Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine: A Biography

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Overview

In the most important biography of Michelangelo to appear in modern times, John T. Spike illuminates heretofore unrevealed aspects of Michelangelo’s complex personality through examinations of the Pietà, the David, the artist’s struggle with Leonardo da Vinci for artistic mastery, and an uneasy relationship with Pope Julius II. Over the long arc of his artistic development, Michelangelo was involved in the most troubling controversies of his age, an eyewitness to the bonfires of the vanities, the Rome of the ...

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Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine: A Biography

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Overview

In the most important biography of Michelangelo to appear in modern times, John T. Spike illuminates heretofore unrevealed aspects of Michelangelo’s complex personality through examinations of the Pietà, the David, the artist’s struggle with Leonardo da Vinci for artistic mastery, and an uneasy relationship with Pope Julius II. Over the long arc of his artistic development, Michelangelo was involved in the most troubling controversies of his age, an eyewitness to the bonfires of the vanities, the Rome of the Borgias, the siege of Florence, and the Inquisition’s burning of heretics at the stake. In this long-awaited reinterpretation of the artist’s early life and career, Spike re-creates Michelangelo’s cities, Florence and Rome, animating their daily life with sketches of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Leonardo, Savonarola, Raphael, and Machiavelli.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Art historian Spike (Caravaggio) weaves together the personal and professional relationships that shaped the first 30 years of Michelangelo's career, from his early days in the Medicis' sculpture garden to the commissions that culminated in his work in the Sistine Chapel. Spike's Michelangelo is driven relentlessly by ambition, an obligation to provide for his dysfunctional family, and a firm conviction of his own genius. Although he lacked the social graces of contemporaries Leonardo and Raphael, Michelangelo attracted the patronage of the most important political figures of the time. Michelangelo was probably one of the very few who could flee Rome in the middle of completing the pope's tomb, repeatedly refuse orders to return, and still receive an even more important commission for a bronze sculpture. Spike crystallizes historical detail into vivid, memorable imagery. One scene stands out in particular: Michelangelo's six-ton David being slowly dragged through the streets of Florence to its place in front of the Palazzo della Signoria. Alternating between accounts of the turbulent political atmosphere and details of Michelangelo's most private moments in the sculpture studio, Spike creates a rich narrative that promises more intrigue than the best adventure novel. 60 illus., maps. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Art historian Spike (Caravaggio) explores the early life and work of Michelangelo Buonarroti Simoni within the context of his times in the many-layered politics of Renaissance Italy. In six footnoted chapters, including one on the David, Spike uses letters, financial records, and documents from the Buonarroti family archives, as well as the writings of Ascanio Condivi, Michelangelo's partly authorized biographer, to describe the artist's relationship with his father and brothers, his apprenticeship and relationship with the Ghirlandaios, his place as a young student at the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent, where he distinguished himself as a sculptor in the fabled city of Florence, and his dealings with Rome, the pope, and cardinals. Italian Renaissance history is described as it relates to the artist through 1508 with the discovery of the Laocoön statue and his preparations for sculpting Pope Julius II's tomb. VERDICT Most Michelangelo histories focus on the artist fully formed. Spike's original and valuable approach to studying his childhood, development, and reputation as one of the greats of the Renaissance provides a deeper understanding of such a wondrous, almost mythic figure. An essential book for Renaissance collections and devotees.—Ellen Bates, New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865652668
  • Publisher: Vendome Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

John T. Spike, critic, curator, and art historian, is the author of more than 20 significant books on Italian painting and artists, including Caravaggio. He lives in Florence and teaches in the Sacred Arts Masters program at Regina Apostolorum University in Rome.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2014

    Recommended

    If you are interested in the young Michelangelo this very readable book is for you.

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  • Posted December 26, 2010

    How a Renaissance Master Attained The Pinnacle of His Career

    This biography of Michelangelo covers the years in which he was striving for public recognition of his artistic genius, so should be of interest not only to all those interested in Renaissance art, but also to all up and coming young professionals. In those days, prior to our current unprecedented levels of mass media hype, how did one gain widespread publicity and attain elevated levels of self-promotion? How, in brief, did one make a name for oneself? Starting by drawing over his master's drawings so as to improve the latter and challenging the older students in the sculpture studio was not bound to win him any popularity with either his instructor, or with members of his peer group, though it did start Michelangelo on his way to greatness. In short, he was lacking neither in talent, nor in ambition, having much in common with many of our modern-day winners of "Idols". After the initial rejection of some of his early work, most notably that of a Bacchus reeling from drink, he restores his own credibility by unleashing the virile David from a ruined block of marble. His obsession with the telling of his own story is also not unique to his time - how many aspirant hopefuls are not obsessed with the telling of their own tale? Underwriting Ascanio Condivi's biography of his life, as well as two editions of Giorgio Vasari's The Lives of the Artists, sounds all the more familiar in the modern age of ghost writing and vaunting by publicists of the greatness of artists' work.

    However, the truth will out, and that is exactly where John T. Spike's biography excels. Through painstaking research and a determination to get to the bottom of things, he reveals the reality of both the life and times of the young Michelangelo. His writing exposes to us the vulnerability of the great man, as well as the fallacies and foibles of his age - a heady experience.

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