Michael Angelo (1474-1564) has been called the "Prophet of the Renaissance," and perhaps deserves the title, since he was more of the Old Testament than the New—more of the austere and imperious than the loving or the forgiving. There was no sentimental feature about his art. His conception was intellectual, highly imaginative, mysterious, at times disordered and turbulent in its strength. He came the nearest to the sublime of any painter in history through the sole attribute of power. He had no tenderness nor any winning charm. He did not win, but rather commanded. Everything he saw or felt was studied for the strength that was in it. Religion, Old-Testament history, the antique, humanity, all turned in his hands into symbolic forms of power, put forth apparently in the white heat of passion, and at times in defiance of every rule and tradition of art. Personal feeling was very apparent in his work, and in this he was as far removed as possible from the Greeks, and nearer to what one would call to-day a romanticist. There was little of the objective about him. He was not an imitator of facts but a creator of forms and ideas. His art was a reflection of himself—a self-sufficient man, positive, creative, standing alone, a law unto himself.

Technically he was more of a sculptor than a painter. He said so himself when Julius commanded him to paint the Sistine ceiling, and he told the truth. He was a magnificent draughtsman, and drew magnificent sculpturesque figures on the Sistine vault. That was about all his achievement with the brush. In color, light, air, perspective—in all those features peculiar to the painter—he was behind his contemporaries. Composition he knew a great deal about, and in drawing he had the most positive, far-reaching command of line of any painter of any time. It was in drawing that he showed his power. Even this is severe and harsh at times, and then again filled with a grace that is majestic and in scope universal, as witness the Creation of Adam in the Sistine.


He came out of Florence, a pupil of Ghirlandajo, with a school feeling for line, stimulated by the frescos of Masaccio and Signorelli. At an early age he declared himself, and hewed a path of his own through art, sweeping along with him many of the slighter painters of his age. Long-lived he saw his contemporaries die about him and Humanism end in bloodshed with the coming of the Jesuits; but alone, gloomy, resolute, steadfast to his belief, he held his way, the last great representative of Florentine art, the first great representative of individualism in art. With him and after him came many followers who strove to imitate his "terrible style," but they did not succeed any too well.

The most of these followers find classification under the Mannerists of the Decadence. Of those who were immediate pupils of Michael Angelo, or carried out his designs, Daniele da Volterra (1509-1566) was one of the most satisfactory. His chief work, the Descent from the Cross, was considered by Poussin as one of the three great pictures of the world. It is sometimes said to have been designed by Michael Angelo, but that is only a conjecture. It has much action and life in it, but is somewhat affected in pose and gesture, and Volterra's work generally was deficient in real energy of conception and execution.Marcello Venusti (1515-1585?) painted directly from Michael Angelo's designs in a delicate and precise way, probably imbibed from his master, Perino del Vaga, and from association with Venetians likeSebastiano del Piombo (1485-1547). This last-named painter was born in Venice and trained under Bellini and Giorgione, inheriting the color and light-and-shade qualities of the Venetians; but later on he went to Rome and came under the influence of Michael Angelo and Raphael. He tried, under Michael Angelo's inspiration it is said, to unite the Florentine grandeur of line with the Venetian coloring, and thus outdo Raphael. It was not wholly successful, though resulting in an excellent quality of art. As a portrait-painter he was above reproach. His early works were rather free in impasto, the late ones smooth and shiny, in imitation of Raphael.

Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) was more Greek in method than any of the great Renaissance painters. In subject he was not more classic than others of his time; he painted all subjects. In thought he was not particularly classic; he was chiefly intellectual, with a leaning toward the sensuous that was half-pagan. It was in method and expression more than elsewhere that he showed the Greek spirit. He aimed at the ideal and the universal, independent, so far as possible, of the individual, and sought by a union of all elements to produce perfect harmony. The Harmonist of the Renaissance is his title. And this harmony extended to a blending of thought, form, and expression, heightening or modifying every element until they ran together with such rhythm that it could not be seen where one left off and another began. He was the very opposite of Michael Angelo. The art of the latter was an expression of individual power and was purely subjective. Raphael's art was largely a unity of objective beauties, with the personal element as much in abeyance as was possible for his time.