The Agony and the Ecstasy

By Irving Stone

84,579 ratings - 4.06* vote

Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo’s David, New American Library releases a special edition of Irving Stone’s classic biographical novel—in which both the artist and the man are brought to life in full. A masterpiece in its own right, this novel offers a compelling portrait of Michelangelo’s dangerous, impassioned loves, and the God-driven fury from which he Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo’s David, New American Library releases a special edition of

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Book details

Mass Market Paperback, 776 pages
1961 by Signet

(first published 1958)

Original Title
The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo
0451171357 (ISBN13: 9780451171351)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Jeffrey Keeten

***4.5 stars out of 5***

”To some people stone was dead; ‘hard as stone,’ ‘stone cold,’ they said. To him, as he once again ran his fingers along its contours, it was the most alive substance in the world, rhythmic, responsive, tractable: warm, resilient, colorful, vibrant. He was in love with stone.”

 photo Michelango_Portrait_by_Volterra_zps93nufpzf.jpg
Michelangelo portrait by Volterra

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born in Florence on March 6th, 1475. It was a fortuitous time to be born. He was coming of age just as the Renaissance was beginning to take full flight. His family was an ancient family, as old as the famous Medici family, but they have fallen on hard times by the time Michelangelo’s father became the patriarch. There had never been artists in the family, so the desire, nay the need, to create that existed in the young Michelangelo did not come from tradition, but from a new flame within him.

He wanted to become a sculptor in an age when sculpting was nearly extinct. He wanted a chisel in his hand, not a paintbrush. He wanted white chips beneath his feet. He wanted to be immortal. After all, fire, water, and the passage of time destroyed paint, but stone lasted forever.

Donatello died in 1466, but despite never meeting him or receiving the benefit of his teaching, the influence of Donatello was undeniable. Much later, when Michelangelo got the chance to carve a statue that was supposed to represent Florence, he knew that it must be David.

 photo David_zpsokfelz7j.jpg
I was mesmerized by David’s hand when I took this picture in Florence back in 1992. You must see the statue in person to fully comprehend how amazing it is.

That statue grew beyond representing Florence. To many historians that statue symbolizes the whole Renaissance.

The title of this book The Agony and the Ecstasy makes me think of a daytime soap opera with overblown tragedy and illicit affairs driving the daily plot. The life of Michelangelo certainly reflects the title. There are so many twists and turns in the narrative of this artist's life. There are so many critical moments where, if fate had intervened differently, the world might not have ever known the name Michelangelo.

Everyone wanted him to paint because that was what was in fashion. He could make a living painting. No one was interested in buying new marble statues. Buyers rich enough to afford sculptures were only interested in old Greek statues, freshly pulled from their earthy graves. Michelangelo tried; he really did try to do what everyone wanted him to do, but the only time he truly felt alive, truly felt he was fulfilling his mission in life, was when he was liberating a figure from stone.

The marble called to him, and once his hands were on the stone, he merely had to lean close enough to catch the whispers of who was in the stone. ”He had the impression that, no matter how honestly a sculptor designed, it would come to nothing if it did not agree with the basic nature of the block. In this sense a sculptor could never be completely master of his fate, as a painter could be. Paint was fluid, it could bend around corners. Marble was solidity itself. The marble sculptor had to accept the rigorous discipline of a partnership. The marble and he were one. They spoke to each other. And for him the feel of marble was the supreme sensation. No gratification of any other sense, taste, sight, sound, smell, could approach it.”

Irving Stone waited six years to begin writing this novel. He arranged for Dr. Charles Speroni, an Italian professor at the University of California, to translate all four hundred and ninety-five surviving Michelangelo letters as well as the records and art contracts that he kept. Stone wanted to be sure that the portrait he carved of Michelangelo by writing this book was based on as much hard data as he could find. Irving also, to add more authenticity, lived in Italy for several years as he was working on this novel so that he could see, taste, and feel the world that made Michelangelo.

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Irving Stone

Some would disagree with Stone’s positive portrayal of Lorenzo de’Medici, but any man who collects ten thousand books and manuscripts to form the largest library since Alexandria is going to receive more veneration than cynicism from me. He held Florence together for his entire life, without holding any office, as did his father and his grandfather. He wasn’t the last of the great de’Medici’s, but let's just say that there was a long drought after his death. His successor, his oldest son, was known as Piero the Unfortunate if that gives you any indication of how well he followed the father known as The Magnificent.

Lorenzo, as he did for many artists of the era, took the young Michelangelo under his protection and allowed him the freedom to express himself in stone. He recognized the passion in the young man. Unlike many powerful people that Michelangelo was going to be forced to work with, Lorenzo understood that all that was required of him was to stay out of the young artist’s way. It was quite the contrast with one of the later popes that Michelangelo worked for. Julius II insisted that he produce just about anything but stone sculptures. He forced him to be a bronze caster, an architect, an engineer, and most famously a *phewy*, let me get the paint off my tongue, the painter of the Sistine Chapel.

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Michelangelo was also a poet, not just a dabbler, but a really accomplished poet.

”Were it mine, that shaggy fleece that stays,
Woven and wrought into a vestment fair,
Around her beauteous bosom in such bliss!

ALl through the day she’d clasp me! Would I were
The shoes that bear her burden! When the ways
Were wet with rain, her feet I then would kiss!”

Michelangelo liked women, but preferred males for sculpting. ”I find all beauty and structural power in the male. Take a man in any action, jumping, wrestling, throwing a spear, plowing, bend him into any position and the muscles, the distribution of weight and tension, have their symmetry. For me, a woman to be beautiful or exciting must be absolutely still.”

“Perhaps you just haven't put them in the proper positions.”

Michelangelo was not immune to the allures of women. ”She makes my flesh crawl; I mean the flesh inside my flesh.” He had affairs with women, lifelong affairs that, even when they hadn’t seen each other in decades, their desire for each other still burned with a soft flame. They were women impossible to be with (crafty he was), either because of their station in life or in one case because she was the mistress of a powerful man. He had no interest in marriage. He would have made a poor husband after all. He could love them, but he would always cheat on them with the white marble flesh of his craft.

 photo Leda_and_the_Swan_zpsu1qppq9n.jpg
Michelangelo was feeling a bit lustful when he created this version of the fable of Leda and the Swan.

He was a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. Da Vinci is held up as the prime example of a Renaissance man, certainly deserved, but until I read this book, I’d forgotten just how much alike he and Michelangelo were in the breadth of their abilities. These three talented men knew each other, but had little to do with each other. Michelangelo was such a loner. He was always so focused on his current project and usually pining for other projects already bubbling in his mind. By the time Mich (after spending this much time with him I feel I can take a few liberties with a nickname) died, he had 80 years worth of projects designed and ready to be made.

”Man Passes. Only works of art are immortal.”

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You will feel like you know Michelangelo by the time you finish this book. Irving Stone casts his spells and puts flesh on the bones of a long dead artist and made me feel like I was walking the streets of Bologna, Florence, and Rome, with my hand on the shoulder of a genius. So much so that at one point I blew my nose and found only marble dust in the tissue. ”I’ll put my hand in fire” if it’s not true. I was most impressed with Michelangelo’s work ethic and perseverance. His ideas consumed him, but even when he had to leave his true calling because of the whims of more powerful men, whatever task they asked him to do, he did it to the very best of his abilities. Even unpleasant tasks he felt had to be done right. They had to be done with artistry and genius.

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Ahmad Sharabiani

The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) is a biographical novel of Michelangelo Buonarroti written by American author Irving Stone.

After Ghirlandaio looks at Michelangelo’s sketches of Christ drawn with a stonemason as the model, he tells Michelangelo the story of Donatello showing his newly carved crucifix to Brunelleschi.

Brunelleschi observes that it seems to him Donatello has, “put a plowman on the cross, rather than the body of Jesus Christ, which was most delicate in all its parts."

Donatello, upset by his friend’s criticism, challenges Brunelleschi to make Christ’s figure himself. When Brunelleschi presents his own, newly finished crucifix, “Donatello, who could not take his eyes off the beautiful Christ, answered, ‘It is your work to make Christs, and mine to make plowmen.’”

Michelangelo, familiar with both carvings, tells Ghirlandaio that he “preferred Donatello’s plowman to Brunelleschi’s ethereal Christ, which was so slight that it looked as though it had been created to be crucified. With Donatello’s figure, the crucifixion had come as a horrifying surprise….”

تاریخ خوانش: سال 1978میلادی

عنوان: رنج و سرمستی : داستان زندگی میکل آنژ؛ نویسنده: ایروینگ استون؛ مترجم و تلخیص پرویز داریوش؛ تهران، امیرکبیر، 1343، در 570ص؛ چاپ دوم 1344؛ چاپ سوم 1357؛ چاپ چهارم 1361؛ در 567ص؛ چاپ پنجم 1395؛ در 704ص؛ شابک 9789640018309؛ موضوع سرگذشتنامه میکل آنژ - از سال 1475میلادی تا سال 1546میلادی - سده 20م

عنوان: رنج و سرمستی داستان زندگی میکل آنژ؛ نویسنده: ایروینگ استون؛ مترجم: محمدحسین باجلان فرخی؛ تهران، اساطیر، 1372، در چهار جلد؛ 1300ص؛ شابک دوره 9643311961؛ چاپ دوم 1379؛

عنوان: رنج و سرمستی داستان زندگی میکل آنژ؛ نویسنده: ایروینگ استون؛ مترجم آرمانوش باباخانیانس؛ تهران، سمیر، 1393؛ در 656ص؛ شابک 9789642201389؛

میکل آنژ، در روز ششم ماه مارس سال 1475میلادی زاده شد؛ در شش سالگی مادرش را از دست داد، پدرش چندی شهردار کاپزر و شیوزی بود؛ دایه ی میکل آنژ زنی سنگتراش، از اهالی ستلین یانو بودند؛ هنگام تحصیل تنها به نقاشی دل سپرد؛ به مدرسه ی پیکرسازی، که لوران دو مدیسین، در باغهای سن مارک دایر کرده بود، وارد شد؛ و جزو هواخواهان مجسمه سازی، و حجاری یونان باستان گردید؛ در ماه مارس 1505میلادی میکل آنژ، به فرمان ژول دوم، به رم رفت، و دوران پر افتخار زندگی خود را آغاز کرد، او بیش از همه «کاوالیوری»، را دوست داشت، و عشقش به او از دیگران پایدارتر بود؛ «کاوالیوری» نیز، به استادش وفادار، و بر بالین مرگ او نیز حضور داشت، و بر «میکل آنژ» نفوذ داشت، از سال 1534میلادی، عشق به مذهب، تمام وجود «میکل آنژ» را، فرا گرفت؛ روز هجدهم ماه فوریه سال 1564میلادی، در رم درگذشتند؛ رنج و سرمستی، را نویسنده، با استفاده از متن چهارصدونودوپنج نامه ی «میکل آنژ»، دفترهای او، و قراردادهایی که برای اجرای سفارشهای هنری، بسته بودند، و نیز، با بهره جویی از بایگانی اسناد «فلورانس»، و مجموعه آثار «میکل آنژ»، و شجره نامه ی اجداد او، و دیگر منابع موجود، در باره ی هنر و اندیشه ی هنرمند پیکرتراش، نوشته است

از آثار میکل آنژ: «مادونا روی پله - نقش‌اندازی روی مرمر - فلورانس - خانه بوناروتی - تاریخ 1489میلادی- 1492میلادی»؛ «جنگ دوپیکر - نقش‌اندازی روی مرمر - فلورانس - خانه بوناروتی - تاریخ 1492میلادی - 1493میلادی»؛ «باخوس مست - تندیس - رم - تاریخ 1496میلادی - 1497میلادی»؛ «پی یتا - تندیس - فلورانس - تاریخ 1498میلادی - 1499میلادی»؛ «داوود - تندیس - فلورانس - تاریخ 1501میلادی - 1504میلادی»؛ «مجسمه برای مقبره ی پاپ - بردگان در حال مرگ - تندیس موسی - تاریخ 1505میلادی - 1515میلادی»؛ «نقاشی سقف کلیسای سیکستینی - رم - تاریخ 1508میلادی - 1512میلادی»؛ «مقبره ی خانوادگی مدیچی - فلورانس - تاریخ 1520میلادی - 1534میلادی»؛ «کتابخانه ی مدیچی - لورنسیانا - فلورانس - تاریخ 1524میلادی - 1526میلادی»؛ «صحنه ی رستاخیز - نقاشی - رم - کلیسای سیکستینی - تاریخ 1534میلادی- 1541میلادی»؛ «معماری گنبد کلیسای پترز - رم - تاریخ 1547میلادی»؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 19/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

Ericka Lutz

Oh good lord. No wonder I'm reading this book so slowly. I have to keep putting it down and fanning myself. Here's the young Michelangelo carving marble for the first time:

"He had removed the outer shell. Now he dug into the mass, entered in the biblical sense."

Really? He's fucking the marble? Apparently, yes...

"In this act of creation there was needed the thrust, the penetration, the beating and pulsating upward to a mighty climax, the total possession. It was not merely an act of love, it was the act of love: the mating of his own inner patterns to the inherent forms of the marble; an insemination in which he planted seed, created the living work of art."

Does anybody have a cigarette?


Two weeks later: Finally finished. Four stars -- as promised, it's full of agony, it's full of ecstasy. It's very full of history! Very enjoyable, and I learned a huge amount! But the writing is just so overwrought that I removed a star.

Debbie Lazar

Goodreads crashed on me - I didn't realize the five stars were posted but not my review. You may be wondering why I rated this book so highly.

The book made Michelangelo and his times really come alive for me. I feel like I personally know, like and respect Michelangelo as a person. He was so recognizably human with family issues, rivalries, loyal friends, treacherous friends and, above all this fierce driving passion for his art, especially sculpture. He was born with a gift and a genius that he acted on. He was passionate, cranky, demanding, willful, opinionated, determined, driven, and unwilling to accept anything short of perfection. Yet he did what he needed to do to pay the bills - sometimes setting his pet projects aside for years. For the first time in my life I am interested in visiting the Sistine Chapel to see his painstakingly and brilliantly executed ceiling frescoe and to view his famous marble sculpture of David (with the broken arm).

Plus on occasion I'm a sucker for epic historical novels. Michelangelo lived from 1475 - 1565 which was a fascinating period of history - Christopher Columbus gets mentioned in passing (some guy who recently set sail in three tiny ships westbound to find India), Raphael and so many other famous names from the Renaissance. Michelangelo had no use for Leonardo da Vinci whom he considered to be a society-seeking dandy and snob. I think most of this information is probably true as the book was extremely well researched with lots of primary sources, such as Michelangelo's 400+ letters.

The book also gets inside his head as an artist as he designs and executes all of his work, especially his most beloved marble sculptures. I had no idea there are so many grades of marble and never thought about how arduous it was to extract the right marble out of the Roman hills. Or to move the finished sculptures to their designated locations.

The dense writing and length (760 pages) made it a slog for me to get through - but an exciting slog and I find myself thinking a lot about it. That's why I gave it five stars.

Το Άθχημο γατί του θενιόρ Γκουαναμίρου

At the age of thirteen, Michelangelo enters the workshop of painter Ghirlandaio and studies the fresco painting technique. Son of a surly bourgeois father of noble descent, lost his mother at an early age, Michelangelo eventually becomes fascinated by the texture of marble and wishes to release, the trapped forms which, according to his neo-Platonic worldview, are already hidden inside the raw material.

A book is not big enough to fit the magnitude of Michelangelo Buonarroti's artistic genius, the complexity of his character, and the interpretation of his immense work. Irving Stone does an exquisite work in presenting the life and deeds of the great sculptor and painter who produced masterpieces such as the Pietà of St. Peter's Basilica, the Giant David of Florence and Cappella Sistina's frescoes.

Μου πήρε σχεδόν τέσσερις μήνες να το τελειώσω. Και στο τέλος των 776 σελίδων έπιασα τον εαυτό μου να παραπονιέται, επειδή το έργο αυτό δεν ήταν μεγαλύτερο σε έκταση, ήθελα ακόμα περισσότερες πληροφορίες, ακόμα περισσότερες λεπτομέρειες – κατά βάθος είχε γίνει κομμάτι της καθημερινότητάς μου σε σημείο που δεν ήθελα να τελειώσει.

Δεν αρκεί ένα βιβλίο για να χωρέσει το μέγεθος της καλλιτεχνικής ιδιοφυΐας του Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), την πολυπλοκότητα του χαρακτήρα του και την ερμηνευτική προσέγγιση του τεράστιου έργου του. Ο Irving Stone κάνει μια εξαίσια δουλειά στη μυθιστορηματική αναπαράσταση της ζωής του σπουδαίου γλύπτη και ζωγράφου που μας χάρισε αριστουργήματα όπως η Pietà της Βασιλικής του Αγίου Πέτρου, τον γίγαντα Δαβίδ της Φλωρεντίας, τις τοιχογραφίες της Cappella Sistina, και σηματοδότησε με το έργο του την εποχή του Ουμανισμού και της Αναγέννησης με όλες τις αντιφάσεις, τις συγκρούσεις και τις πολιτικές και πολιτισμικές παραμέτρους που τη χαρακτηρίζουν.

Δεν είναι μόνο το βιβλίο αυτό καθαυτό αλλά το έργο του ίδιου του καλλιτέχνη που, ακολουθώντας τα γεγονότα της ζωής του, μπόρεσα να γνωρίσω (χρησιμοποιώντας και άλλες πηγές προκειμένου να το κατανοήσω ακόμα καλύτερα). Ο Irving Stone καταφέρνει να αναπαραστήσει την εποχή και τα γεγονότα με τόση πιστότητα και τόση αληθοφάνεια, ώστε τελικά δημιουργεί τη ψευδαίσθηση πως πρόκειται για αποτέλεσμα όχι απλής εμβριθούς μελέτης και έρευνας, αλλά για βιωμένη πραγματικότητα ενός αυτόπτη μάρτυρα. Όπως αναφέρει και ίδιος στο σημείωμα που παρατίθεται στο τέλος του μυθιστορήματος:

«Αυτή η μυθιστορηματική βιογραφία στηρίζεται σε πολυετή έρευνα των πηγών, ζώντας και μελετώντας, στη Φλωρεντία, τη Ρώμη, την Καρράρα και την Μπολόνια. Το έργο ξεκίνησε έξι χρόνια πριν από τη συγγραφή του, όταν απέκτησα πρόσβαση στις 495 επιστολές του καθώς και στα αρχεία και τα συμβόλαιά του […]»

Στα δεκατρία του ο Michelangelo, μαθητεύει στο εργαστήρι του ζωγράφου Ghirlandaio και εκπαιδεύεται στην τεχνική της νωπογραφίας (fresco). Γιος ενός στριφνού και ξεπεσμένου αστού με ευγενική καταγωγή, ορφανός από μητέρα, γοητεύεται από πολύ νωρίς από την υφή του μαρμάρου, μέσα από το οποίο θέλει να απελευθερώσει, τις παγιδευμένες μορφές, που σύμφωνα με την νεοπλατωνική κοσμοθεωρία του, ήδη προϋπάρχουν κρυμμένες εντός της ακατέργαστης πρώτης ύλης. Τα δύο κυρίαρχα ρεύματα στη Φλωρεντία της εποχής ασκούν επάνω του τεράστια επιρροή:

Από τη μία ο Lorenzo dei Medici‎, ένας σπουδαίος πολιτικός και πνευματικός ηγέτης συγκεντρώνει στην αυλή του νεοπλατωνιστές φιλοσόφους, με το όραμα να μετατρέψει τη Φλωρεντία σε μια δεύτερη Αθήνα, έχοντας στη διάθεσή του πνευματικούς ανθρώπους όπως ο Marsilio Ficino, ο Christoforo Landino, ο Angelo Poliziano, ο Picco della Mirandola, ο Δημήτριος Χαλκοκονδύλης κα. Από την άλλη πλευρά δεσπόζει ένας φανατισμένος, παράφρονας Δομινικανός μοναχός από τη Φερράρα, ο Girolamo Savonarola που κήρυττε την απόλυτη αποχή από τα εγκόσμια, την απέχθεια του για την τέχνη και τη πνευματική ζωή της εποχής της. Και οι δύο πλευρές παρά τις θεμελιώδεις αντιθέσεις τους, επιθυμούσαν τη μεταρρύθμιση της εκκλησίας της Ρώμης η οποία μέσα από μια σειρά διεφθαρμένων παπών είχε αποκλίνει από τον πνευματικό της ρόλο (γεγονός που οδήγησε μετέπειτα στη διαμαρτυρία του Λουθήρου και τη δημιουργία της Ισπανικής Ιεράς Εξέτασης).

Ο Lorenzo dei Medici αποφασισμένος να αποκτήσει τη δική του σχολή γλυπτικής φέρνει ως δάσκαλο τον υπέργηρο Bertoldo di Giovanni, μαθητή του σπουδαίου φλωρεντίνου γλύπτη Donatello και τον εγκαθιστά στον κήπο του παλατιού του. Στο πλάι του, ο νεαρός Michelangelo, μέσα σε αυτήν την μαρμάρινη Εδέμ, θα πάρει τα πρώτα του μαθήματα, ξεκινώντας από το σχέδιο στην επίπεδη επιφάνεια του χαρτιού και τα προσχέδια από κερί και πηλό, για να περάσει στη δημιουργία των πρώτων ανάγλυφων έργων του καθώς και στα πρώτα πλήρως τρισδιάστατα γλυπτά του.

Δύο παράγοντες έπαιξαν σπουδαίο ρόλο στην τεχνική του καλλιτέχνη. Από τη μία η μελέτη των αρχαίων ρωμαϊκών γλυπτών, που συχνά ανασύρονταν από την γόνιμη ιταλική γη και κοσμούσαν τις αυλές των ευγενών και πλουσίων, και η μελέτη της ανθρώπινης ανατομίας – την οποία σπούδασε στα κρυφά, στο μοναστήρι του Santo Spirito, το οποίο λειτουργούσε και ως νοσοκομείο, με τη βοήθεια του ηγούμενου Bichiellini. Τα γλυπτά του έσφυζαν από ζωή και αναπαριστούσαν το ανδρικό σώμα στην παραμικρή του λεπτομέρεια.

Το ανδρικό σώμα αποτελεί για τον καλλιτέχνη ένα αντικείμενο λατρείας. Ο Irving Stone δεν εστιάζει σχεδόν καθόλου στους ομοφυλοφιλικούς έρωτες του καλλιτέχνη, στην ουσία τους παραβλέπει σε βαθμό που να στερείται ένα σημαντικότατο ερμηνευτικό κλειδί για την κατανόηση του έργου του. Για να λέμε τα πράγματα με το όνομά τους. Ο Michelangelo έκανε έρωτα με νεαρούς άνδρες, το ομολογεί άλλωστε και στα ποιήματά του (το γνωρίζουν άλλωστε και οι σύγχρονοί του – βλέπε λίβελο του Pietro Aretino):

La carne terra, e qui l'ossa mia, prive
de' lor begli occhi, e del leggiadro aspetto
fan fede a quel ch'i' fu grazia nel letto,
che abbracciava, e' n che l'anima vive.

Τώρα η σάρκα έγινε χώμα, κι εδώ τα κόκκαλά μου,
στερημένα από τα όμορφά του μάτια και την ωραία μορφή του
παραμένουν πιστά σε αυτόν που απολάμβανα μαζί του να πλαγιάζω
σε εκείνον που αγκάλιαζα και μέσα στον οποίο τώρα ζει η ψυχή μου

(ποίημα του Michelangelo για τον θάνατο του αγαπημένου εραστή του, Cecchino dei Bracci).

Σε μια εποχή όπου το φάσμα της ανθρώπινης σεξουαλικότητας περιοριζόταν ασφυκτικά από τον πατριαρχικό ετεροσεξουαλικό προσανατολισμό και τις περί σοδομίας εκκλησιαστικές διδασκαλίες είναι λογικό όλοι οι πόθοι του καλλιτέχνη να διοχετεύονται μέσα στην απεικόνιση του ιδεώδους ανδρικού κορμιού, το οποίο χρησιμεύει ως μοντέλο για όλες τις μορφές, είτε είναι ανδρικές είτε είναι γυναικείες. Έτσι στο Doni Tondo (πίνακας που εικονίζει την Αγία Οικογένεια) η Παναγία εικονίζεται ως ένα γεροδεμένο αγόρι με στιβαρά μπράτσα, στην Sagrestia Nuova οι μαστοί των γυναικείων γλυπτών μοιάζουν στην κυριολεξία κολλημένοι επάνω σε ανδρικά σώματα, ενώ διακοσμεί την οροφή της Cappella Sistina με ένα πλήθος ανδρικών γυμνών γνωστών ως Ignudi.

Πέρα από τη γλυπτική, τη ζωγραφική και την ποίηση ο Michelangelo ασχολήθηκε επίσης με έργα οδοποιίας, οχυρώσεων και αρχιτεκτονικής. Παρέμεινε υπερδραστήριος και δημιουργικός ως το τέλος της ζωής του, αλλά ακριβώς αυτή η υπεραπασχόληση και η εμμονή του να εργάζεται πρωτίστως ο ίδιος επάνω στα έργα του, αφήνοντας ελάχιστα στην επιμέλεια των βοηθών του, ήταν εξαιρετικά χρονοβόρα και είχε ως αποτέλεσμα να αφήσει πίσω του πολλά ημιτελή έργα, τα οποία ωστόσο, ακόμα κι έτσι έχουν κάτι το μεγαλειώδες (πχ βλέπε Pietà Rondanini το τελευταίο έργο που δούλευε μέχρι έξι ημέρες πριν τον θάνατό του). Ήθελε να ολοκληρώσει το έργο του πριν επιτρέψει στους υπόλοιπους να το μελετήσουν γι’ αυτό ήταν ιδιαίτερα μυστικοπαθής και απεχθανόταν την ιδέα να διαρρεύσει κάτι χωρίς την έγκρισή του.

Πεισματάρης και επίμονος συγκρούστηκε με άλλες σπουδαίες καλλιτεχνικές μορφές την εποχής του, όπως με τον Leonardo da Vinci (οι δυο θρυλικές, πλέον χαμένες, τοιχογραφίες στο Palazzo Vecchio της Φλωρεντίας είναι το αποκορύφωμα του ανταγωνισμού τους) και τον Raphael. Πάτρωνές του και χρηματοδότες του ήταν πρωτίστως η πολιτεία της Φλωρεντίας και οι πάπες της Ρώμης με τους οποίους επίσης συγκρούστηκε στην προσπάθειά του να επιβληθεί ως δημιουργός διεκδικώντας σεβασμό και ικανοποιητικές αμοιβές. Δεν παντρεύτηκε ποτέ, ωστόσο παρέμεινε αφοσιωμένος στον πατέρα και τα αδέρφια του παρά τις πολλές διαφωνίες και προστριβές που είχε μαζί τους. Στην ηλικία των εξήντα ετών συνδέθηκε με βαθιά φιλία με την διανοούμενη ποιήτρια Vittoria Colonna, η οποία αποτέλεσε γι’ αυτόν πηγή έμπνευσης.

Ο Michelangelo Buonarroti συνέβαλλε στην αφύπνιση του δυτικού πολιτισμού έπειτα από έναν λήθαργο αιώνων. Ήταν ένας από εκείνους που συνέδεσαν τα ξεχασμένα επιτεύγματα της αρχαιότητας με το παρόν της εποχής του. Ο σύγχρονος κόσμος, η εποχή μας όπως τη ζούμε σήμερα, δεν θα ήταν ίδια αν δεν έφεραν την υπογραφή ανθρώπων του δικού του μεγέθους:

Michaelangelus Bonarotus Florent(inus) Faciebat.

Αν σας ενδιαφέρει να δείτε τα κυριότερα έργα του καλλιτέχνη:

Ακολουθώντας τους υπερσυνδέσμους και πατώντας επάνω στην εκάστοτε φωτογραφία ανοίγει νέο παράθυρο με διάφορες επιλογές ανάλυσης από 25 έως 200% )


Even with Art History 101 under my belt, I was shocked to learn of his monumental contributions to sculpture, paint, architecture and even politics. But I was even more inspired by the incredible challenges he overcame throughout all of his 90 years of life. Nothing came easy. What an inspiration! Here is a quote from his death bed:

"Life has been good. God did not create me to abandon me. I have loved marble, yes, and paint too. I have loved architecture, and poetry too. I have loved my family and my friends. I have loved God, the forms of the earth and the heavens, and people too. I have loved life to the full, and now I love death as its natural termination. Il Magnifico would be happy: for me, the forces of destruction never overcame creativity."

It took me 13 months to read this book, and I will miss it (him).

PS: If you are going to read it, make a chart with four columns-Family, Medici, Friends, Enemies. There are many people with long Italian names, and they all remain relevant throughout his life

Debbie Zapata

I discovered this Irving Stone title in high school many many years ago, but I had not read the book again since then so it was fresh, new, and incredibly stunning for me. We meet Michelangelo when he is thirteen, and follow him through his almost tortured life until he dies at age 88. In between we see him become an Artist like no other before or since. We learn Art History, Italian History, Vatican History, and meet an incredible number of Popes, all of whom keep Michelangelo on a short leash. I can only imagine what he could have created if he had been allowed to concentrate on the marble the way he so intensely desired to do.

But every Pope, from Julius II to Pius IV, expected Michelangelo to create specific projects just for them. For example, he never wanted to paint the Sistine Chapel, he was ordered to do that job, with the promise that when he was done he could return to his sculpture. He could easily have given less than 100% of himself to the work, but Michelangelo was a true artist. Plus he also knew that He was a victim of his own integrity, which forced him to do his best, even when he would have preferred to do nothing at all. So he created a treasure for the ages. And did so every time he was forced away from his one true passion: working the marble.

My reading of the book this time was enriched by keeping my laptop nearby and referring to it frequently. I researched artists whose work influenced Michelangelo such as Donatello, whose bronze David left our young artist speechless when he first saw it. I would stop reading many times just to examine the pictures of Michelangelo's works. Stone has frequent passages describing the thought process as Michelangelo developed his ideas for each piece, then the physical act of creation, where man and stone seemed to merge. (Although I have to admit that the author's descriptions of the actual sculpting did seem a bit over the top. I can understand the creation metaphors, but Stone's intensely sexual language in these sections felt more than a little creepy.) But the point is that to go from the printed page to a computer image of the piece was amazing, and helped me appreciate the details of the artwork, Michelangelo's genius, and even my computer better than ever.

Here is a link to see a full-sized 1910 replica of David placed in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, where the original statue stood until 1873 when it was moved inside the Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence, where it remains today.
It wasn't until I saw this picture that I truly realized just how gigantic the David is. Look at the people next to it! They look so tiny! And just think, Michelangelo was not a big burly man, the kind I have always imagined a sculptor to be. He wasn't even a tall, thin man like Charlton Heston, who played the role in the movie of this book.

Michelangelo was only five feet four inches tall, and when working obsessively (the only way he knew how) he weighed less than 100 pounds of pure muscle and will power by the time he was finished. And yet, he was a true giant of his era and for all time.


I took delight in the legend, I cherished just as much the reality. A remarkable, wonderful and true story-telling about Agony and Ecstasy. And, to the same extent, I liked the constant striving to split up from the existence of this demiurge the exact detail from the legend itself.
And yet, however impressive is in its proportions the list of titles of books dedicated to the life and creation work of the great Florentine artist, despite researches and although numerous papers have been brought out to light in the nearly five centuries that separate us from his death, we cannot help looking with astonishment at the personality of the one who is gloriously identified with the era of passion and of striving to the truth, which is the Renaissance.

The legend perhaps took birth on that day of September 19, 1510, when Pope Julius II commanded to take down the scaffolding from the Sistine Chapel. To the frightful eyes of those present it was revealed a real struggle of the man and the universe. His creation, the unravelling of the elements from the primordial chaos, the first encounter of shadow and light, the first gesture of man, worn and pained, a whole tragic epopee: this is what brought Michelangelo from the biblical legend and the gift of his time. Not only the bodies of men were tailored down to new canons, healthy and powerful bodies, dominating in a glorious strain the whole scene of Genesis. The inner dimensions of this new god - the man, the creator of the world, were of greatness that surpassed that of ancient or biblical divinities.

A supreme homage to the human personality, the fresco on the Sistine vault was a moment full of significance in the history of the Renaissance. It elevates a passionate hymn of pure, magnificent human beauty ... The artist was confused, even by his contemporaries, with his work, thus becoming a mythical hero. His creation is overwhelming, so the rather short and frail man began to resemble his characters, and crossed the time being represented in the posterity consciousness with a healthy and high athlete, with large shoulders, resembling his Moses and David, and not as Nicodim the short and with crooked nose, the self-portrait of Pieta from Florence. This is undoubtedly a side aspect: the legend of Michelangelo encompassed not only life, but also part of his work.

Irving Stone sought to restore the truth in the most eloquent circumstances of a life of agony and ecstasy. Agony in the original sense of the word, that is of battle, that Milton once used to portray another titan, Samson Agonistes.
As for the sources of Michelangelo's creation, interpretations of its meanings, the writer sometimes inclines (which, after all, is normal within the genre chosen by Stone) to more spectacular solutions. It is tempting, for example, to speak for such a tumultuous, passionate personality about the breaking of any bridge between his creation work and the older traditions. And, since most of the artist's work famous researchers have contributed to the prolongation of the legend, to the preservation of this myth of Michelangelo's existence, or even to some imprecision in the appreciation of his work, it is equally understood that an author of romantic biographies, such is Irving Stone, could not afford to give up the charming pages that such an occasion could have provided him with.

The ideal of the artist approaches that of Donatello, rejecting the picturesque and gentle in the art of his first master Ghirlandaio. It has Giovanni Bertoldo as master of the art of sculpture, who was Donatello's apprentice. Along with the modest Bertoldo, his 15th-century masters will be the sculptors of the Greek and Roman antiquities, whose works will have the opportunity to contemplate them in the gardens of Lorenzo de 'Medici. From this happy meeting, led by the scholars gathered around Magnifico, the first works of Michelangelo appeared.
Angelo Poliziano, the Florentine humanist, urged him to carve a "Fight of the Centaurs", a subject detached from the friezes of the ancient Greek temples. There was the meeting of the young artist with Plato's ideas, a meeting where, in the footsteps of famous celebrities of Michelangelo, Irving Stone was referring. The remark is old, it was made by Vasari and Condivi, sculptor's contemporary biographers.

At Michelangelo, tragic comes from the very condition of man, wrapped in a hostile destiny, while his thirst is heading for liberation from the chains in which he is locked by stronger powers than himself. The theme of human suffering as a pained whirlwind crossed the entire work of the Titan. The "dying slave" is a symbol of this Renaissance period illustrated by Michelangelo. The resignation of the saint Sebastian, pierced by the arrows, is otherwise interpreted in the sculpture of 1512. Even though he is not trying to free himself from the chains, a tragic impulse is revealed in the attitude of the one who is destined to death.

Michelangelo has not lived, like Rafael, the serenity of his creation. For him, the ultimate act of releasing the idea from the cover of the stone, the bold flight of thought, often means suffering and sadness. His artistic ideal planted in direct participation in the people's aspirations of his time, was too high for his works, which we are seeing today with silent tingles, have meant something other than steps cut into a hard stone, in the dazzling way to the supreme majesty. He had once dreamed of sculpting an entire mountain, and so even the dome of St. Peter's Cathedral was just a small work of what Michelangelo's genius knew. His despair, embodied in the allegorical statues from Giuliano and Lorenzo's graves, Lorenzo Magnifico's son and nephew, is dominated by the statue of the Thinker, that symbol of victorious reason, which, like the ancient Minerva, carries the fighter helmet.

In Michelangelo's youthful sculpture - David - who defended the freedom of his people, looks stoutly, with an incomparable dignity to his enemy, same as often has seen his enemies throughout whole life Michelangelo himself.
Often, his art has caused him unimaginable physical pain. Followed by the obsession of his own physical ugliness, with his nose deformed by that barbarian blow that made Torrigiani's colleague more famous than his few sculptures in Spain, Michelangelo suffered horribly on the scaffolding of Sistine.

Irving Stone sometimes talks about Michelangelo's creation - as did, especially in the last decades, other commentaries - as an expression of mystic ecstasy. A personalist mystique that would raise to the surface from the turbulent depths of the subconscious images in which the artist recognizes, shattering, a sign that he is chosen to speak in the name of supreme forces. That's what Freud and Merejkovski thought about da Vinci.
Michelangelo is, like all the great creators of his time, a rationalist. Human thinking is, in his opinion, the only force able to uncover nature and man.

Michelangelo's personality is Faustian. Not only in the sense of the untiring search for the truth, the supreme truth, the cosmic, and the human truth; but also in the sense of love for human activity, carried out on multiple plans.
Perhaps, at the time of his death, on that February 1564, Michelangelo, looking at the amazing work he produced during his long life, could have whispered, "Stop, moment, you are so beautiful!"


Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy was a magnificent literary biographical novel of the renowned and beloved artist Michelangelo. It beautifully details the complexity, not only of the man, but a lifetime of his works, including the many and famous sculptures from Carrara marble, paintings, frescos and architecture, not only in Florence, but in Bologna and Rome. Michelangelo's large body of work included his iconic sculptures of David and the Pieta. Although he preferred other forms of artistic expression over painting, some of his most famous frescos include the beautiful ceiling in the Sistine Chapel as well as The Last Judgment on the altar wall. At the age of 74, Michelangelo became the architect of St. Peter's Basilica that occupied the remainder of his life. He worked on models of the dome he envisioned over the nave of St. Peter's so it could be completed after his death. I loved this book and I'm looking forward to another trip to Italy to once again enjoy these timeless artistic works of Michelangelo, but this time with a much greater understanding, appreciation and awe of the artist.

"White marble was the heart of the universe, the purest substance created by God; not merely a symbol of God but a portrait, God's way of manifesting himself. Only a divine hand could create such noble beauty. He felt himself a part of the white purity before him, felt its integrity as though it were his own."

"Art for me is a torment, grievous when it goes bad, ecstatic when it goes well; but always it possesses me. When I have finished with a day of work I am a husk. Everything that was inside of me is now inside the marble or fresco. That is why I have nothing to give elsewhere."

"Every work of art is a self-portrait. They have tremendous emotional impact; it's as though I must project myself into their unfinished forms, complete them by my own thinking and feeling."

". . . he was content. He had come into the autumn of his life: a man has his seasons, even as had the earth. Was the harvesting of autumn less important than the seeding of spring? Each without the other was meaningless."

"St. Peter's . . . He entered the church through its front portal, walked in the strong Roman sunshine down the wide nave, stood below the center of the dome, just over the tomb of St. Peter. He felt his soul leave his body, rise upward into the dome, becoming part of it: part of space, of time, of heaven and of God."


Finished: I am giving this 4 out of 5 stars. I learned a lot and this book will push me on to reading more about Italy in the 1500s, more about the Medici, more about the Borgia family, more about the Popes, more about Charles V,the Holy Roman Emperor. History was made VERY interesting. It was not difficult to keep track of the numerous people. It isn't necessary to keep a list of friends, foes, family and Medicis. The reader learns a lot about the internecine religious battles of the times. And of course you learn about Michelangelo. He became very real to me. I really did come to care for him. I admire his passion for sculpture, his determination to do any job, whether he liked it or not, to his best ability. I admire his loyalty to his friends and family. Why not 5 stars? Well that is because the writing style had no magic. It didn't sparkle. You get a history text book, albeit engagingly told.

Through page 551:Previously I said that I was not really drawn into caring about the main characters. That is no longer true. I totally love Michelangelo. Wow, what a guy. My heart bleeds for him.

Through page 501: If the Pope wants you to make a bronze statue, well then you make a bronze statue. If the Pope wants you to paint, what choice do you have but to paint! I admire Michelangelo's attempts to oppose Pope Julius II. And now I finally understand what pushed Michelangelo from marble to painting...... I actually feel sorry for Michelangelo. Also the competition between, Michelangelo and da Vinci was illuminating. The competition and how it was resolved says alot about both artists.

Through page 392: I am just wondering, how does Stone know so much about Michelangelo's thoughts behind each sculpture. For Michelangelo's David it is said:

"For him(Michelangelo), then, it was David's decision (to kill Goliath) that made him a giant, not the (actual) killing of Goliath."

How does Stone know Michelangelo's inner thoughts? Maybe notes at the end will clarify. Probably they are simply plausible conjectures, but I am not so sure I am convinced of their veracity. This is nothing new. An art critic's in-depth analysis often drives me crazy.

Even though I have a critical mind, it doesn't mean I am not enjoying the book.

Through page 336:I love the following quote. Michelangelo has just shown his brother, Buonarroto, his Bacchus statue.His brother's sole reply was to ask if people liked it.

"That was all. Michelangelo observed to himself, 'He doesn't have the faintest notion of what sculpture is about. His only interest is that people approve of what I have done, so that I can be happy, and get more work.....none of which he will ever understand. He is a true Buonarroti, blind to the meaning of art. But he loves me.'"

A good definition of familial love and relationships.

This book is a delightful learning experience, but one does not fall in love with any of the characters. That is OK. What you get from the learning is enough. You respect Michelangelo and admire his dedication.

Through page 293: It is well-known that Michelangelo was a homosexual. It is a bit disturbing that this side of his character is not clearly revealed. If this isn't discussed, what else is missing? THAT is what has been bothering me! His homosexuality is only subtely revealed in the following quote:

"One afternoon Leo asked, 'Wouldn't you like to sketch some women? There are several baths for both sexes in the city walls (Rome), run by prostitutes, but with quite respectable clienteles.'"

Michelangelo replies: "I have no interest in the female form."

"You're summarily dismissing half the figures in the world," answers Leo.

And Michelangelo counters: "Roughly, yes. ....But I find all beauty and structural power in the male. Take a man in any action, jumping, wrestling, throwing a spear, plowing, bend him into any position and the muscles, the distribution of weight and tension, have their symmetry. For me, a woman to be beautiful or exciting must be absolutely still."

Leo jokes, "Perhaps you haven't put them into the proper position."

"Michelangelo smiled. 'Yes, I have. I find it a sight for love but not for sculpture.'"

So far that is as close as one gets to the question of Michelangelo's true sexual appetite. Hmmph! I also find Michelangelo's view irritating!

Another thing I should mention is that the Italian names aren't the easiest to keep straight. Someone recommended making a chart with people, categorizing them as family, Medici, friend or enemmy. This does help, but also add columns for artists, religious and political figures.

Through page 246 of 776: This book does an excellent job of teaching me history about Florence at the end of the 1400s, about the Medici family and about the religious conflicts taking place. This is another book that makes me happy about not being religious. Most importantly it teaches about the strivings of Michelangelo. I am so terribly impressed by his dedication. Sculpture is ALL he can possibly think about. You stand back in awe reading about what he does to learn how to scuplture. Utterly amazing. I am so glad I have seen the Pietà in
St. Peter's Cathedral in the Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.... I also really have enjoyed reading about Lorenzo Medici, who was his patron, who took him in as a family member. Lorenzo, perhaps not as outstanding as Cosimo Medici, but still a wonderful leader of Florence. Wonderful b/c he truly loved Florence and did his utmost to promote art and beauty and thinking in the city. I wouldn't say the language is particularly exceptional, but the information is excellent. I really don't like Michelangelo's father - a money grubbing individual who couldn't care less about art! And he sired Michelangelo. They couldn't be more opposites in character! Laura, how far have you come in the book.