Michelangelo: A universal artist

The name of the exhibition sums up the artistry of Michelangelo rather well. In Italian it is Incontrare un Artista Universal; in English it is A Universal Artist. As assessments go, it is unquestionably accurate. He is utterly eternal.
Now on show at the Musei Capitolini in Rome, Italy, this current presentation frames, as one would expect, the high renaissance colossus as an individual whosel egacy is a body of work for ‘all times’.
No reasonable argument can be given. With every passing year, our appreciation for the Tuscan artist grows and grows and, this year, which marks the 450th anniversary of his death, offers us a timely reminder of why he is so important.
And not just as an artist. For example, the museum says that his legacy extends to ‘all universally known culture’, while the National Gallery has said that “he was the only artist of whom it was claimed in his lifetime that he surpassed antiquity”.
It is always difficult to present Michelangelo within the confines of one space, given that some of his notable works were, as in the case of the arresting Sistine Chapel frescoes, executed directly on top of the interior shell of buildings.
Nevertheless, as is evident in this exhibition, we always have within us the capacity to personally reference certain masterpieces without having to be in their direct company.
Of course, this is always a loss, but when you are privy to thoughtfully arranged ‘other’ works, some of which have never shared gallery/wall space before, you allow yourself to overlook the logistical impossibilities.
The museum in this case has triumphed in this regard, thanks largely to Cristina Acidini, curator for the historical, artistic and ethno-anthropological heritage and for the museums of the city of Florence, and art historians Elena Capretti and Sergio Risaliti.
Together they have delivered ‘an extraordinary compendium of matchless artistic output’ across four key genres adopted by Michelangelo – painting, sculpture, poetry and architecture.
One of the highlights of this particular show is an examination of the artist’s approach to art, offering viewers a ‘closer look at the beginning of the creative process’. This has been made possible by the presence of numerous sketches and preparatory drawings that have survived.
“The fil rouge guiding visitors to the exhibition is market by a series of thematic ‘opposites’ used to highlight the difficulties of the man and of the artist in the devising and creating of his works: ancient and modern, life and death, the battle, the victory and imprisonment, rules and freedom, earthly and spiritual love,” the museum explained.
“The contrast of earthly and spiritual love, for example, was particularly felt by Michelangelo, both in art and in life. This is demonstrated by a set of drawings and other works inspired by close friendships and elective affinities such as those for Tommaso Cavalieri and Vittoria Colonna.”
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