Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces


Michelangelo Buonarroti was not only the most accomplished sculptor, painter, and architect in an age renowned for producing men of talent, but a genius who reinvented through his work and the example of his life the role of the artist. Difficult, irascible, egotistical, and unpredictable, he set out not only to fashion monuments of unsurpassed grandeur and emotional depth, , but to transform the humble craftsman into a secular shaman, an oracle whose utterances touched the deepest chords of the human spirit.

In MICHELANGELO: A Life in Six Masterpieces (Simon and Schuster; July 22, 2014; $29.95), Miles J. Unger takes readers on a tour of Renaissance Florence and Rome as he narrates the life of the artist through six of his greatest masterpieces: the Pieta; the David; the Sistine Ceiling; the Medici tombs; The Last Judgment; and the Basilica of St. Peter's. Throughout his career, Michelangelo clashed with his patrons--dukes, kings, and popes--accepting commissions from the great lords of Europe but following only the dictates of his own inscrutable muse.

Refusing to compromise his artistic integrity, he emancipated the artist from a slavish devotion to those who paid his salary. He gained a reputation for being demanding and difficult to control--he was even accused of fraud for accepting money for works he failed to complete--but patrons continued to vie for his favor, knowing their fame would rise with his. For all of Michelangelo's irascibility, his jealousy of rivals like Raphael and Da Vinci, and his insubordination, he was universally acknowledged the greatest artist in an age of giants. During his lifetime, a cult of personality grew up around the artist, a legacy that continues to this day whenever we regard a creative work as a form of self-expression, the unique creation of an unconventional mind providing previously unimaginable insights into the human condition. And after his death, even his minor works were treasured as holy relics, touched by his immortal genius.

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Reviews of Michelangelo

Washington Post 

"A Life in Six Masterpieces provides [an] insightful perspective on Michelangelo. [Unger] carves away the extraneous and gives us a glimpse of the true artist."  Read More

Boston Globe

"Michelangelo delivers a deeply human tribute to one of the most accomplished and fascinating figures in the history of Western culture."

Kirkus, starred review

"Unger’s edged prose shows us a clear Michelangelo emerging from the stone of history."  Read More

Booklist, starred review

"A masterful portrait of a dauntingly complex figure.”

Publishers Weekly

“[Unger] reminds readers why Michelangelo’s work matters…Delightfully informative.”