The Youth of Michelangelo

By Charles De Tolnay | Go to book overview

III. DIFFERENTIATION OF EMOTIONS

THERE seems to be an interruption in Michelangelo's artistic development after the great promise of the two Florentine reliefs and the two statues; the only commission he had was to execute three small statuettes at Bologna. But these show that inwardly he continued to mature. We see that he is trying to overcome a certain vagueness and lack of precision in psychical characterization; there is now a desire to vary the emotional character of his figures. Only later in Rome does he feel the need to differentiate also in external forms.

It was fortunate that at Bologna he was able to see and study the chief works of Jacopo della Quercia, the most emotional artist of Italy. In the art of della Quercia Michelangelo found a conception which could give him a new assurance in the pursuit of his own ideal. For della Quercia, as for Michelangelo, art was not a realistic reflection of the world of appearances but a transposition of the inner life, the life of the soul, into a plastic form at once passionate and heroic. As early as the beginning of the Quattrocento della Quercia had arrived at a union of the monumental, antique-like forms of the Pisani and the gentle, pleasing curves of the Gothic style, adding to these an entirely personal emotionalism. The soft but full and heavy draperies that sometimes pour like lava over the figures are for della Quercia the immediate expression of the moods of the soul -- the figures themselves seem to be incarnated passions. That which Dante and later Alberti had announced as the chief aim of art, namely the direct translation of the "movements of the soul" ( movimenti dell'animo, Alberti) into works was first realized in sculpture by della Quercia, who thus unconsciously prepared the way for Michelangelo.

Only the difference of time and school separates these two spiritual brothers. We still find much of the Gothic stonecutter in the heaviness and rudeness of della Quercia's forms and technique. Michelangelo, on the other hand, is the heir of a great artistic tradition and has at his command technical ability which is richer and more refined. Beside the works of the older sculptor, Michelangelo's Bologna statuettes seem almost delicate.

Confronted with the artistic task of adding the three missing statuettes to the tomb of St. Dominic, which was left unfinished by Niccolò dell'Arca, Michelangelo had to adapt himself to the whole preestablished plan and program (III, 3). On the other hand, he sought, within these limitations, to give expression to his own personal conception. He was not content with conceiving his figures as mere external decoration of the monument, but he drew an inner connection between the idea of the tomb-reliquary and the emotional attitude of his figures: he conceives them as guardians of the holy ashes. Thus he gives all three of his figures a higher spiritual mission, which he differentiates in each figure. If all the figures had been by Michelangelo, there would be today in place of the monotonous row of mild, devout saints, a gallery of "men," each discharging in its own personal manner its superindividual mission. It is the conception

-83-

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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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