5 Things You Didn't Know About Michelangelo

On this day in 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, one of Italian artist Michelangelo’s finest works, was exhibited to the public for the first time.  In honor of this anniversary, here are five things you probably didn't know about Michelangelo...


He Carved The “David” From A Discarded Block Of Marble Michelangelo was notoriously picky about the marble he used for his sculptures, yet for his famous “David” statue, he made use of a block that other artists had deemed unworkable. Known as “the Giant,” the massive slab had been quarried nearly 40 years earlier for a series of sculptures, abd eventually abandoned. By the time Michelangelo began working with it in 1501, it already bore the chisel marks of more than one frustrated sculptor. Michelangelo eventually crafted the block into one of his most famous works, but recent analyses of the “David” have revealed that the poor quality of its stone may be degrading because of the marble’s poor quality.

He Completed Artworks For Nine Different Catholic Popes Michelangelo was a popular artist among the Popes and did work for nine consecutive Catholic pontiffs in a row. His breadth of work for the Vatican was vast, and included everything from crafting ornamental knobs for the papal bed to spending four grueling years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo  found a champion in Pope Paul III, who defended his work “The Last Judgment” after church officials deemed its many nude figures obscene.


He Wasn’t Originally Chosen To Complete The Sistine Chapel Raphael was known as a talented artist, and it was Raphael who Pope Julius II originally chose to work on the Sistine Chapel. Here’s where a bit of rivalry comes in. Michelangelo’s fame was growing and the young artist was stealing some of Raphael’s business. Out of jealousy, Raphael convinced the Pope to hire Michelangelo instead, hoping to prove that Michelangelo was not a good painter and could not paint as well as himself. Raphael was probably stunned by the masterpiece on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, so his plan to discredit Michelangelo backfired. It seems that Michelangelo got the last laugh.

He Painted Himself In The Sistine Chapel Michelangelo is known to have only signed one of his works throughout the years. Instead, he would often paint himself into them. The most famous of these self-portraits is in The Last Judgment fresco that covers an entire wall of the Sistine Chapel. There, St. Bartholomew is holding the skin of a face that appears to be Michelangelo’s.

He Was Called To “Save” St. Peter’s Basilica The Catholic Church called on the retired painter when he was 74 years old, asking him to help them complete the work on St. Peter’s Basilica. Ultimately the building wasn’t finished until after his death, but Michelangelo did work for 14 years on the building until he died at age 88. He continued to supervise the work from home when he was no longer physically able to visit the work site by sending drawings, designs to the project’s foremen. With Michelangelo’s oversight, St. Peter’s gained its majestic dome and created a skyline that pilgrims from all over the world still come to see.