A Tale of Italian Renaissance Rivals, Michelangelo vs Raphael
This article was published in October, 2006 under the following title.
For That Knee Alone
Most people think learning history is boring, something that’s required in school and then promptly forgotten, like algebra. But, those people never had a history teacher who knew the little stories. And it’s the little stories that make history interesting. For me, art history is not just looking at pretty pictures with pretty colors; it’s also a large body of knowledge about the culture and customs of real people. I was fortunate to learn from a number of gifted art historians, no, really storytellers, as teachers. This is one of those little stories.
Italian Renaissance rivals Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael Sanzio had an unspoken competition. The irascible Michelangelo, forced by Pope Julius II into painting the ceiling of his own private chapel, the Sistine as we know it, complained that he was not a painter, but a sculptor. This complaint fell on deaf ears as the pope had a war to fight and neither time nor patience for soothing the artistic temperament. If the tale is true, the pope had even less patience for seeing that the artist was paid. Food being a necessity, this was a bone of contention between artist and patron. Raphael, on the other hand, blessed with a much more affable personality, never seemed to lack for funds, friends or food. Both artists were occupied with the pope’s private artistic visions in the Vatican simultaneously.