a novice.
As we can see today in the chapel, his plan not only didn’t work, it backfired massively. Today, more than 25,000 people visit the chapel to marvel at the ceiling which Michelangelo made a work of art.
4. A Rival Broke His Nose During His Teenage Years
Michelangelo was sent to hone his artistic skills in the home of the esteemed Medici family, the most famous art patrons of the time. It wasn’t long before his natural painting and sculpting skills drew the ire of his fellow students. One of them, Pietro Torrigiano, grew mad enough to punch Michelangelo in the nose which never healed properly and remained misshapen for the rest of his life.
5. He Hated Leonardo Da Vinci
You would think that two famed artists would have much in common with one another, but it was far from the case. Michelangelo absolutely hated Leonardo Da Vinci and the feeling was mutual. Both of them were similar in skills and had strong personalities that would often clash.
Here is an example of their intense feud. One day, Leonardo was asked to explain a passage from Dante but on spying Michelangelo walking past, he decided to make fun of him by asking him to explain it. Not one to back down without a fight Michelangelo grew annoyed and insulted Leonardo’s skill and respect as an artist in a single breath leaving the Mona Lisa painter sputtering and red in the face.
6. The Statue Of David Was Carved From A Discarded Block Of Marble
In this case, one man’s trash was Michelangelo’s treasure. Believe it or not, but the famed sculptor carved the 17-foot statue of David by a discarded block of marble that nobody wanted. To this day, few artists have been able to emulate the perfection that is David. The statue was actually abandoned for 40 years, but once it came to light, it quickly became a testament to the artist’s skills.
7. He Made People Angry…A Lot
Michelangelo was a genius who was a bit rough around the edges. Whether he was in the zone making his many iconic creations or not, he was well known for his bad temper and mood swings. He had a particular skill for getting under people’s skin, one of the main reasons why his nose remained broken and misshapen till the end of his days.
Besides getting a rise out of people, Michelangelo was extremely vengeful, especially against people who criticized his work. One of those critics happened to be the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies, who grew outraged by the number of nude figures in a painting Michelangelo did for the Sistine Chapel. He even went so far as to say that the painting belonged in a bar rather than a church.
Well, Michelangelo refused to take the insult lying down. His vengeance came in the form of a painting in which he painted the Master of Ceremonies as a judge of souls complete with two ass ears and a serpent eating his genitals. When he complained to the Pope about the painting, he was told that the Pope had no jurisdiction in hell.
8. He Never Got Married
Michelangelo remained a bachelor till the end of his days and very little is known about his love life. In fact, it is said that his work was his one true love. He was involved with a romantic poet called Vittoria Colonna and wrote romantic poetry himself. But he was never seriously involved with anyone.
9. He Was The First Person To Have A Biography Published During His Lifetime
Artists were a dime a dozen in Italy during Michelangelo’s time, but no one could match him in personality and artistic skills. It was the main reason why he was so popular with the masses, and his reputation is still intact to this day.
He was so popular, that he came to be known as ‘Il Divino’ or The Divine by many. Everyone wanted to know more about him, what he was working on, and what he was like. This led to not one, but two autobiographies of the famed artist which he published himself.
These biographies are why we know so much about him, but we also have letters and diaries from people who was in contact with. Many also had sketches that were made by him and other documents pertaining to the artist. Plus, he was commissioned for several governmental projects and since each was meticulously recorded, we know more about the Renaissance artist than most others.
10. He Was A Workaholic
As mentioned before, his work was his one and true love which was evident from the sheer number of hours he put in it. Once, Michelangelo was so immersed in his work that he actually forgot to take off his boots for several days. When he did take them off, his skin came with them.
While he worked long hours, Michelangelo outlived most people during his time living till the ripe old age of 88. He spent most of his senior years managing the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican even though he was quite weak and feeble during it. While he couldn’t take part in the actual construction, he would send designs and drawings to foremen he trusted. He died doing what he loved. While working on the Rondanini Pieta, he breathed his last.
Michelangelo’s David Personifies High Renaissance Art
Michelangelo’s Statue of David depicts the technical virtuosity of Greek sculpture. While the sculpture is that of nothing more than a teenage boy king who slew Goliath, it evokes the imagination. Here is a fascinating video about the piece of art that can give you a glimpse inside the famed artist’s mind and the times he worked in.
Painter, sculptor, engineer, poet and workaholic, all of these skills and traits paint a picture of a Renaissance artist whose skills was well beyond his time. As an artist par none, Michelangelo remains an inspiration not only for artists, but also poets, writers and philosophers across the globe.
I’m Natalie Garcia and I started this website to share my love of trivia, facts and fun knowledge tidbits. We cover things like celebrity gossip, historical facts, tv shows, world leaders and just odd and random fun things. I started this site to have some fun with my hobby and share some useful information with you, our community. Please feel to send me your suggestions and feedback through the contact form. And if you have suggestions for things to write about, please shoot me a message!