The life and work of Michelangelo Buonarroti offers a rich context for the study of visual art and poetry in 16th-century Europe. For his contemporaries and for many later generations Michelangelo exemplified the ideal artist postulated by Renaissance Humanists. This seminar will examine both his rough-hewn sonnets and eloquent paintings and sculptures in the light of contemporary theories of inspiration and invention. Hence we will attend closely to a number of well-known drawings that show the artist “thinking on paper” in both line sketches and fragments of verse. Central topics include Michelangelo’s use of classical models, such as the Belvedere Torso and the Laocoön sculpture group; his neoplatonic theories of vision; his preoccupation with the body as a source of visual and verbal metaphor; the intensely religious character of his devotion to craft and to physical beauty; and his self-fashioning as a grouchy genius who slept in his boots. We will consider the principal themes of his sonnets and madrigals (love and death) as well as the poetic language employed by contemporary viewers of his art, including Vittoria Colonna, Giorgio Vasari, Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo, Pietro Aretino and Ludovico Dolce. We will make close inspection of Michelangelo’s drawing techniques, his use of color in oil and fresco and his treatment of stone surfaces, in order to observe the metaphorical effects of his handling of materials. In the course of the term we will study, in brief or in depth, a considerable portion of his production in sculpture, painting and architecture in Florence and Rome, including the marble David, the Tomb of Pope Julius II, the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and the Last Judgment.
Category for Concentration Distribution: D. Europe and the United States, 3. Early Modern
The following books are required in addition to a coursepack of photocopied readings
Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Poetry of Michelangelo, trans. James Saslow, Yale University Press, 1991.
Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists. Volume I, trans. George Bull, Penguin Books, 1987.
Ascanio Condivi, The Life of Michelangelo, trans. Alice Sedgwick Wohl, 2nd ed. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.
Anthony Hughes, Michelangelo, Phaidon, 1997.
Michael Harvey, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, 2nd ed., Hackett, 2013.
3 short papers; 2 short slide-essay exams; term paper (draft and revision) 10 to 15 pages.
lecture/discussion, meets 1 ½ hours twice per week