Michelangelo: A Biography

George Bull, Author St. Martin's Press $29.95 (528p) ISBN 978-0-312-15172-0
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1474-1564) contended that his destiny was sealed when he was suckled by a wet nurse who was the daughter of a stonemason. His David, Pieta and Sistine Chapel frescoes brought him renown by his 30s, but the biographer's problem is that he lived into his 90th year. What does one do with the rest of his life? Bull (Inside the Vatican), foreign news editor of the London Financial Times, handles the question as a thorough scholar of Italian art and politics. Since the two were inextricable in Michelangelo's time, Bull weaves his way through a mind-boggling succession of popes and wars of greed among major powers and minor principalities at a time when the papacy was a territorial player, and some of the most accomplished artists ever--Leonardo, Raphael, Bronzino, Cellini, Titian--were dependent on Vatican artistic and architectural commissions. Bull presents Michelangelo as a passionate creative genius whose inability to settle for less then perfection left him unable to complete much of the work he took on. Yet, he was also an entrepreneur eager for advances on the statuary, tombs and pictures he'd never deliver (his tomb for Julius II, even when reduced in scale, took 30 years). Drawn to muscular male bodies whose powerful evocations were the pinnacle of his art, Michelangelo also wrote effusive poetry to men to whom his affections were obvious, but he claimed in old age to have always observed sexual continence. However, he confessed, anticipating divine judgment, that he regretted having made art ""both idol and monarch, like the things every man desires despite himself."" Bull's crowded canvas challenges readers, but a complex and contradictory Michelangelo emerges. Illustrations. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Hardcover - 504 pages - 978-0-670-81115-1
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-312-18746-0
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4551-0109-2
Downloadable Audio - 1 pages - 978-0-7861-5121-9
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