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12 Michelangelo’s Famous Works You Should Know About

by Martha Simmonds
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When you think of works of art that have shaped history, the works of Michelangelo will always be talked about. Born in Tuscany on March 6, 1475, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was the first artist recognized as a genius.

A hero of the Renaissance era, Michelangelo was an architect, painter, sculptor, and writer of sonnets. He was a maverick who revolutionized how art is perceived. If you wish to appreciate his work some more, knowing what some of Michelangelo’s famous works are is imperative.

12 Michelangelo’s Famous Works

#1. The Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Sistine Chapel Ceiling

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Before Michelangelo accepted the significant task of painting the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, the indoor roofing was only painted blue and covered with golden stars.

Pope Julius II knew Michelangelo was more of a sculptor than a painter, but the Pope insisted and Michelangelo completed the iconic ceiling in four years. It depicted scenes from the Old Testament, including the Creation of the World and the story about Noah and the great flood.

Michelangelo designed the paintings to be oriented in such a way that you would need to view them from the right side up. If you are inside the chapel, you must face the altar from the wall’s far side. The sequence of paintings almost looks like a massive pop-up book and would leave you in awe and wonder.

#2. David

David

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Carved in marble, Michelangelo’s David is yet another masterpiece that also became the artistic representation of Florence, Italy, and the Renaissance era. It is considered the symbol of strength and independence.

Inspired by the Old Testament tale about David, the shepherd boy and the underdog who defeated the giant Goliath with a sling and a couple of stones, this “lithe” sculpture does not cut corners when it comes to its height and mass.

The sculpture of David is an impressive 12,500 pounds, standing up to 17 feet high — as tall as an adult giraffe or a two-story building. The statue is designed to be massive so that it can be viewed from the pews of the Florence Cathedral. The size also creates an illusion of a “looking up” view for David to be alert, ready for action, and more life-like.

#3. Madonna Of Bruges

Madonna Of Bruges

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Carved from a single slab of marble, Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges is his interpretation of Madonna and Child.

Created in 1504, this masterpiece stands at four feet and 2.5 inches tall. Once finished, it was taken to Bruges, a Flemish city, by the merchant who commissioned it as the statue was intended to be settled on an altar.

The Madonna of Bruges is different from all the conventional Madonna and Child sculptures where Madonna is always shown holding, almost cradling, her child in her arms while lovingly looking at the child. Michelangelo’s version portrays Madonna more regally as she looks down, but her gaze is not directed towards the somewhat standing boy.

#4. Bacchus

Bacchus

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The enigmatic Bacchus statue is a testament to Michelangelo’s love affair with marble. The oversized nude Bacchus was carved in 1496 and was based on the Roman God of wine.

The statue has the Greek god posing with a goblet of wine in one hand while his left hand is holding tiger skin. Bacchus also has a tiny fawn sitting beside him and is shown eating grapes.

#5. The Torment Of Saint Anthony

Saint Anthony

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This is Michelangelo’s first painting that was created when he was 12 years old. The Torment of Saint revolves around the life of Saint Anthony the Great.

In the painting, Michelangelo captured the saint’s vision of being tormented by demons or monsters while suspended in the air. Saint Anthony was believed to be chosen because he could withstand any temptations.

#6. Doni Tondo

Doni Tondo

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Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo is often referred to as the Holy Family. The painting is on a round frame, called tondo, which is a Renaissance concept.

In the Doni Tondo, Mary takes centerstage with Joseph at the back, and until now, it is unknown whether Mary was handing Jesus to Joseph or the other way around.

#7. Pietà

Pietà

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Although Michelangelo stayed in Florence most of his life, he sculpted the Pietà in Rome. This sculpture was commissioned by Cardinal De Billheres, a French representative.

Pietà is a serene, sorrowful, and exquisite depiction of Jesus’ dead body draped on his mother’s lap and Mary looking down at her son with great sorrow. Michelangelo was devout to his religion, and this mother and son sculpture is one of his expressive pieces associated with this faith.

One of the reasons why the Pietà stands out is because of how detailed it is. From the voluminous folds of Mary’s cloak to her skin and hair, everything is presented with meticulous detail that adds more substance and texture to the sculpture.

#8. Moses

Moses

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Believed to be Michelangelo’s most life-like sculpture, Michelangelo depicted this Old Testament Biblical character wearing a robe with intricate folds delicately clinging to Moses’ legs.

The work on this sculpture is so detailed and intricate that one could easily mistake the sculpted marble for linens.

Moses’ legs and arms show tendons and veins, making him look tenser. You won’t miss the strength and power that Michelangelo provided Moses, courtesy of the muscular frame.

#9. The Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel

Last Judgment

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Placed on the wall directly behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment shows the second coming of Christ.

According to the Bible, Christ’s second coming would judge the living and the dead. In this painting, Michelangelo was able to capture that belief by depicting the dominant color of the human flesh set against a blue sky background.

This painting is also considered an indirect response to the Protestant Reformation.

#10. The Crucifixion Of St. Peter

Crucifixion

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Michelangelo’s artistic interpretation of one of Jesus’ apostles captures St. Peter’s suffering and pain.

The Crucifixion of St. Peter shows the moment when Peter was being raised by the Roman soldiers to be crucified on a cross.

Michelangelo has depicted the suffering of the disciple and the horrified looks on the faces of those witnessing the death sentence.

#11. Creation Of Adam Painting

Adam

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One of the most famous and easily recognized paintings on the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel is the Creation of Adam.

Michelangelo has this strategically painted after the Creation of Eve. In the painting, God is placed inside a nebulous floating form, with other figures surrounding him. Adam is shown across from God, and both of them have their hands outstretched toward each other.

It is said that this touch signifies not just the life of Adam but the life of all humanity; thus, this painting also shows the birth of humankind.

#12. The Flood And Noah’s Ark Painting

Ark

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The Sistine Chapel tells nine scenes from the first book of the Bible, and “The Flood” is one of them.

This painting sprawls 10 feet by 18 feet. The left and right part of the painting shows people trying to save themselves on the mountain top as the water rises around them. In the middle, there is a small boat about to capsize.

Although Noah’s ship is not front and center in this painting, it is the only boat that survives the great flood.

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