He was born in Tuscany at Caprese as the second of five sons born to Ludovico-di-Leonardo and Francess Buonarroti. This well-to-do family had two homes; one in Tuscany countryside and the other in the city of Florence. Michelangelo was only six when his mother died, it coincide with the time that he had his first drawing lesson from local artist, Francisco Granacci.
When Michelangelo was 13 he moved over to France and worked as an assistant to architect Dominico Ghirlandai who had recently started work on Santa Maria Novella Church in Florence and young Michelangelo got the first break on his way to the top. He was offered the chance to study sculpture in the classical statuary owned by Lorenzo de Medici. He was helped by the elderly curator of the gardens, Bertolodo de Giovanni who had formerly studied under Master sculptor, Donatell.
Michelangelo was very fortunate that through the Court of Lorenzo that he came into contact with brilliant sculptors, artists and writers. This enriched the young mind towards great goals.
Thus, he became not only an artist, a sculptor but also a professional writer, poet and an author of many literary letters. He also came under the influence of two other members of the church. One was a priest to whom Michelangelo had gifted a crucifix and in return the priest gave the young artist access to the bodies kept in the church. This enabled Michelangelo to study anatomy.
The other person was an articulate monk called Fr. Girolamo Savonarola. He was a zealous reformer who rose to great heights foretelling the nation that a great disaster would befall them if they offended God. So passionate was he, that the church excommunicated and hanged him at stake in the Piazaa Della Signoria where Michelangelo's world renowned sculpture of 'David' stands.
This was his tribute to Savonarola whom he had heard preaching in 1492 the year his patron, Lorenzo died. The artist was heart-broken at the monk's death which was brought about by burning him at a stake. This had an everlasting, shattering effect on Michelangelo. Along with the loss of Lorenzo, it deeply affected the artist's career. However, with vigour and new-found courage, he settled down to paint seriously. By the time he turned 16, he had painted Madonna of the Steps (1491-2) which was going to be one of his prize portraits of Madonna.
Florence which had been a separate city until 1494 suffered a severe political setback led by the powerful Medici clan but it was invaded by King Charles Vill. With the French invasion, many prominent Florentines fled the city and Michelangelo was one of them. He travelled to Venice and then to Bologna but by 1495 he found it safe to return home. While at Bologna he was commissioned to complete a sculpture that was left incomplete for over 200 years. This was the tomb of St. Dominic, Bologna's patron Saint. It was left in that State by Nicola Pisano (1284-1314). He made his first trip to Rome when he turned 21.
This was the city of his dreams and a turning point in his career, triumphant as well as frustrating. He created his best masterpieces in the next five years. The all-important 'Baccus' sculptured as the God of Wine had never been seen with such spectacular image.
This stupefied the world of sculpture and especially in Rome where high standards were maintained by their own Masters. Baccus's physique was marvellously executed with the fluidity of the distribution of muscles (now he knew what anatomy was). An attractive youthful Baccus was created 15 years later by Jacob Sansovino and reverted to the traditional classical method. Michelangelo declared it as outdated.
Still later he created 'Pieta' that could never have been improved any further by any other sculptor even centuries later. Pieta is still considered his greatest achievement but there were more for Michelangelo to create and stun the world.
The City of Florence was declared a Republic after many years of turbulence on 4 August, 1501 and 12 days later, Michelangelo was commissioned to create the statue of 'David' and this had to be carved from a single slab of white marble. The slab had been worked on for 40 years and left undone. It was a challenge for Michelangelo. With much passion and fire, he worked on it which was to become the world's most famous statue from the 16th century.
'David' was a miracle in the deft hands of Michelangelo who saw to every minute detail from a perfect anatomy to strong muscles that defined each and every mood of this artist.
Traditionally, David was an insignificant character standing beside Goliath. Michelangelo wiped away the myth when his David took on the strong but pensive character that we see today, all naked but beautiful enough to gaze upon. This was Michelangelo at his best, the artist who loved doing the male nudes. (David was given a bath lately after centuries of collecting dust).
When Michelangelo completed 'David' (1501-04) he became the greatest living sculptor of his time. This was commissioned by the First Chancellor, Piero Soderini of the Florentine Republic. Several others wanted the commission but it was only Michelangelo who had the capacity to come up with such magnitude in enormous dimensions and confining to one flat slab of marble abandoned 40 years ago by Renaissance sculptor, Augustine de Cuccio.
Because of the partially damaged marble slab, Michelangelo had to sculpt David to be viewed from front and rear rather than from the sides. For the people of Florence, the devout Catholics, David was a symbol of strength, courage and trust in God. It became the civic pride and centrepiece in the city and its sculptor, a national figure. Michelangelo gave a different perspective to David in character by creating a powerful physical presence as the giant-slayer of Goliath. He bears the appearance of a Greece God, to me.
Michelangelo still remains the most inspirational and talented artist and the hope for every budding artist around the world. As a leading light of the Renaissance, he emerged as the extraordinary artist from his early works like the Pieta in the Vatican. With prodigious talents, he was a magnificent all-rounder with technical competence and a rich abundance of artistic imagination. He was the producer of the high Italian Renaissance blend of aesthetic accuracy in his work.
An evening of vocal and organ music
Music lovers in Colombo are in for a treat on Saturday September 10 at 7.30 p.m. when four talented vocalists and the accomplished organist David Ratnanayagam will present an evening of solo and ensemble work at St. Andrew's Scots Kirk, Galle Face.
The programme for the evening includes well-known works both spiritual and secular, carefully chosen to ensure the appreciation both of those well versed in vocal music, and of members of the audience whose interest may be less tutored.
Active musicians and avid listeners alike will find cause for appreciation and indeed celebration, in the pieces these talented young performers have elected to present.
It is worthy of emphasis that each of the musicians who will perform on Saturday may be classed as an amateur, in the sense that none has chosen to pursue music as a profession. How very often is this important distinction misunderstood, for we may mistakenly assume that those who have chosen to earn their living by other means are less serious and even less accomplished, than their counterparts in the world of professional performance. Here is a group who believes this myth.
Kumudini David is a Project Officer for the Ministry of Education's Distance Education Partnership Programme, while Piyumika Wimalasuriya is employed at HSBC's Global Data Processing Centre.
A student at the American National College, Dinali Wijesinghe is pursuing a degree in Business Studies, and looks forward to a career managing a School of Speech and Drama, while Niranjali Amarasinghe is reading Law at Bristol University in the UK.
David Ratnanayagam, on whose initiative the evening has been prepared, is Head of the Department of Music and a Teacher of English at The British School in Colombo.
What unites each of these multifaceted individuals is their transparent pursuit of excellence in performance for, as the term "amateur" so clearly suggests, the love of it.
The amateur, not inhibited or constrained by the compromises so often demanded in professional life, pursues his or her passion with the devotion we reserve for what we love.
And indeed both a love of music and a corresponding humility before it, characterises each of these performers. Trained and inspired from an early age by Mary Anne David, each of the evening's vocalists exudes her commitment to excellence.
It is a commitment shared in equal measure by the organist, who will be both accompanist and solo performer on this occasion.
And, in the spirit of giving which these musicians' approach to performance implies, all proceeds of the Concert will be donated to the National Council for Child and Youth Welfare, an approved charity established over 50 years ago, which runs and manages seven homes for destitute and orphaned girls and mentally impaired girls and boys.
Tickets will be made available both at the Council before the 10th, and at the Church Door on the evening of the performance.
Those who wish to make a further contribution to the work of this worthy organisation may do so by additionally purchasing a programme.
Alternatively, donations may be made both at St Andrew's on the evening of the performance, or at the Council's headquarters at 385/5 Kotte Road, Rajagiriya.
Piano recital review : Eshantha's enchanting evening of Brahms
The Lionel Wendt witnessed a magical piano performance recently of a well chosen program of Johannes Brahms by the young virtuoso Eshantha Peiris.
The Chorale Prelude No. 4 was given a very majestic interpretation and was followed by the No. 10 played with a soulful and religious solemnity. It is a pity the audience misunderstood his direction - "not to applaud within a section", and did not applaud after the splendid No. 10.
Eshantha skilfully brought out the contrasting features of the famous Paganini theme in Book 1 of the variations. In Book 2, he showed a remarkable accuracy in the octave work and ecstatic repeats of the famous Theme.
One irritating mobile phone had to screech out its hackneyed theme, in spite of the owner being asked to switch off at the commencement of the programme. A further spoiler were the squeals of two Wendt rats in the ceiling - Wendt authorities please call in the terminators.
Eshantha's interaction with his audience is induced solely in his music. Even though he has a striking personality, his deportment on visual contact at entry and departure is often rather stern. However, his penetrating stare at a noisy post intermission audience, just prior to his amazing interpretation of the Brahms Sonata, was perfectly justifiable.
The post intermission session was a magical experience of listening to the unusual five movement Sonata No. 3 in F Minor of Brahms. Eshantha's was a very mature interpretation of the romantic Allegro - Maestoso. There were such soulful Rubatos in the Andante that Brahms would certainly be proud of; this passionate rendition was repeated with precision in the sombre Intermezzo.
The difficult Scherzo was played with perfect flexibility and ease which made it look so simple to perform. The supremely virtuoso Finale was brilliantly played with such confidence that Eshantha is fast approaching the status of a celebrated Concert Pianist.
His 'encore' of the Paganini theme in a perfect Jazz interpretation was refreshing and cheerful. Without sounding condescending to the younger generation, I must confess that Eshantha, for his youthful 19 years, displayed an unusual maturity in interpretation throughout his performance. His supreme accuracy even through the most intricate passages is a direct result of a strict discipline and displays a striving for perfection.
All lovers of music wish him every success in his future endeavours.
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