Born March 6, 1475 in Caprese, a small town in Tuscany, near Arezzo, Michelangelo Buonarroti still in swaddling is brought by his family to Florence. Son of Ludovico Buonarroti Simoni and Francesca di Neri, he was initiated by his father to humanistic studies under the guidance of Francesco da Urbino, although he soon showed this inclination to design that, in contrast to his father's projects, went to the school of the already celebrated master Florentine Ghirlandaio. The teacher is amazed by seeing the drawings made by the thirteen-year-old Michelangelo.
In possession of a very strong personality and a will of iron since he was young, Michelangelo had to remain, by contract, at least three years in the workshop by Ghirlandaio, but within a year he abandoned the comfortable arrangement, also because of the great passion for the sculpture that he had, to move to the Garden of San Marco, a free school of sculpture and copy of the ancient that Lorenzo de 'Medici had established in the gardens of San Marco (where among other things the Medici had already collected a noteworthy collection of classical statuary), placing the head of the sculptor Bertoldo, a disciple of Donatello.
Noted by Lorenzo the Magnificent, Michelangelo is welcomed by him in his palace where, in contact with the great humanist thinkers, he has the opportunity to enrich his own culture. At the Court of the Medici he performs his first sculptures, the "Battle of the Centaurs" and the "Madonna della Scala". In 1494, frightened by the rumors of an upcoming fall of the Medici (in November of that year Charles VIII had entered Florence), Michelangelo flees to Bologna where, admiring the reliefs of Jacopo della Quercia, he sculpts a bas-relief for the Cathedral of San Petronio .
After a short trip to Venice, he returned to Bologna and stayed for about a year as a guest of Gianfrancesco Aldrovandi, dedicating himself to literary studies and to the sculptural composition of the ark of San Domenico.
He returned to Florence in 1495 and - at the same time as the Savonarola thunders against luxury and pagan art - created the Bacco Ubriaco (Bargello). He then goes to Rome where he sculpts the famous Vatican "Pietà".
Between 1501 and 1505 it is back in Florence, undergoes some suggestion by Leonardo and produces a series of masterpieces: the "Tondo Doni" (Uffizi), the "Tondo Pitti" (Bargello Museum), the lost cardboard for the fresco of the "Battle of Cascina" and the now famous marble David, placed at the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of the Second Republic but also as the apex of the Renaissance ideal of the free man and creator of his own destiny.
In March 1505 Pope Julius II called the artist to Rome to commission the sepulchral monument, thus starting a story of contrasts with the pontiff and his heirs, which will end only in 1545 with the realization of a very small project compared to the grandiose initial plan: the failure to complete this work was very painful for Michelangelo, who spoke of it as a "tragedy of the burial".
Meanwhile, the continuous commitments force the artist to continuous movements between Florence, Rome, Carrara and Pietrasanta, where he personally takes care of the marble quarry for his sculptures.
In May of 1508, after a sensational break and reconciliation with Pope Julius II, he signed the contract for the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which he waits uninterruptedly from the summer of that year until 1512. Five hundred square meters decorated by a single man in four years of fierce work and representing the full expression of the artistic ideals of the Renaissance entrusted to a Neoplatonic interpretation of Genesis.
Michelangelo also works on projects for the façade of San Lorenzo, and those for the Medici tombs, at the Christ for Santa Maria sopra Minerva. In the autumn of 1524, the new Medici pope, Clemente VII, started the work for the Laurenziana library and continued the works for the tomb which, begun in 1521, will be completed only in 1534, the year in which Michelangelo establishes definitively in Rome.
Towards September of the same 1534 the first negotiations for the Final Judgment were made, which was to cover the part of the altar of the Sistine Chapel; this work that was supposed to provoke such success and so much clamor, will be finished by the artist in 1541.
The personal events of this period also have an echo on the art of Michelangelo, above all the friendship with Tommaso de 'Cavalieri, to whom he dedicates poems and drawings, and the love for the poet Vittoria Colonna, marquise of Pescara, who approaches him to the problems of reform and the ideas circulating in the environment of the Valdes.
Between 1542 and 1550 the artist waits for the frescoes for the Pauline Chapel, also in the Vatican, to devote himself to the architectural achievements, such as the completion of Palazzo Farnese, the arrangement of the Campidoglio, and above all the works for San Pitro, to whose factory he was appointed by Paul III in 1547, and completed several sculptures, from the piety of the cathedral of Florence, to which he worked in 1555, to the extreme unfinished Pietà by Rondinini.
Michelangelo was already acclaimed by his contemporaries as the greatest artist of all time, and greatly influenced all the art of the century. Admitted unreservedly by some, hated by others, honored by the popes, emperors, princes and poets, Michelangelo Buonarroti dies on February 18, 1564.