Early Life



Madonna of the Stairs 1489-1492

Marble, Casa Buonarroti, Florence

Michelangelo Buonarroti was born on March 6th, 1475 in a mountainous region of Caprese, Italy. His father was the town’s governor and his mother stayed at home with Michelangelo and his four brothers. As a baby, Michelangelo was given to a wet nurse who belonged to a family of stonecutters. It is debated that this is where his natural skill for stone carving was nurtured and his love for depicting the Virgin Mary with a nursing Jesus inspired. The first example of this is in Michelangelo’s first work, completed at the age of 13, entitled Madonna of the Stairs. This marble relief was completed in 1492 and displays Michelangelo’s natural abilities and his fascination with the human form. The details in Jesus’ muscular back is a foreshadowing to his mastery of human anatomy. Although Michelangelo’s family were not fond of his interest in the arts, they recognized his skill and moved him in with Ghirlandaio, a fresco style artist, where he practiced and studied in his workshop.

Battle of the Lapiths 1492

Marble, Casa Buonarroti, Florence

Michelangelo completed his next work while still staying with Ghirlandaio. Battle of the Lapiths, a marble relief, is a showcase of Michelangelo’s early ability to show the human form in constant motion. Although none of the figures are shown harming each other, the contrast between their potential and kinetic energy can be distinguished; moments of tranquility are in contrast with moments of fierce energy. He will later use this skill in his more poignant works.