About 1513 Bartolommeo went to Rome, and after his return to his convent he began what promised to be a wonderful artistic career; but he only lived four years more, and the amount of his work was so small that his pictures are now rare. His madonnas, saints, and angels are holy in their effect; his representations of architecture are grand, and while his works are not strong or powerful, they give much pleasure to those who see them.

Michael Angelo Buonarroti was born at the Castle of Caprese in 1475. His father, who was of a noble family of Florence, was then governor of Caprese and Chiusi, and, when the Buonarroti household returned to Florence, the little Angelo was left with his nurse on one of his father’s estates at Settignano. The father and husband of his nurse were stone-masons, and thus in infancy the future artist was in the midst of blocks of stone and marble and the implements which he later used with so much skill. For many years rude sketches were shown upon the walls of the nurse’s house made by her baby charge, and he afterward said that he imbibed a love for marble with his earliest food.

Fig 38 Fig. 38.—Portrait of
Michael Angelo Buonarroti.

At the proper age Angelo was taken to Florence and placed in school; but he spent his time mostly in drawing, and having made the acquaintance of Francesco Granacci, at that time a pupil with Ghirlandajo, he borrowed from him designs and materials by which to carry on his beloved pursuits. Michael Angelo’s desire to become an artist was violently opposed by his father and his uncles, for they desired him to be a silk and woollen merchant, and sustain the commercial reputation of the family. But so determined was he that finally his father yielded, and in 1488 placed him in the studio of Ghirlandajo. Here the boy of thirteen worked with great diligence; he learned how to prepare colors and to lay the groundwork of frescoes, and he was set to copy drawings. Very soon he wearied of this, and began to make original designs after his own ideas. At one time he corrected a drawing of his master’s: when he saw this, sixty years later, he said, “I almost think that I knew more of art in my youth than I do in my old age.”

When Michael Angelo went to Ghirlandajo, that master was employed on the restoration of the choir of Santa Maria Novella, so that the boy came at once into the midst of important work. One day he drew a picture of the scaffolding and all that belonged to it, with the painters at work thereon: when his master saw it he exclaimed, “He already understands more than I do myself.” This excellence in the scholar roused the jealousy of the master, as well as of his other pupils, and it was a relief to Michael Angelo when, in answer to a request from Lorenzo de Medici, he and Francesco Granacci were named by Ghirlandajo as his two most promising scholars, and were then sent to the Academy which the duke had established. The art treasures which Lorenzo gave for the use of the students were arranged in the gardens of San Marco, and here, under the instruction of the old Bertoldo, Angelo forgot painting in his enthusiasm for sculpture. He first copied the face of a faun; but he changed it somewhat, and opened the mouth so that the teeth could be seen. When Lorenzo visited the garden he praised the work, but said, “You have made your faun so old, and yet you have left him all his teeth; you should have known that at such an advanced age there are generally some wanting.” The next time he came there was a gap in the teeth, and so well done that he was delighted. This work is now in the Uffizi Gallery.

Lorenzo now sent for the father of Angelo, and asked that the son might live in the Medici palace under his own care. Somewhat reluctantly the father consented, and the duke gave him an office in the custom-house. From this time for three years, Angelo sat daily at the duke’s table, and was treated as one of his own family; he was properly clothed, and had an allowance of five ducats a month for pocket-money. It was the custom with Lorenzo to give an entertainment every day; he took the head of the table, and whoever came first had a seat next him. It often happened that Michael Angelo had this place. Lorenzo was the head of Florence, and Florence was the head of art, poetry, and all scholarly thought. Thus, in the home of the Medici, the young artist heard learned talk upon all subjects of interest; he saw there all the celebrated men who lived in the city or visited it, and his life so near Lorenzo, for a thoughtful youth, as he was, amounted to an education.

The society of Florence at this time was not of a high moral tone, and in the year in which Michael Angelo entered the palace, a monk called Savonarola came to Florence to preach against the customs and the crimes of the city. Michael Angelo was much affected by this, and throughout his long life remembered Savonarola with true respect and affection, and his brother, Leonardo Buonarroti, was so far influenced that he withdrew from the world and became a Dominican monk.