"Scholars and students can learn much from a careful reading of this masterpiece of nineteenth-century research, the first modern biography of this famous artist. . . . Symonds's biography stands on its own as a solid, readable, compelling, and appropriate reading for the twenty-first century."—Sixteenth Century JournalThe artistic genius of Michelangelo (1475-1564) is beyond question. One the most important figures in the history of art, his monumental paintings in the Sistine Chapel, his sculpture David in Florence, and his Pietà at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome are among the greatest human achievements of all time and remain the most visited and admired works of art in the world. Michelangelo's life has been the subject of many biographies over the centuries, but it was not until the appearance of John Addington Symonds's The Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti, in 1893, that a biographer had complete access to the artist's family archives.
The Buonarroti archives were to be available to the public with the passing of the last family member, but even when that event occurred, in 1858, material from the archives remained closely guarded and only fragments emerged through the hands of family friends. The Italian government, predisposed to Symonds for his impeccable scholarship of Renaissance art, gave Symonds full access to the Buonarroti archives in the 1880s, the first independent scholar so honored.
With the ability to consult the massive amount of material in the archives, Symonds produced the first documented, and considered by many still to be the best, biography of Michelangelo. Symonds's expertise as a historian and critic gives added depth to this biography, and it is here that the public first learned that translations of Michelangelo's poetry had been altered to opaque the artist's sexuality. Yet this great work, the last of Symonds's life, has largely been forgotten by students of Michelangelo.
In this new edition, the first in more than fifty years, preeminent art historian Creighton E. Gilbert reintroduces Symonds's masterful study of Michelangelo to a new audience through a discussion of the historical context in which the biography appeared, a biographical sketch of Symonds, an openly gay man who worked rigorously to evaluate and promote the contributions of gay artists and scholars to mainstream life, and concludes with an appreciation of The Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti, for its scholarly and literary merits, as an account of the most brilliant painter and sculptor of the Italian Renaissance.
John Addington Symonds (1840-93) was a major figure in Renaissance studies and in the history of gay rights. He was the author of numerous books on criticism and polemics, including Renaissance in Italy and his classic translation of the Life of Benvenuto Cellini.
Creighton E. Gilbert is Professor of History of Art at Yale University. He is the author of the Complete Poems and Selected Letters of Michelangelo and Michelangelo: On and Off the Sistine Ceiling.