He was put to nurse with the wife of a marble-worker of Settignano. Later, he jokingly attributed his vocation as a sculptor to his foster-mother's milk. Sent to school, he spent nearly the whole of his time drawing. "For this reason he was regarded with displeasure and often cruelly struck by his father and his father's brother, who had a hatred for the artistic profession and considered it a scandal to have an artist in the family." Thus, whilst still a child, he came to know the brutality of life and the solitude of the mind.
His obstinacy prevailed over that of his father. At the age of thirteen he became an apprentice in the bottega of Domenico Ghirlandajo—the greatest and healthiest of Florentine painters. His early works were so successful that the master, it is said, was jealous of his pupil. At the end of a year they separated.
He took a dislike to painting, and, aspiring to a more heroic art, entered the school of sculpture which Lorenzo de' Medici had established in the gardens of St. Mark. The prince interested himself in him, lodged him in his palace and admitted him to his sons' table; and thus the child found himself at the very heart of the Italian Renaissance, in the midst of ancient collections, in the poetic and erudite atmosphere of those great Platonists Marsile Ficino, Benivieni, and Angelo Politiano. He became enraptured with their understanding. In order to live in the ancient world he cultivated an ancient soul and became a Greek sculptor. Guided by Politiano, "who loved him greatly," he carved a basso-relievo in
- Truth to tell, it is difficult to believe that so powerful an artist would have been jealous. At all events, I do not believe that this was the cause of Michael Angelo's precipitous departure. He preserved, until his old age, the respect of his first master.
- The school was directed by Bertoldo, a pupil of Donatello.