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Michelangelo, a famous artist in the Renaissance Era, achieved many accomplishments in his lifetime. Two of his famous works of art were the Delphic Sibyl and the Libyan Sibyl, which were painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Renaissance Era was a period where art had advanced immensely from humanism, classicism, individualism, and secularism. Michelangelo had also used these characteristics in his artworks, like the Delphic and Libyan Sibyl. As an artist, he accomplished one of the greatest achievements, which was the title, “Father and Master of all the arts”. Michelangelo Buonarroti was one of the many inspirations of the Renaissance Age.
On March 6, 1475 in Caprese, Italy, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni or better known as Michelangelo Buonarroti was born. He was one of the most talented artists in the Renaissance period and his artwork ranged from paintings to sculptures to architecture to poetry. Michelangelo’s family was in the business of financial banking. According to the biography, it states, “Michelangelo’s father realized early on that his son had no interest in the family financial business, so agreed to apprentice him, at the age of 13, to the fashionable Florentine painter’s workshop.” During his apprenticeship, he learned about fresco that would soon be a technique in which he would use in his art. A year later, Lorenzo the Magnificent asked for him to come to his palace in order to learn more about art. In the Encyclopedia of World Biography, it states, “Michelangelo’s earliest sculpture, the Battle of the Centaurs (mythological creatures that are part man and part horse), a stone work created when he was about seventeen, is regarded as remarkable for the simple, solid forms and squarish proportions of the figures, which add intensity to their violent interaction.” Even at the age of 17, he was a great artist and eventually became more passionate with his art. In 1489 to 1492, the Medici family “permitted him access to the social elite of Florence—allowing him to study under the respected sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni and exposing him to prominent poets, scholars and learned Humanists.” Michelangelo also was given permission to study bodies in order to figure out anatomy, but however, this took a toll on his health. His study of anatomy helped his art become alive and realistic, where no one could compare. Later in his years, he was asked to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. From 12 apostles to more than 300 figures, Michelangelo fired all of his assistants “whom he deemed inept, and completed the 65-foot ceiling alone, spending endless hours on his back and guarding the project jealously until revealing the finished work, on October 31, 1512.” Due to his amazing achievements, he became short tempered and a troublesome person. He became depressed in a way and started to write and he wrote, “I am here in great distress and with great physical strain, and have no friends of any kind, nor do I want them; and I do not have enough time to eat as much as I need; my joy and my sorrow/my repose are these discomforts.” He expressed his pain in literature and poetry, which he also became famous for. In his personal life, he never had any committed relationships or was ever married, but he “was devoted to a pious and noble widow named Vittoria Colonna, the subject and recipient of many of his more than 300 poems and sonnets.” Although she died in 1547, “Michelangelo developed an attachment to a young nobleman, Tommaso de’Cavalieri (scholars dispute whether this was a homosexual or paternal relationship)” in 1532. On February 18, 1564, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni passed away due to an illness. His nephew brought him back to Florence and Michelangelo was named the “Father and Master of all the arts”.
Michelangelo uses the form of realism to create a three-dimensional looking piece of art called the Delphic Sibyl, which was painted in the Sistine Chapel. In Michelangelo’s artwork, he positions the sibyl so that she is looking away from the scroll that she is holding. With the position of her gaze and the way her body is posed, it makes it seem like there is movement in her body for her to be looking in another direction. “Art & Critique” states, “The garment consists of three parts: a cool blue mantle that also functions as head gear, and a double layered toga, one layer colored a warm green, another a hot orange and gold.” Michelangelo purposely makes the woman look realistic with her clothing that brings out her chest and waist. The sitter is looking away from the scroll “apparently in distress from what the future portends — and what she must disclose.” The look on her face tells us that the woman is young and beautiful due to her facial features, which is a symmetrical face with big eyes and flawless skin. In the Delphic Sybil, she “more readily shows her face than reads — and eventually injects this series of mythological women with a fresh, youthful spirit.” It changes the way people started to think when it came to youthful people. The Delphic Sibyl shows humanism by giving the female figure emotion. Her face tells that she is distressed and shocked. Also, the way her head is turned a different direction than her body means that she is cautious. Another example of humanism is the anatomy of the men as statues. Michelangelo studied the human body to make his art pieces more realistic. The woman being the main focus and being alone shows individualism. The Delphic Sibyl represents secularism because in the background, a man is holding a book, which shows that he was being educated and the woman knew how to read, so she was also educated. The painting shows classicism because the woman is wearing a toga like outfit that was worn in ancient Greece.
As for the Libyan Sibyl, it shows an array of characteristics of the Renaissance. The male like body structure shows that anatomy was used to create the female figure, which shows that individualism was used. It originally started off with a male body, but the facial features were manipulated, so that the figure became a woman, which represents humanism. Like the Delphic Sibyl, the female in the Libyan Sibyl was also perceived to be educated due to the text that she is holding above the tome. The woman turning away from the book shows classicism. In Art & Critique, it states, “For instance, the gesture of turning away can be viewed as a betrayal of ignorance: having knowledge (carrying it in one’s hands), yet being unable to apply it in the right direction…— this is, in fact, a common Christian interpretation of ancient, particularly ancient Greek wisdom.” Michelangelo used the figure’s body position to say that the Church wasn’t always correct and was ignorant of the true means of being Christian. The artwork shows secularism because the “Platonic and Aristotelean ideas and concepts” was meant to be used the way philosophers implied it to be, but the Church disagreed and said that they were not correct, according to “Christ”. “Art & Critique” tells that in comparison to the Delphic Sibyl, the Libyan Sibyl has more movement and there isn’t such a clear message shown. Yet, the posture of the female figure is poised and almost graceful-like. “…a state of tension and uncertainty that echoes the tension with which the sibyl balances her toes on the very edge of the precipice.” The woman is more or less doesn’t know what to do and so she either takes the book from the tome or is placing it on the tome. “…the gesture of turning away can be viewed as a betrayal of ignorance: having knowledge (carrying it in one’s hands), yet being unable to apply it in the right direction (see the truth) — this is, in fact, a common Christian interpretation of ancient, particularly ancient Greek wisdom.” Michelangelo also painted the Persian and Cumaean Sibyl, where the figure is focused on the text in their hands, to possibly compare the two. Another possibility would be that the Delphic and Libyan Sibyl were the beginning parts to the Persian and Cumaean Sibyl due to the increase in interest in the figures posture.
In conclusion, Michelangelo had become one of the most famous artists at a very young age and his art pieces were considered inspirational to others. Both the Delphic and Libyan Sibyl displayed humanism due to the anatomy of the statues as well as the human figures. The painting shows individualism from the main focus, which are the female figures. For classicism, the Delphic Sibyl shows a woman wearing a Greek toga and the Libyan Sibyl shows the woman turning away from the book she is holding, which in ancient Greek wisdom means ignorance of knowledge. Finally, for secularism, the Delphic Sibyl shows an educated man in the background and the Libyan Sibyl shows an educated woman holding the book above the tome. Michelangelo used these characteristics to give a change in art, where philosophy was used instead of mainly religion.
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