Listen to the Recess! Clip
March is Youth Art Month, and today is the birthday of one of the most famous artists in the west, Michelangelo Buonarroti. who was born in the small Tuscan town of Caprese in 1475, the son of the town’s mayor.
His mother was frail, and since she already had another young son to look after, she sent Michelangelo to be nursed by the wife of a stonecutter, where he spent his infancy. There seems to have been no previous artistic talent or even any great interest is art in Michelangelo’s family, and he would later claim to have acquired his feeling for one of the media that made him famous — sculpture — from the stone dust that he drank in with his surrogate mother’s milk. Though his family reclaimed him when they moved to Florence, Michelangelo was returned to the stonecutters after his mother’s death when he was six years old. At this time he certainly began to learn the basics of sculpture before his father took him back to Florence again, where he intended him to be raised as a gentleman’s son should be. But the urge to become an artist was all-consuming for Michelangelo, and he drew pictures on any scrap of paper that came his way. His father frowned on the idea, but by the time he was ten and ready for school, Michelangelo was already spending more time drawing outside the classroom than he was learning Latin within. Punishment didn’t work, and so his father finally gave up, and let Michelangelo join one of the artists workshops that were making Florence one of the world’s leading artistic centers. Michelangelo stood out among the apprentices, and he was none too modest about his own talents or uncritical of those of others — which led him to get his nose flattened in a fight with another, even more opinionated and more pugnacious boy. By the time he was fifteen, though, he had so impressed his teacher, Ghirlandaio, that when the master was asked to recommend two of his best students to the great patron of the arts, Lorenzo di Medici, to join the sculpture school that Lorenzo was founding, Michelangelo was one of those Girlandaio chose to endorse. And soon after, Michelangelo’s abilities caught Lorenzo’s attention and he was taken into the Medici household where he was raised along with Lorenzo’s own sons — two of whom would later become Popes. But before Michelangelo had left his teens, his patron, Lorenzo was dead and the Medicis were out of power in Florence, and the young artist was suddenly on his own — and ready to create his first masterpiece.