The Art and Poetry of Michelangelo
180 Tappan
TTh 2:30-4:00pm
3 Credit Lecture
Fulfills ULWR Requirement

The life and art of Michelangelo Buonarroti offers a rich context for the study of verbal and visual invention in early modern Europe. For his contemporaries and many later generations Michelangelo exemplified the ideal artist postulated in the art discourse and cultural theory of Renaissance Humanism. The seminar will examine Renaissance theories of style and invention as a means of grasping the rhetorical strategies and poetic "figures" that inform both his rough-hewn sonnets and eloquent marbles. Hence we will attend closely to a number of well known sheets that show the artist thinking on paper in both line sketches and fragments of verse. Central topics include Michelangelo's use of classical models, such as the Belvedere Torso and the Laocoöen sculpture group; his Neoplatonic theories of artistic inspiration; his preoccupation with the body as a source of visual and verbal metaphor; the intensely religious character of his devotion to craft and physical beauty; and his self-fashioning as a grouchy genius who slept in his boots. We will consider the vocabulary, topics and genres of his poetry--notably the sonnet, the madrigal and the epitaph--as well as the language employed by contemporary viewers of his art, such as Vittoria Colonna, Giorgio Vasari, Ascanio Condivi, Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo, Pietro Aretino and Ludovico Dolce. Close inspection will be made of Michelangelo's drawing techniques, his use of color in oil and fresco, and his highly nuanced treatment of stone surfaces, in order to observe the figurative effects of his handling of materials (facture). In the course of the term we will study, in brief or at length, a considerable portion of his production in sculpture, painting and architecture, particularly in works commissioned for the court settings of Medici Florence and Papal Rome. Required books: The Poetry of Michelangelo, trans. James Saslow, Yale University Press, 1991. Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists (Volume I), trans. George Bull, Penguin, 1987. Ascanio Condivi, Life of Michelangelo, trans. A. S. Wohl, 2nd ed. Penn State University Press, 1999. Anthony Hughes, Michelangelo, Phaidon, 1997. Michael Harvey, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, Hackett, 2003. Estimated cost of materials: $100 or more, but less than $150. D. 3