Michelangelo Buonarroti was born on March 6, 1475 in the village of Caprese, Italy. He was one of the most important artists of the Italian Renaissance, a period when the arts and sciences flourished. Michelangelo became an apprentice to prominent Florentine painter, Domenico Ghirlandaio at the age of 12, but soon began to study sculpture instead. He attracted the attention and patronage of Lorenzo de Medici, who was ruler of Florence until 1492.
At age 23, Michelangelo completed his magnificent Pieta, a marble statue that shows the Virgin Mary grieving over the dead Jesus. He began work on the colossal figure of "David" in 1501, and by 1504 the sculpture (standing at 4.34m/14 ft 3 in tall) was in place outside the Palazzo Vecchio. The statue became a symbol for the new republic that had replaced Medici rule.
Michelangelo portrayed David partly as the ideal man, partly as an adolescent youth. Unlike predesessors by other sculptors which depict David with the grissly head of the giant under his foot, Michalangelo poses David at the moment he faces the giant, with the deed before him. He believed this was the moment of David's greatest courage.
From 1508 until 1512 Michelangelo worked on his most famous project, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. He had always considered himself a sculptor and resisted painting the Sistine with characteristic vehemence: "I cannot live under pressures from patrons, let alone paint." Only the power of the Pope Julius II forced him into the reluctant achievement of the world's greatest single fresco. He covered the ceiling with paintings done on wet plaster, showing nine scenes from the Old Testament. Michelangelo later painted "The Last Judgment" on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel.
Toward the end of his life, Michelangelo became more involved in architecture and poetry. In 1546 he was made chief architect of the partly finished St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, where the Pieta is now kept.
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