A teacher, after marking test papers, called a student up to her desk and said, “You copied your answers from the student sitting next to you, didn’t you.” The pupil confessed, “Yes I did, but how did you know?” She replied, “Because for one question the student wrote, ‘I don’t know’ and you wrote for the same question, ‘I don’t know either.’”
If you were to ask parents what they would desire academically for their children, most would respond that their son or daughter be at the very top of their class. But if history teaches us anything, be careful wishing for a genius, as it is often not an easy life. A good example of this is Michelangelo, the famed artist and sculpturer (David, Moses, the Pieta, the dome of Saint Peter’s and many other works).
Michelangelo was born as Michelangelo di Lodovico
Buonarroti Simoni in March, 1475, in Caprese, a tiny Florentine village in Tuscany. His mother died when the little boy was just six years of age. Her passing meant that the father could not raise his large family by himself, so during the day the child lived with a nearby family. The father of that home owned a marble quarry and it was there that Michelangelo gained his love for marble. He attended grammar school, but it was a waste of time as the boy did more drawing than he did reading, writing and arithmetic. Michelangelo’s father had dreams of his son being a lawyer and beat him severely for his average academic grades
When Michelangelo turned age thirteen, he told his father that he was leaving school to become an apprentice of one of Florence, Italy’s leading artists, Domenico Ghirlandato. The dad told the youth he was no longer welcome as a member of the family. But Michelangelo would not be long with the aged Ghirlandato who confessed, “This youth already knows more than I do.” Soon patrons and popes were lined up for his services and ultimately Michelangelo would go down in history as mankind’s greatest artisan.
But Michelangelo’s genius did not come without a price. Although he had more than enough money to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle, he lived as a pauper and spent as a miser. His run-down home in the poor part of town contained little furniture and no books, the space being filled with marble and tools. He ate whatever food he found, at times existing on crumbs. He cared little about hygiene (never bathing) and clothes (for months at a time wearing the same for both work and bed). When he did get around to changing his boots, they had been on his feet so long, that when he finally removed them, the outer layer of the skin on his feet also came off. And don’t even try to strike up a friendship or conversation with him. He lived alone and worked alone. As far as women go, he never dated, stating that his art was his wife. And as far as assistants go, they never lasted as he could not put up with those of inferior talent. He hated small talk and many a patron and pope confessed, “There is no getting along with him.” and only put up with the man because of the outstanding works of art that he produced. Most who met Michelangelo considered him to be insane.
The bottom line? The next time you realize your child is no top scholar, remember Michelangelo – and that being a genius is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
● Michelangelo was short, being 5 feet, three inches tall: with a muscular body, wide shoulders, round face, large ears, short hair, forked beard and pug nose.
● Michelangelo was envied by his fellow art students for a steady hard and one punched him in the nose, leaving it permanently smashed and disfigured.
● Michelangelo was notoriously picky about the marble he used, yet his famous David was carved from a block of marble that other artists deemed unworkable.
● Michelangelo worked for nine consecutive popes and his scope of work for them was vast, from ornamental knobs for the papal bed to the Sistine Chapel painting.
● Michelangelo never signed his works and left behind no self-portraits, but he did occasionally hide stylized depictions of his face on his paintings and sculptures.
● Michelangelo is best known as a visual artist, but he was also a highly respected man of letters, writing several hundreds sonnets, even setting some to music.
● Michelangelo designed the dark blue, yellow and red uniforms that are still worn five hundred plus years later by the Swiss Guards who guard the Vatican.
● Michelangelo’s one true love was sculpturing and he continued chiseling away in his home studio until the very end when he died at the age of eighty-eight.
● Michelangelo sculpted David and Pieta, designed a dome for St. Peter’s Basilica, and painted frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel all before age thirty.
Michelangelo spent four years painting the dome of the Sistine Chapel. He stood on a scaffold and painted over his head, often sleeping on the scaffold at night.
● Michelangelo was the first famous Western man to have his biography written and published by someone else while he was yet still alive.
● Michelangelo was forever a perfectionist, working on a variety of his sculptures again and agin, a few for over forty years, and some he never did finish.
● Michelangelo often rose in the middle of the night to work, wearing a paper hat with a candle in the middle of it, so that he could see while keeping his hands free.
● Michelangelo developed a chronic crick in his neck from painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and would live with the pain the rest of his life.
● Michelangelo was so perturbed by the pope wanting to see his The Last Judgment fresco before finished, that he included the pontiff’s face among the damned.
● Michelangelo was the first artist to portray Jesus as masculine instead of feminine, with a massive muscular figure that was both youthful and beardless.
● Michelangelo, although raised Catholic, was believed to be saved late in life via the preaching/writings of the martyr, Savonrola, truly becoming a changed man.
● Michelangelo, unlike most of Florence, did not return to his old ways following Savonrola’s passing, was accused of Lutherism, and he refused a Vatican funeral.
Where Sin Did Abound, Grace Did Much More