Michelangelo, the Immortal


Bacco

Last month we spoke about Michelangelo, son of his time and his land, but in particular of Florence, that Fiorenza I refer to as the city that gave and taught so much to him; she showed our artist the direction to that immortality which only a few are destined to, thanks to art.

Anyway, Michelangelo and his city weren’t linked by an one-way maternal relationship. He also gave his first guide and teacher something unique that any other wouldn’t have been able to give: his trace, his mark, his masterpieces. We couldn’t affirm that Michelangelo shaped Florence’s face, but we can firmly state that what he left has made it nicer! Florence wouldn’t be the same without that man called Michelangelo Buonarroti and Michelangelo Buonarroti wouldn’t have been definitely the same if he would have lived elsewhere.

But, as I told you, he was a son of his time, besides being a son of the Buonarrotis! His mother died when he was only six, leaving a premanent trace on Michelangelo’s life and character. He missed her mother’s figure, her love and soothing words; as a consequence, in his early works especially, he began to paint and carve his Madonnas as simple women, instead of tender mothers looking at their children like just a mum does. As I told you during our past journey throughout Michelangelo’s life, he can not be separated from the historical period he lived in. Lorenzo the Magnificent‘s death (and the subsequent foundation of the Republic) represented a significant change for Florence and its inhabitants, but it mainly coincided with the death of the most important patron of artists, scholars and poets we have ever heard about. Michelangelo was already running for immortality (thanks to his works) when he took his leave from that period. Even the foundation of the Republic was a source of inspiration for him: the warrior-citizen (as Machiavelli called Michelangelo’s David) was inspired by the current ideas of freedom, human rights and government defense. (…) “As he (David) had defended his people and administered justice, so who governed that city (Florence) should courageously defend and rightly govern it”. (Vasari, Vitae).

Michelangelo was a witness of his time, of the events, the political, ideological and cultural revolutions that occured: through his works we are able to read complete chapters of our history and we feel part of those important (be they human or divine) designes that have shaped our present. Actually, Michelangelo was very religious, both from a conventional and a more personal point of view. On the one hand he firmly conformed to the religious observances of his period, but on the other hand he was greatly influenced by Girolamo Savonarola‘s sermons, a contemporary monk who fought against the immorality, the spiritual decline of both church and society, against those superficial observances inspired by appearance instead of faith. Michelangelo shared Savonarola’s thoughts and his ideas of carrying out a necessary reform, bringing into question the ethical values of his works he had realized till that moment. Maybe, we can even state that the well-known Bacco (now kept at the Bargello Museum) that he carved for the Roman Cardinal Riario a few months after, alludes to such thoughts. In fact, Michelangelo decided to represent the mythological character pretty drunken, with a grape-eating satyr at his feet. Did he want to be provoking by realizing a classical-mythological character in licentious and sinful attitude, going against the traditional, hedonist representation of the child? Did he allude to the immoral decadence of church and society, as the monk used to preach?

Actually, those sentences seem to be referred to our time, thus confirming that human being is naturally corrupt, regardless of places time and context. But, on the other hand, they could once again confirm that Michelangelo was able, through his works, to overcome any limit and seize those elements that remain always the same throughout centuries; this is why his masterpieces can be referred to any time: past, present and future. This is Michelangelo’s genius, the Immortal.

See you next month!


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