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Michelangelo: The Artist, the Man and his Times Paperback – July 25, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1107673694 ISBN-10: 1107673690

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107673690
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107673694
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #578,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...the artist who emerges from these pages is paradoxically a far richer character than the one captured in fiction-as complicated as his art, and as fiercely intelligent as his times." -Ann Landi, ArtNews

"Wallace's (novel) is a detailed investigation that will repay the attention of a well-informed reader already familiar with Michelangelo's art."
-ADRIAN W. B. RANDOLPH,Dartmouth College

"Don't be intimidated by Wallace's reputation as one of the world's leading authorities on Michelangelo: this is a highly readable, and often very funny, tour through Michelangelo's life and career. It gives a fresh assessment of Michelangelo, showing him not as the moody genius of legend so much as a deft business manager who, among other things, gave his workmen nicknames like Stumpy and Fats. Modern CEOs could learn much from him."
-Ross King, The Daily Beast

Book Description

Written from the words of Michelangelo and his contemporaries, this biography not only tells his own stories but also brings to life the culture and society of Renaissance Florence and Rome. Michelangelo's belief in his patrician status fueled his lifelong ambition to improve his family's financial situation and to raise the social standing of artists. Michelangelo's ambitions are evident in his writing, dress, and comportment, as well as in his ability to befriend, influence, and occasionally say "no" to popes, kings, and princes.

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Customer Reviews

Very, very informative book.
Donald H. Wolfe
While passion for Michelangelo is certainly enhanced in Wallace's splendid work, it is the insight to the man and his world that fascinated me.
Jerry McAdams
This book provides an insight into the personality and context of the man which are very clear, especially through the use of his writings.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Panyard on November 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wallace's book is different from other Michelangelo biographies in that he used Michelangelo's writings (letters and poems) as the basis of his book more so than other authors. This method provides greater insight into the psychology of the man. As a psychology professor rather than a historian, I appreciated his approach. I have read many of the existing biographies, and found this one informative and useful.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By John Edwards on August 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Michelangelo, The Artist, the Man, and His Times" is a watershed event, marking a generational transformation in the way we think about the greatest artist of western civilization. This is important. We live in the shadow of Michelangelo. The relationship between creative people and wealthy, powerful patrons: the powerful coming (or should come) as supplicants to the creative--was established by Michelangelo, and ever since, western artists have, often unconsciously, modeled themselves on what they believe Michelangelo to have been like.

Relying on new scholarship, much of it his own (and some the result of exhaustive investigation by Rab Hatfield into Michelangelo's banking records), Wallace demolishes the myth that has grown up around (or instead of) the man. Where we were once asked to believe the artist was an aloof, grouchy, troubled, hypochondriacal loner given to rages and outbursts of violence, and a man wholly unable to work with others in any kind of joint project, Wallace shows, thoroughly and convincingly, that Michelangelo wry, funny, and likeable, was at the center of a large cadre of friends, family, and admirers. He was generous with his money, his time, his concern for others, and his advice. This was a man who could supervise teams of over three hundred construction workers during the initial building phases of the Laurentine Library, and who raised a four-year-old niece and later a nephew. Michelangelo playing with a little girl, on the floor drawing pictures of her feet with her is not the Michelangelo we have been given to expect. The various stories offered up by Vasari and others have been taken by other writers as historical truth. Wallace is careful to sift through the historical record and filter out suspiciously tall tales.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sally Polzin on December 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The only reason I gave four rather than five stars is it would have been nice to refer to more pictures while reading about specific works. I realize this would have increased the price of the book and there are plenty of other sources for reference but I like things in one package. That being said, this is a both a scholary book and a very enjoyable biography. I feel I have a much better understanding of the man and his relationships with all the popes he worked for (especially Julius II), his family, his feelings for Florence and his personality. I have had the usual college art history courses and a lot of medieval/renaissance courses but I learned so much from this author's use of the artist's letters. But you could easily enjoy this book by having as one other reviewer said a "tourists's knowledge" of Michelangelo's better known works. It was a "good read" and I was sorry when I finished the book. I wanted more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By GiovanniGF on September 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I enjoyed this breezy biography, I wish it had been more substantial when it came to describing Michelangelo's art; it's difficult to see what he contributed to the Renaissance from the mostly superficial descriptions of his work in the book. Wallace spends much more time describing contracts, logistics, and Michelangelo's testy relationship with his nephew, which is understandable because the book is based on the artist's correspondence, but it ends up minimizing his achievements. I would have appreciated a more indepth analysis of Michelangelo's feelings towards the art of his peers - particularly Raphael and Da Vinci, who only receive surprisingly brief mentions.

As for the supposedly important new angle that Michelangelo considered himself an aristocrat, it doesn't affect our view of his work or life substantially, though it does help explain some of his behavior towards his patrons. More interesting was Wallace's debunking of the popular representation of Michelangelo as an antisocial hermit. The book makes clear that he had many significant friendships and that he was gracious and often generous.

I would recommend this biography but would urge readers to supplement it with another book that considers Michelangelo's art more closely, such as Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling or Renaissance Rivals: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. Vairavan on August 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a keen reader of good biographies, and I have long wanted to read one of Michelangelo. This
book by William Wallace met my expectations. It is a very well written book about the artistic
genius most people in the western world know about.

The author uses correspondence between Michelangelo and others extensively in presenting a very
interesting portrait of Michelangelo, his life, devotion, genius and charater. The letters and
quotations seem to fit naturally and do not in anyway interfere with the beautiful flow of the

One minor point that I found rather unwelcome was the author's frequent references to the subject's
death ahead of its time thus preventing some anticipation by the reader. Despite this shortcoming,
I found the book to be extremely well written. I would strongly recommend it to anyone interested
in reading about Michelangelo, one of the greatest artists who ever lived.
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