Quotes about Michelangelo
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The beginning of the sixteenth century, the Cinquecento, is the most famous period of Italian art, one of the greatest periods of all time. This was the time of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, of Raphael and Titian, of Correggio and Giorgione, of Dürer and Holbein in the north, and of many other famous masters. One may well ask why it was that all these great masters were born in the same period, but such questions are more easily asked than answered. One cannot explain the existence of genius. It is better to enjoy it.
In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace - and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.
This science gave me a taste for the arts. It is Number that gives value to sounds and silences, lights and shadows, forms and spaces. Michelangelo and Bach seemed to me like divine mathematicians [calculateurs]. Already I felt that only mathematics enables works that can last. Whether as a result of patient study, or of a stormy [fulgurante] intuition, number alone can reduce all our diversities of feeling to the strict unity of a mass, a fresco, or a sculpted head.
That evening he talked about Leonardo and Michelangelo. It is impossible to place them in the human world, he said. It is impossible to comprehend how anything that attests to greatness has survived; it is obviously a result of innumerable chance events and of human incomprehension, he said. If people had understood the greatness of those works, they would have destroyed them long ago. Fortunately, people have lost their flair for greatness and only their flair for murder has persisted, though undoubtedly they have refined the latter, their flair for murder, to an art, almost to point of greatness, he said.
It remains true that Michelangelo's intensely personal use of the nude greatly altered its character. He changed it from a means of embodying ideas to a means of expressing emotions; he transformed it from the world of living to the world of becoming. And he projected his world of the imagination with such unequaled artistic power that its shadow fell on every male nude in art for three hundred and fifty years. Painters either imitated his heroic poses and proportions or they reacted against them self-consciously and sought a new repertoire of attitudes in the art of fifth-century Greece. In the nineteenth century the ghost of Michelangelo was still posing the models in art schools.