The New Student's Reference Work/Angelo, Michael

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Angelo, Michael (mī' ka-el ăn' jā-lō), an Italian sculptor, painter and architect, was born near Florence in 1475. (The great painter's name is frequently written as one word—"Michelangelo"; or, in Italian,"Michelagnolo Buonarroti"). He began to draw as soon as he could use his hands, and his early paintings on the walls of the house where he lived as a boy were once shown. A great merchant prince, Lorenzo dei Medici, opened a garden in Florence filled with statues. Here Angelo went often to draw, and his first piece of sculpture, a copy in marble of a laughing faun, so pleased Lorenzo that he took the boy into his own house, treating him like a son. His Sleeping Cupid brought him to the notice of all Italy, and got him an invitation to come to Rome. Here, besides other statues, he carved his Pieta, the mourning Mary with the dead Christ in her lap, now in a chapel of St. Peter's. From now on his life was of the busiest. A huge block of marble, 18 feet long, lay outside the cathedral at Florence. One sculptor had hacked at it and half spoiled it, but out of it Angelo cut his statue of David. The pope gave him an order for a tomb, and Angelo's design was so magnificent that it was decided to rebuild St. Peter's as a fit covering for it, and Michael Angelo was made the architect. The Sistine chapel was to be ornamented, and in 20 months the great painter had covered the whole ceiling with the beautiful frescoes that may be seen there today. It was on the walls of this chapel that he afterward painted his Last Judgment. Michael Angelo was a poet, and wrote beautiful sonnets; and also an engineer, and built the fortifications of Florence. Besides possessing genius, he had a passion for work. He carved till his hands could no longer guide a tool, only giving up his work at the age of 90, when he said, "Death often pulls me by the coat to come with him." He died in 1564.