In The Genius of Michelangelo, internationally recognized Michelangelo expert and award-winning Professor of Art History William E. Wallace gives you a comprehensive perspective on one of history's greatest artists. Drawing on a vast command of artistic knowledge and period detail, these 36 intellectually rewarding and visually dazzling lectures explore the relationship between truth and legend to reveal a groundbreaking new picture of Michelangelo as an artist, a businessman, an aristocrat, and a genius.
The Genius of Michelangelo
Dr. William E. Wallace is the Barbara Murphy Bryant Distinguished Professor of Art History at Washington University in St. Louis, where he has taught since 1983. He earned his B.A. from Dickinson College, his M.A. from the University of Illinois, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has written more than 80 essays on Renaissance art and four books on Michelangelo, including Michelangelo at San Lorenzo: The Genius as Entrepreneur; Michelangelo: Selected Scholarship in English; and Michelangelo: The Complete Sculpture, Painting, Architecture, which was awarded the 1999 Umhoefer Prize for Achievement in the Humanities. He recently completed a scholarly biography of Michelangelo. Professor Wallace has received numerous awards and fellowships, including stays at the Villa I Tatti (Harvard University's Center for Renaissance Studies in Florence) and the American Academy in Rome. In 1990 Professor Wallace was invited to the Vatican to confer about the conservation of Michelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel. He appeared in a BBC film, The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Michelangelo's David, and served as the principal consultant for the BBC film, The Divine Michelangelo.
01: Who Was Michelangelo?
Michelangelo is a highly mythologized figure. This lecture begins to peel away much of the fiction that surrounds him, enabling us to approach the truth about the man, his art, and his prodigious impact on the history of art.
02: Artist and Aristocrat—Michelangelo's World
This lecture discusses the places and people of Michelangelo's world, establishing a "mental geography" and genealogy—in essence, a capsule history of the artist—that can serve as a framework for the course.
03: An Unconventional Beginning
Why, when, and how did Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni become an artist? We start by examining the family connections that gave the young Michelangelo such privileged access—first to the shop of Florentine painter Domenico Ghirlandaio and then to the household of Lorenzo de' Medici himself.
04: Michelangelo's Youth and Early Training
We consider how Michelangelo's two years in the privileged environment of the Medici retarded his artistic "career" but furthered his connections among the social elite who would become his patrons before introducing his first works in marble.
05: Florence and Bologna in the Early 1490s
The death of Lorenzo de' Medici leaves Michelangelo with neither a patron nor a means of support. We follow him to Florence, where he begins his serious study of anatomy, and then to Bologna, where his work for the Sienese sculptor Jacopo della Quercia furthers his artistic maturation.
06: First Visit to Rome and Early Patrons
This lecture recreates Michelangelo's earliest impressions of the Eternal City—his first extensive exposure to the art of the Classical past—and introduces Cardinal Raffaelle Riario and the marble sculpture he commissions from Michelangelo, the "Bacchus."
07: The "Bacchus" and the "Pietà"
We look at the two principal works—the "Bacchus" and the "Pietà"—carved by Michelangelo during his first sojourn in Rome. These two works represent contrasting currents that consistently run through Michelangelo's art: his interest in pagan antiquity and his profound commitment to the Christian faith.
08: The Return to Florence and the "David"
After first looking at the commission that brings about Michelangelo's return to Florence—the Piccolomini altar—we turn to the history of the "David," examining what Michelangelo achieved in extracting that magnificent figure from what was considered a ruined block of marble.
09: The "David" and "St. Matthew"
We continue our discussion of the "David"—including the implications of the city's decision to move it from its cathedral setting to Florence's very heart, the Piazza della Signoria—before turning to his commission to carve 12 apostles, only one of which, the "St. Matthew," was ever begun.
10: For the Republic—The "Battle of Cascina"
We take up one of Michelangelo's most important, although never executed, commissions, the "Battle of Cascina," a giant fresco intended for the Florentine Hall of State in direct competition with a work by Leonardo da Vinci—whose own fresco was also never completed—before turning to Michelangelo's "Bruges Madonna."
11: The "Taddei Tondo" and the "Pitti Tondo"
Between 1501 and 1507, an ambition-driven Michelangelo achieved both astonishing success and equally astonishing productivity, appearing to refuse no one. His commissions included the round compositions known as "tond," executed in both marble and paint, and we introduce three of these unique and surprising works.
12: The "Doni Tondo"
We continue our examination of the "Doni Tondo" introduced in the previous lecture, the only painting in tempera ever created by Michelangelo and one of the greatest treasures of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
13: Rome and the Tomb of Julius II
This lecture introduces one of Michelangelo's most steadfast patrons, Julius II, as well as the ambitious project they conceived together. The Julius Tomb would have a 40-year history; it was a project that dogged Michelangelo for much of his life.
14: Bologna and the Return to Rome
We discuss the tumultuous relationship and rift between Michelangelo and Julius II and the monumental bronze statue of the pope he was directed to carve in penance—a prelude to the even greater penance that lay ahead: the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
15: The Sistine Chapel
This lecture looks at the overall organization of one of our greatest works of art. We examine the halting beginning, the earliest narratives, and the emergence of a masterpiece: the visualization of the book of Genesis for all Western Christianity.
16: The Sistine Chapel, Part 2
We continue an examination of the major narratives of the ceiling's central spine—especially the "Creation of Adam, Creation of the Sun and the Moon," and "Separation of Light and Dark"—before taking up a discussion of the ceiling's other decorations, beginning with the Prophets and Sibyls.
17: The Sistine Chapel, Part 3
We conclude our discussion by looking at the Prophets and Sibyls and the well-known, but little understood male youths, or "ignudi," before concluding with the lunettes and a final consideration of the Sistine Ceiling as a magnificent whole.
18: A Story of Marble
In looking at the three years Michelangelo devotes to an unrealized commission to create an all-marble façade for the Medici church of San Lorenzo, we follow him to the quarries themselves, examining the effort required to extract tons of marble and transport it to Florence.
19: The Medici Chapel Sculpture
With more than 300 people assisting him on two large and simultaneous Medici projects—the Medici Chapel and Laurentian Library—Michelangelo proves that he is an effective business manager as well as something of an entrepreneur.
20: The Medici Chapel Sculpture, Part 2
The Medici Chapel is the first realization of Michelangelo's longstanding ambition to combine architecture, painting, and sculpture. Although the painting campaign was aborted, and the sculpture only a fraction of his original intentions, the ensemble is satisfying, complex, and one of his foremost masterpieces.
21: The Medici Chapel Sculpture, Part 3
Continuing a focus on some of the difficulties of marble carving, we look at the profound challenge Michelangelo faced in carving figures essentially at eye level, with no opportunity to view them at the much higher level at which they would ultimately be placed.
22: The Laurentian Library
While working on the Medici Chapel, Pope Clement VII asks Michelangelo to also design a library at San Lorenzo. We focus on that library, including the magnificent staircase that leads to its entrance, and briefly consider a number of simultaneous projects also undertaken during an incredibly busy period.
23: Florence—A Republic under Siege, 1527–34
In a little-known episode of his life, Michelangelo devotes himself to the defense of Florentine liberty. We examine his long-lasting contribution to fortification design and military science before considering a series of sculpted and painted works undertaken after the war, including the "David/Apollo" marble sculpture and the painting of Leda.
24: Inventing a New Aesthetic—The "Non-Finito"
This lecture considers some of the greatest of Michelangelo's unfinished works—including the four "Slaves" or "Prisoners" in the Accademia Gallery—and considers the possibility of his increasing interest in intentional incompletion: a genuine exploration of the idea of the "non-finito" as a new aesthetic.
25: Michelangelo's Drawings, 1520–40
We look at a remarkable series of drawings Michelangelo makes for his closest friends that will revolutionize attitudes toward drawings—making them a medium to collect and treasure—before introducing the great work that would occupy him for nearly six years: the Last Judgment.
26: The "Last Judgment"
The fresco of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel is Michelangelo's first great work for Pope Paul. More than 20 years after completing the chapel's ceiling, Michelangelo again finds himself painting a monumental work at the heart of Christendom and papal authority, a vision of enormous scale and power.
27: The "Last Judgment," Part 2
The individual figures and details of the Last Judgment demonstrate Michelangelo's great inventive capacity but also reveal the unconventional nature and multiple meanings of the gigantic fresco. The work's reception was not always positive, reflecting a controversy about the number and appropriateness of the artist's nudes.
28: The Pauline Chapel
The frescos of the Conversion of Saul and the Crucifixion of Peter in the so-called Pauline Chapel, begun for Pope Paul III immediately after completing the Last Judgment, will be Michelangelo's final paintings.
29: The Completion of the Julius Tomb; Poetry
This lecture brings to a close the long, convoluted history of this compromised but still magnificent monument—completed only after 40 years of delays and renegotiated contracts—and considers Michelangelo's deep friendship with Vittoria Colonna, to whom he presented some exquisite drawings and many poems.
30: The Capitoline Hill Projects; the "Brutus"
In some ways, architecture occupied most of Michelangelo's creative energies in his last decades. This lecture begins a consideration of his many architectural contributions to Rome, including the transformation of the Capitoline Hill, or Campidoglio, before turning to one of his final sculptures, the bust Brutus.
31: The New St. Peter's Basilica
This lecture is devoted to Christendom's finest monument and one of Michelangelo's most successful architectural achievements—the design of a new St. Peter's—undertaken in 1546 after nearly 30 years of ill-designed accretions. It would remain a constant concern for the rest of his life.
32: Michelangelo's Roman Architecture
In the first of two lectures devoted to Michelangelo's architectural projects for Rome, we consider his additions and "corrections" to the Farnese Palace and his innovative drawings for the new church of the Florentine nation in Rome, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini. Although the church was never built, Michelangelo's drawings vividly demonstrate his inventive, "sculptural" conception of architectural space.
33: Michelangelo's Roman Architecture, Part 2
We conclude our look at Michelangelo's architectural legacy to Rome with his innovative gate to the city, the Porta Pia; his transformation of a pagan place of leisure, the partially ruined baths of Caracalla, into a Christian church; and the more modest chapel he designed for the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
34: Piety and Pity—The "Florentine Pietà"
We focus on a single sculpture and singular work of art: the Florentine Pietà, which Michelangelo carved to be his own grave marker. It is an intensely personal work of art, made not on commission, but for himself; an artist's last will and testament.
35: The "Rondanini Pietà" and the Late Poetry
This lecture considers Michelangelo's final works. They include the Rondanini Pietà—which he worked on until a few days before dying—and a series of drawings of the Crucifixion, through which he revealed his most private thoughts and prayers and prepared himself for death.
36: Death of Michelangelo—The Master's Legacy
In this lecture, we review Michelangelo's last two decades, summing up where his life and goals stood as he approached death, before going on to those final days and our attempt to come to grips with the meaning and legacy of this extraordinary life.