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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Michael Angelo

  • [Michelagniolo Buonarotti, commonly called Michael Angelo; born in Tuscany, March 6, 1474; began his artistic career under the favor of Lorenzo de’ Medici, 1490; decorated the Sistine Chapel at Rome at the invitation of Julius II.; erected fortifications in Florence, 1528; finished the “Last Judgment,” 1541; appointed architect of St. Peter’s, 1546, but did not live to complete it; built several palaces in Rome; published a volume of poems, 1538; died in Rome, February, 1563 or 1564.]
  • Like it, I will not build: better, I cannot.

  • When Michael Angelo was leaving Florence for Rome, he is said to have turned back for a last look at the dome of the cathedral, and to have expressed by a couplet his despair of rivalling the work of Brunelleschi:—
  • “Io farò la sorella,
  • Più grande già; ma non più bella.”
  • HARFORD: Life, II. 91.
  • Grimm, however, says that when told many years afterwards that he would make the lantern of the sacristy of San Lorenzo in Florence far better than the dome of the cathedral, Michael Angelo replied, “Different, certainly, but not better.”
  • Worthy to be the gates of Paradise.

  • Said of the two bronze doors of the Baptistery of Florence, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti, and finished, the first (after the labor of twenty years) April 19, 1424; and the second, June 16, 1452. They have been called the first important creation of Florentine art.
  • On seeing for the first time the antique bronze equestrian statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the square of the Capitol at Rome, struck by the wonderfully lifelike appearance of the horse, Michael Angelo uttered but one word: “Cammina! (Move on!)
  • He said of Donatello’s statue of St. Mark in Florence, “So noble a figure could indeed write a Gospel.”
  • Of the intrigues of an architect named Nanni Bigio to supplant him as architect of St. Peter’s, Michael Angelo said, with that scorn which was a marked feature of his character, “He who contends with the worthless gains little.”
  • The people I painted on it were poor.

  • To Julius II., who told him to put a gilding around the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where the prophets and sibyls were painted, or it would look poor.
  • Biagio da Cesena, master of ceremonies, who had objected to the nudity of the figures in “The Last Judgment” on the wall of the Sistine Chapel, and whose likeness Michael Angelo had therefore painted in “The Inferno,” besought Paul III. to compel the artist to erase it; to which the pontiff replied, “I can release souls from purgatory, but not from hell.”
  • When Paul IV. criticised the nudity of the figures, Michael Angelo remarked, “Let him reform the world: that is much easier than correcting pictures.” Daniele da Volterra was employed to clothe some of the figures, and was consequently called “the breeches-maker.”
  • I criticise by creation, not by finding fault.

  • After drawing a large head upon the wall of a hall, to intimate that he considered the figures with which Raphael was decorating it too small.
  • Being childless, he said towards the end of his life, “My works are the children I shall leave; and if they are not worth much, they will at least live for some time.”
  • Over the device of an old man sitting before an hour-glass he wrote: “I am still learning” (Ancora imparo). Seneca says in one of his Epistles, “It is never too late to learn;” and it was a saying of Solon, “I grow old learning many things.” Goethe declares that “a man’s activity should increase with age” (Wenn man alt ist, muss man mehr thun, als da man jung war). The last words of the Emperor Septimius Severus (A.D. 146–211) were, “Let us be doing” (Laboremus).
  • A sculptor should carry his compass in his eye.

    Art is a jealous thing: it requires the whole and entire man.

  • When it was suggested that his constant labor for art must make him think of death with regret, Michael Angelo replied, “If life be a pleasure, yet, since death also is sent by the hand of the same master, neither should that displease us.”