I had picked up this book to know more about the life and works of the Italian Maestro- Michelangelo but was pleasantly surprised to get a good insight into the Political and Religious history of Renaissance Italy as well. Needless to say the three – Michelangelo’s life, politics and Church were so deeply entwined that perhaps you can’t describe one without reference to another but Stone has researched all three very well during the six year period.
Stone describes Michelangelo’s life since he was 13 years old, mentioning each person in his life (although I found the Italian names very confusing and hence mixed up the characters) and also each and every work of art and architecture that he had worked upon. Stone gives a detailed visual description of each sculpture, describing Michelangelo’s rationale of making Mary young and the expression on Jesus’ face etc that even without seeing the sculpture you can form a good mental picture. The Pieta is definitely my favorite.
Coincidentally when I was reading this book, I was also learning pottery. “Feel the clay and understand the pressure”, was all the instructor there would say. Stone’s description of Michelangelo’s passion for marble reverberated through my head and translated into my understanding of clay as I molded it under the pressure of my fingers. If clay has such a calm meditative effect, I would love to work on marble someday to feel the effect of you on the marble and the marble upon you.
A good read is one where the author succeeds in creating the characters so well that one can associate with them and be a part of the story. Stone definitely succeeds in doing so. I was so engrossed in the book that I never wanted it to end. But by the end of the book you start sympathizing with Michelangelo and feel sorry for the hardships he had to encounter throughout his life. The genius mind could not create independently and had to succumb to the whims and fancies of his patrons. His creativity was trampled at by Popes, rulers and other peers. Perhaps without the hurdles, the world would have had more works by this genius!!
Posts on similar topic by other bloggers:
- Review – The Agony and the Ecstasy (azalealarkson.wordpress.com)
- The Agony and the Ecstasy: more passion would’ve been less painful (guardian.co.uk)
- Artist of the Week: Michelangelo (angwaa.wordpress.com)