Ancora Imparo: Michelangelo

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni- An artist who painted with his brain, sculpted with his heart; his hands, at best, were merely medium in his tryst with ART. He, who when deprived of ideas called himself a mendicant; barren, and went begging among the hours. Michelangelo was just another name in the GK book for me, a poorer, lesser-known contemporary of da Vinci I thought. Until, one fine day in school, momentarily tired of mystery and detective fiction, I asked my librarian for a recommendation and she suggested Irving Stone’s ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ solely because it was New York Times’ bestseller.

The title sounded captivating to my fantasy-holic ears and it being a biography provided a recluse from fiction too (sounds ironical? Well, yes!) With the book in my hand, I started a new life as a teenager in Florence, ‘The Art capital of the Renaissance’. Born in a family struggling to live up to its glorious past with a head who focussed more on saving the money and did nothing to earn the money. Charcoal and paper were extensions of my body and against my dad’s wish(my first rebellion, yay!), I joined Ghirlandaio as an apprentice(read intern).

I learned the techniques of brushes, paints, and surfaces, exploited the streets of Florence for inspiration until one day in the Medici garden I stumbled upon the art of sculpture and determined to dedicate my life to it- you see talent is cheap but it’s the dedication which is expensive: It will cost you your life- hence began my journey with the Medicis-the richest family in the whole wide Europe and Lorenzo Medici became my patron and later friend and mentor(this was slightly difficult for me as a reader to register as the last Lorenzo I had read of was Shakespeare’s-‘Merchant of Venice’s Lorenzo, read his character sketch to see where I’m coming from).

My first commissioned project Madonna and child saw the sprouting of my Expression-Over-Taction approach. The more I sought inspiration the more I found it in the human body. I saw it as a beautiful epitome of nature’s expression. But to sculpt the surface more lively I needed a better understanding of the insides. I began dissecting bodies at night and came home smelling like hell but this did wonders for my craft and it looked more realistic than ever.

This period saw the emergence of some religious fanaticism in Florence but with Lorenzo as the citizen-head things were in check but his death sent things into turmoil. In Florence, friars were preaching that all art is lustful vanity, and must be destroyed. I left Florence at the first chance I got, an offer from Rome, I made a few more sculptures briefly commissioned by a Cardinal and then another. But the one that stood out for me was David and Goliath. I spent numerous sleepless nights trying to figure out David’s state of mind when he set out to kill Goliath there were numerous sculptures of David killing Goliath but they somewhat missed conviction. And I knew why because they showed David basking in the triumph of his victory.

I made my David at the moment when he decides to take up this Herculean task which promised nothing but defeat and death and kept his head about him. (This made Michelangelo’s David more relatable to me as people are often portrayed through their success stories lifting trophies, biting medals but the more crucial part-the mental struggle- is often found missing).

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Garima Saraswat

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