The Youth of Michelangelo

By Charles De Tolnay | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

IN Michelangelo there is a very marked dualism between the "social being" and his spiritual and artistic personality. Externally timid, of a bourgeois simplicity, leading a modest and solitary life, he was in his soul obsessed with a dream of heroic grandeur. Never did he attempt to raise his daily life to the level of his ideal, nor did he ever attempt to incorporate immediately in his works the experiences of his daily life. His innate Platonism wished to keep the two far apart. Thus the biography of Michelangelo forms the most complete contrast to his artistic thoughts. It seems proper, therefore, to treat separately the history of Michelangelo's life and his artistic development.

In the first part of this book an attempt is made to reconstruct the exterior circumstances of the life of Michelangelo, the Florentine bourgeois. The presentation is based on the primary sources, that is, on the correspondence of Michelangelo (not only on the published letters but on letters not hitherto published and preserved in the family archives in Florence) and on documents. 1 Condivi, Vasari and Varchi, the contemporary biographers of Michelangelo who give much apocryphal artistic gossip are critically considered in second place. 2 This procedure differs from that followed hitherto and may give a less entertaining view of the personality of Michelangelo, while having perhaps the advantage of showing more clearly his strong and simple character.

Behind the daily life, and the relation of the man to his geographical and social milieu, lies the real life -- with which indeed, this book is chiefly concerned -- that is, the life of the spirit. It develops according to its own hidden laws; it is "documented" only by the actual works of art. The second part of the book thus deals with the artistic development of the master. There are many works on Michelangelo the artist but there seems to be still lacking a presentation which considers the form and content of his work as an inseparable unity. The great critics of the past have analyzed style and form in Michelangelo as if they had an existence separate from the content. More recent writers have interpreted the subject matter as if the works were simple illustrations of intellectual abstractions.

In this book Michelangelo's works are considered neither as mere solutions of formal problems nor as allegories. We have rather attempted to show in them the mutual dependence of form and content. The formal motif or the subject matter is only a point of departure; during the execution of the work the artist, perhaps partly unconsciously, infuses into it his experience of life in order to create an image of existence, which reveals to us a fundamental law of life.

Past research on Michelangelo done by the author is summarized in the critical catalogue. The reproductions, which were in great part taken according to the author's direction, will, it is hoped, help to substantiate the critical observations in the text and catalogue.

-xiii-

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The Youth of Michelangelo
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Life 1
  • I - Origins 3
  • II - Early Childhood 11
  • III - Apprenticeship in the Studio of the Brothers Ghirlandaio 14
  • IV - In the School of the Giardino Mediceo 16
  • V - The Court of Lorenzo De' Medici 18
  • VI - Florence under Piero De' Medici 20
  • VII - Bologna la Grassa 22
  • VIII - Florence, the Free Republic 24
  • IX - Quattrocento Rome 26
  • X - Classical Florence 29
  • XI - Imperial Rome 32
  • XII - Carrara 33
  • XIII - The Quarrel 34
  • XIV - Refuge in Florence 36
  • XV - Bologna under Julius II 38
  • XVI - Return to Florence 41
  • Notes to Part I 42
  • Artistic Development 61
  • Introduction 63
  • I - Foundations of the New Style 65
  • II - Primordial Visions of Life and Destiny 75
  • III - Differentiation of Emotions 83
  • IV - Differentiation of Outward Form 89
  • V - Differentiation of Inward Structure: Classical Style 93
  • VI - Return to the Vision of Preterhuman Forces 113
  • Conclusion 117
  • Critical Catalogue 119
  • Introduction to the Catalogue 121
  • Catalogue of Original Sculpture and Painting 123
  • Catalogue of Drawings Nil 173
  • Catalogue of Lost Works 193
  • Catalogue of Apocryphal and Falsely Attributed Works 225
  • Paintings Falsely Attributed to Michelangelo's Youth 236
  • Appendices 239
  • Bibliographical Abbreviations 257
  • Addenda 263
  • Index 265
  • The Illustrations 281
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