Michelangelo di Ludovico Buonarroti Simoni (known as Michelangelo) was born on 6 March 1475 in the Tuscan town of Caprese, near Arezzo

Donatello, David, c. 1440-1460, bronze

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Michelangelo received the commission to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling as a consolation prize of sorts when Pope Julius II temporarily scaled back plans for a massive sculpted memorial to himself that Michelangelo was to complete.

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From the 1530s on, Michelangelo wrote poems; about 300 survive. Many incorporate the philosophy of Neo-Platonism–that a human soul, powered by love and ecstasy, can reunite with an almighty God—ideas that had been the subject of intense discussion while he was an adolescent living in Lorenzo de’ Medici’s household.

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Michelangelo learned from and was inspired by the scholars and writers in Lorenzo’s intellectual circle, and his later work would forever be informed by what he learned about philosophy and politics in those years. While staying in the Medici home, he also refined his technique under the tutelage of Bertoldo di Giovanni, keeper of Lorenzo’s collection of ancient Roman sculptures and a noted sculptor himself. Although Michelangelo expressed his genius in many media, he would always consider himself a sculptor first.

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, edited by William Wallace
Steinberg, Leo. “Who’s Who in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam: A Chronology of the Picture’s Reluctant Self-Revelation.” Art Bulletin (1992): 552-566.

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The Creation of Adam is one of the great jewels of Western art, though it and the rest of the Sistine Chapel ceiling suffered the ill effects of centuries of smoke that had caused the ceiling to darken considerably. It was not until 1977 that the cleaning of the ceiling was begun. The result of the cleaning was astonishing after its completion in 1989; what was once dark and drab became vivid. The change from pre-cleaning to post-cleaning was so great that some initially refused to believe that this is the way Michelangelo actually painted. Today, we have a much better understanding of Michelangelo’s palette and the world he painted, beautifully captured across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

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An article Bruce Sutherland has written was published in winter 2013 issue of “Source: Notes in the History of Art” stating that Michelangelo’s source of inspiration for the figure of Adam was an ancient Roman cameo showing a nude Augustus Caesar riding sidesaddle on a Capricorn. The cameo is in Alnwick Castle, Northumberland. Usually the cameo can be seen by typing “Augustus, cameo, Capricorn” on Google Image.

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Michelangelo was working in Rome by 1498, when he received a career-making commission from the visiting French cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas, envoy of King Charles VIII to the pope. The cardinal wanted to create a substantial statue depicting a draped Virgin Mary with her dead son resting in her arms—a Pietà—to grace his own future tomb. Michelangelo’s delicate 69-inch-tall masterpiece featuring two intricate figures carved from one block of marble continues to draw legions of visitors to St. Peter’s Basilica more than 500 years after it’s completion.