Delle Rite De Più Eccellenti Pittori, Scultori, Ed Architettori

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Michelangelo Buonarroti


Michelangelo was much inclined to the labors of art, seeing that everything, however difficult, succeeded with him, he having had from nature a genius very apt and ardent in the noble arts of design. Moreover, in order to be entirely perfect, innumerable times he made anatomical studies, dissecting men’s bodies in order to see the principles of their construction and the arrangement of the bones, muscles, veins, and nerves; the various movements and all the postures of the human body; and not of men only, but also of animals, and particularly of horses, which last he much delighted to keep. Of all these he desired to learn the principles and laws in so far as touched his art, and this knowledge he so demonstrated in the works that fell to him to handle that those who attend to no other study than this do not know more. He so executed his works, whether with the brush or with the chisel, that they are almost inimitable, and he gave to his labors such grace and loveliness that he surpassed and vanquished the ancients. He was able to wrest things out of the greatest difficulties with such facility that they do not appear wrought with effort, although whoever draws his works after him finds it very hard to imitate them.

The genius of Michelangelo was recognized in his lifetime, and not, as happens to many, after death, for several of the popes always wished to have him near them, and also Suleiman, emperor of the Turks, Francis of Valois, king of France, the emperor Charles V, the signory of Venice, and finally Duke Cosimo de’ Medici. All offered him honorable salaries, for no other reason but to avail themselves of his great genius. This does not happen except to men of great worth, such as he was. It is well known that all the three arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture were so perfected in him, that it is not found that among persons ancient or modern, in all the many years that the sun had been whirling round, God has granted this to any other but Michelangelo. He had imagination of such a kind, and so perfect, and the things conceived by him in idea were such, that often, through not being able to express with the hands conceptions so terrible and grand, he abandoned his works — nay, destroyed many of them. I know that shortly before he died he burned a great number of designs, sketches, and cartoons made with his own hand, to the end that no one might see the labors endured by him and his methods of trying his genius, and that he might not appear less perfect. . . .

No one should think it strange that Michelangelo delighted in solitude, he having been one who was enamored of his art, which claims a man, with all his thoughts, for herself alone; moreover it is necessary that he who wishes to attend to her studies should shun society. . . . And those who attributed it to caprice and eccentricity are wrong, because he who wishes to work well must withdraw himself from all cares and vexations, since art demands contemplation, solitude, and ease of life, and will not suffer the mind to wander. For all this, he prized the friendship of many great persons and of learned and ingenious men. . . .

Michelangelo greatly loved human beauty for the sake of imitation in art, being able to select from the beautiful the most beautiful, for without this imitation no perfect work can be done; but not with disgraceful thoughts, as he proved by his way of life, which was very frugal. . . . And, although he was rich, he lived like a poor man, nor did any friend ever eat at his table, or rarely; and he would not accept presents from anyone, because it appeared to him that if anyone gave him something, he would be bound to him forever. This sober life kept him very active and in need of very little sleep, and often during the night, not being able to sleep, he would rise to labor with the chisel. . . . Often in his youth he slept in his clothes, being weary with labor, and not caring to take them off only to have to put them on again later. . . .

Michelangelo was a man of tenacious and profound memory, so that, on seeing the works of others only once, he remembered them perfectly, and could avail himself of them in such a manner, that scarcely anyone has ever noticed it; nor did he ever do anything that resembled another thing by his hand, because he remembered everything that he had done. In his youth, being once with his painter-friends, they played for a supper for him who should make a figure most completely wanting in design and clumsy, after the likeness of the puppet-figures scrawled upon walls; and in this he availed himself of his memory, for he remembered having seen one of those absurdities on a wall, and drew it exactly as if he had had it before him, and thus surpassed all those painters. It was a thing difficult for a man so steeped in design, and accustomed to choice work, to come out of with credit.

1 Vasari, , vol. ix, pp. 103–111.

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Chicago: Delle Rite De Più Eccellenti Pittori, Scultori, Ed Architettori in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 460–461. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . Delle Rite De Più Eccellenti Pittori, Scultori, Ed Architettori, Vol. ix, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 460–461. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , Delle Rite De Più Eccellenti Pittori, Scultori, Ed Architettori. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.460–461. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from