When I received this book as a gift I have to admit it felt like a daunting task lay ahead. At 600 plus pages in a beautiful hardcover edition it was hardly the book I could easily carry around during a business trip. So it lingered, for at least half a year, waiting for the chance when I would be at home for a long enough period to go through its contents. The book has had its fair share of glowing reviews since it first came out, but here are the things I personally like about it and why I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good artist biography:
- Grip. I know this makes it sound as though you are about to read a thriller, not encountering an 80 year old artist living in Rome and working for the pope. The backdrop of Florence, Rome, the Medici family, the wars and reformation is all there, told from the perspective of one who benefited, but was also extremely anxious about the speed at which rulers (patrons) were replaced.
- Character. Michelangelo is not likely to have been someone many of us would have fallen in love with. Aside from his personal hygiene failures, we feel his temper was quite unique. Almost any friend, after few or many years in his company, was intentionally cut off. He also didn’t admit to learning from anyone and often took more work than he could possibly achieve, for financial gain. But for all his flaws, the perseverance of the man, the ever present angst over the quality of a piece, the ambition to innovate in every field he touched upon to exceed himself (and others) is quite extraordinary.
- Visual. Often biographies fail to show us in a comprehensive, structured manner what they talk about, or there is a skew towards mostly black and white reproductions. The hardcover edition I read comes in beautiful paper and each chapter has full images and detail images of the pieces referred to (whenever possible, as some works from the master have been unfortunately lost to us). This does come at a price, but I have bought pricier exhibition catalogues where I was not half as pleased with the content.
Below the link to the publisher site and a virtual thank you to the author for the wonderful hours I spent in Michelangelo’s company: