Il Gigante: Michelangelo, Florence, and the David 1492-1504
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At the turn of the 16th century, Italy was a turbulent territory made up of independent states, each at war with or intriguing against its neighbor. There were the proud, cultivated, and degenerate Sforzas in Milan, and in Rome, the corrupt Spanish family of the Borgia whose head, Rodrigo, ascended to St Peter's throne as Pope Alexander VI. In Florence, a golden age of culture and sophistication ended with the death of the greatest of the Medici family, Lorenzo the Magnificent, giving way to an era of uncertainty, cruelty, and religious fundamentalism.
In the midst of this turmoil, there existed the greatest concentration of artists that Europe has ever known. Influenced by the rediscovery of the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, artists and thinkers such as Botticelli and da Vinci threw off the shackles of the Middle Ages to produce one of the most creative periods in history - the Renaissance.
This is the story of twelve years when war, plague, famine, and chaos made their mark on a volatile Italy, and when a young, erratic genius, Michelangelo Buonarroti, made his first great statue - the David. It was to become a symbol not only of the independence and defiance of the city of Florence but also of the tortured soul who created it. This is a wonderful history of the artist, his times, and one of his most magnificent works.
panel where the vanishing point of the perspective occurred. The trick of the device was now ready for demonstration: an observer, standing two metres inside the cathedral at the exact point where Brunelleschi had painted the picture, held the panel up in front of him, the painted side facing away from him. In his other hand he held a mirror which reflected the painted scene. But as he stared through the aperture in the painting and saw the actual Baptistery, the observer found Brunelleschi’s
February, Lodovico Buonarroti wrote to his son defending himself against a charge of being too negative. Lodovico pointed out that he was fifty-six years old, had five grown sons, yet had to fend for himself, to the extent of baking bread and doing the washing-up. He added that if Michelangelo was doing so well, why wasn’t any money forthcoming? It’s difficult not to sympathise with Lodovico. He was twice a widower, he’d lost the modest Customs House job he’d had when Piero de’ Medici was
previous French invasion. Now French troops were using the massive matrix for target practice. Leonardo, who had played to the Duke on a silver lyre finished with a soundbox in the shape of a horse’s head, an instrument which he had made himself, became a homeless wanderer for a short time. During his years in Milan, Leonardo had painted the portrait of Duke Lodovico’s mistress, Cecilia Gallerani, as The Lady with the Ermine, now in Cracow, the Virgin of the Rocks, and the famous Last Supper for
seemed to him that Donatello had put on the cross the body of a peasant, not the body of Jesus Christ which was most delicate and in every part the most perfect human form ever created. Finding that instead of being praised, as he had hoped, he was being criticised, and more sharply than he could ever have imagined, Donatello retorted: ‘If it was as easy to make something as it is to criticise, my Christ would really look to you like Christ. So you get some wood and try to make one yourself.’
its confluence with the Mugnone, and it lasted several hundred years before being razed by the dictator, Sulla, in 82 BC in reprisal for its having sided with his enemy Marius. The history of the city of Florence proper begins in 59 BC with a Roman settlement – legend has it that the founder was Julius Caesar – on the north bank of the Arno. Clearly the Romans took their cue from the Etruscans, for the situation was very conducive to trade: the location was perfect for the transfer of goods from