HISTART 351-001

Art and Poetry of Michelangelo

270 Tappan
TTH 1-2:30pm
3 Credit Lecture

Painter, draughtsman, sculptor, architect and poet, Michelangelo Buonarroti exemplified the ideal artist of the Italian Renaissance for centuries after his death in 1564 at the remarkable age of eighty-nine. This seminar will examine a substantial portion of his paintings and sculptures in Rome and Florence as well as a large selection of his sonnets, madrigals and verse fragments. One of our goals is to understand Michelangelo's importance in a time and place that was fairly crowded with artists of genius and ambition (Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael among them) while also understanding how contemporary writers and artists promoted his larger-than-life reputation as "the divine Michelangelo." Another aim of the seminar is to tease out the intimate connections between Michelangelo's poetry and visual art, both on the level of subject matter and on the level of figurative invention. Hence we will attend closely to a number of drawings that show the artist "thinking on paper" in line sketches and fragments of verse. We will examine Michelangelo's selective imitation of ancient sculptures, his Neoplatonic philosophy of vision, his preoccupation with the beauty of the human body, his intense devotion to craft, and his self-fashioning as a grouchy genius who slept in his boots. We will consider the principal themes and genres of his poetry as well as the critical language employed by contemporary viewers of his art, such as the poet Vittoria Colonna, the biographer Giorgio Vasari, the friend Ascanio Condivi, the apologist Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo, the enemy Pietro Aretino, and the critic Ludovico Dolce.

This course satisfies the Upper-Level Writing Requirement in the College of LS&A.

Textbooks/Other Materials:

  • Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Poetry of Michelangelo, trans. James Saslow, Yale UP, 1991. ISBN: 0300055099
  • Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists. Volume I, trans. George Bull, Penguin Books, 1987. ISBN: 0140445005
  • Ascanio Condivi, The Life of Michelangelo, trans. A. S. Wohl, 2nd ed. Penn State UP, 1999. ISBN: 0271018534
  • Anthony Hughes, Michelangelo, Phaidon, 1997. ISBN: 9780714834832
  • Michael Harvey, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, 2nd ed., Hackett, 2013. ISBN: 9781603848985

Course Requirements: 3 short papers; 2 slide-essay exams; term paper 10 to 15 pages (in two drafts).

Intended Audience: Upper-level undergraduates

Class Format: Seminar

Estimated Cost of Materials: $50-100

HISTART Distribution Requirements: D. Europe and the US, 3. Early Modern