This paper explores the significance of Michelangelo’s works and his personality. It has an aim to show what art means, and how such a great master managed to be an architect, a painter, a thinker, a poet and a sculptor at a time. It is very important to know and understand what Neo-Platonism is and how it applies to the works of Michelangelo.
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What does it show? – it is the next question. Revealing such professionalism in writing, being at the same time a great sculptor shows Michelangelo’s talent. It is said that a genius is a person who has only 10 percent of talent and 90 percent of hard work. So, it is Michelangelo’s features of character, his patience, persistence, and assiduity that made him a world-known man.
Keywords: Neo-Platonism, Michelangelo, a sculptor, an architect, a poet, a thinker, a painter.
Art is an inalienable part of our life, as well as religion, culture, customs, traditions and national symbols. They all greatly differ from country to country, from town to town, from village to village. If to look on a map, we can see that Italy, a country which is located in Europe, has the shape of a high boot. And this country has generated such a big talent –Michelangelo. The great occasion happened on March 6, 1475. The world has seen one of the future greatest sculptors of the globe. Marcel Duchamp (2001-2013) said that “I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists”. This skillful master has complemented the Renaissance Period, is a prominent painter, architect, thinker, and poet. Time went on and, nowadays, Michelangelo is known by everyone as a great man of the painting.
Neo-Platonism is a philosophical trend, which was originated in the early third century, based mostly on Plato’s knowledge and ideas. Despite this, it is considered to be the term of the 19 century, as earlier all the adherents of the Neo-Platonism called themselves Platonists, and a term as itself didn’t exist. People, who approved Plato’s thoughts, united and created so-called groups of like-minded fellows. But only two centuries ago scientists have directed this very tendency into an appropriate term, which is called Neo-Platonism. Firstly it has mystical roots and was a term of mystical philosophy, but lately experienced some influence from the Christian world. The basis of it is, of course, the spiritual Platonic thoughts and teachings. But the founder of it is considered to be Plato’s precursor – Plotinus. Edward Moore (2008) said that “Plotinus developed a complex spiritual cosmology involving three foundational elements: the One, the Intelligence, and the Soul”. The main idea was that One is the most important factor, and everything is in it, it is the source of all life. At last, all souls want to return to the One. Speaking about the Soul, it had two parts: higher and lower. The first one is divine, and the second is full of passion and seduction. Intelligence is ubiquitous. So, Neo-Platonism has religious grounds.
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The art of Michelangelo can be distinguished by the influence of Neo-Platonism. He was one of the best sculptors, who wanted to convert art in nature. He worked until the statue is finished and he saw its clear shapes. He always created an ideal beauty. As in Neo-Platonism, it all comes to the One, Michelangelo focused his work on human beings, as he believed that a person is a creature who stands between the world and God. Both in Neo-Platonism and in Michelangelo’s thoughts, the desire to be closer to God was present. The founder of Neo-Platonism Plotinus, and lately Platon and his successors, as well as Michelangelo, had one in common – they all believe that a soul is everlasting and, of course, it should be redeemed from the sins. That is why creating an ideal person was an achievement. It was the highest of the talents at that time. Moreover, Michelangelo believed that the beauty of the soul is reflected in the human body. That is why he paid so much attention to his masterpieces. Michelangelo believed that a person is God’s creature and it is created by God's likeness. So, according to his vision, human beauty also reflects God’s beauty. Works of the sculptor is a continuous struggle between good and bad. A struggle of a person’s soul in a stone figure is like an eternal mankind’s battle during life. People want to get free of sin. The better the sculpture, the purer is the soul.
In my opinion, Michelangelo has some fear against God, and that is why he wanted to come closer to Him and did everything so thoroughly. It was also a period of Renaissance when the great sculptor lived, so it was an epoch of revival. In such a way, Michelangelo wanted to become closer to Christianity, which is to some extend typical for Neo-Platonism. By doing ideal sculptures, he wanted to be ideal by himself. He did not want to lag behind. Instead, he strived for perfection. An old proverb says that a man is judged by his deeds, so we can make an assumption of his perfection, at the same time we should remember the fact that he was often dissatisfied with himself and was arrogant towards others, but even if it was so, then why should he aspire all the time to ideality? This is the question. Maybe he wanted to get rid oh his sins. Who knows?
Speaking about perfection, one of the most prominent Michelangelo’s sculptures as The Pieta. It was all made of smooth marble. It is a sculpture that depicts the Virgin Mary and Her Son. Here is the connection of Christian motives with the classical style. The Virgin Mother Mary is shaped elegantly, which indicated the classical style. Here the beauty of the soul is depicted very brightly. It is the main factor that joins Michelangelo’s work with Neo-Platonic elements. Here the state of the soul is above all. All these features and deep emotions portray peace of the soul. He made his sculptures to look like alive, not made from stone. It was like a rebirth from the stone into a personality. For instance, Jesus has lifelike wavy hair that touches Mary’s dress and veil, Jesus has very accurate contours of his fingers. The shape of the Pieta is a triangle, as Jesus lies on the Virgin Mary’s hands, and it forms a visual shape of it. Her face is oval and under Her feet, there is a pedestal. That is a well circumspect decision. According to Terry (1999-2013), “Today, this statue, The Pieta, is displayed in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. One of his most famous works, The Pieta shows the body of Jesus draped across his mother's lap. Its beautiful mixture of design elements makes it one of the most valued statues in modern history”.
While other masters of the 15th century depicted, for instance, pure love, Michelangelo was glorifying mostly nude people. And it is not accidentally. While working, he was aimed at aesthetics and emotions. He really loved male beauty. The sculptor was excited by it. It is particularly seen in his works, which are mostly men’s silhouettes. It is a reflection of the Renaissance Period, too, when the masculine idealization glorified. "Michelangelo Buonarroti Biography" (2002-2013) informs that for among his other accomplishments Michelangelo was also a great Italian lyric poet of the 16th century. “The sculptor's expressions of love have been characterized as both Neoplatonic and openly homoerotic”. There are some stories, connected with the life of Michelangelo. It is said that once he met a 16 years old boy in 1543, who in a year died, whom after that Michelangelo devoted forty-eight funeral epigrams. Those poems had hints of their relationship, both romantic and physical. In one of these poems, Michelangelo shows his attitude and feelings towards the boy:
The flesh now earth, and here my bones,
Bereft of handsome eyes, and jaunty air,
Still loyal are to him I joyed in bed,
Whom I embraced, in whom my soul now lives.
Here we see that Michelangelo openly speaks about his love, his deep feeling towards the boy. He emphasizes that he didn’t forget him and that still remembers him. We see strange and at the same time real feelings of a man. We find Michelangelo in so unusual status – he is a romantic man, he writes about the handsome eyes of a man, speaks about embraces. Life is nothing to him now. Poet indicates his existence on the Earth, but not life. His loyalty is obvious. But can we judge him for this or not? Definitely, we have no right for that. It was his choice, and, in addition, he was a master of his art, and at the same time no one has right to judge someone. We just can have our own ideas or points of view on this situation. Everyone has its own feelings, reasons, intentions, dreams. Different people have different thoughts, dreams, and wishes. Everyone chooses what is closed for him or what is interesting for him. We are all individuals. And so is Michelangelo. Someone may approve his love for men, and someone may not. As for me, the 21st century person, I do not approve unisexual love, but also I understand that that was an old epoch, the Epoch of Renaissance, and it was a normal phenomenon for those times. I also don’t want to judge as blame is a kind of sin. I just can say that Michelangelo lived his life as he wanted, and he also had the right to love, as everyone in this world, so maybe it was aesthetically for that century. Nowadays, there are also lots of same-sex marriages, and it is considered to be normal in some countries. So, there are changes between ages, but, at the same time, there is also something in common.
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To conclude, art is something that does not need any comments, it is created for visual delight. If an artist is talented we will have something to watch, but if it is vice versa, then it will not be art. Michelangelo was one of the first who made a reincarnation of a dead man in the plastic. He was accurate in his work. His work, The Pieta has attitude to the Neo-Platonism, which interpreted that only the divine soul can see the eternal beauty and that mortals will never be able to comprehend it. Michelangelo – a great sculptor, a writer, a thinker, an artist, and an architect had the same point of view.