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Michelangelo Buonarroti, (1475-1564)

Arguably one of the most inspired creators in the history of art and, with Leonardo da Vinci, the most potent force in the Italian High Renaissance. As a sculptor, architect, painter, and poet, he exerted a tremendous influence on his contemporaries and on subsequent Western art in general.

A Florentine - although born March 6, 1475, in the small village of Caprese near Arezzo - Michelangelo continued to have a deep attachment to his city, its art, and its culture throughout his long life. He spent the greater part of his adulthood in Rome, employed by the popes; characteristically, however, he left instructions that he be buried in Florence, and his body was placed there in a fine monument in the church of Santa Croce.

Michelangelo's father, a Florentine official named Ludovico Buonarroti with connections to the ruling Medici family, placed his 13-year-old son in the workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. After about two years, Michelangelo studied at the sculpture school in the Medici gardens and shortly thereafter was invited into the household of Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent.

There he had an opportunity to converse with the younger Medicis, two of whom later became popes (Leo X and Clement VII). He also became acquainted with such humanists as Marsilio Ficino and the poet Angelo Poliziano, who were frequent visitors. Michelangelo produced at least two relief sculptures by the time he was 16 years old, the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs (both 1489-92, Casa Buonarroti, Florence), which show that he had achieved a personal style at a very early age.
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