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#18 Michelangelo, God’s Architect

Updated: May 10, 2022

Conversation with William E. Wallace

May 8, 2021

The recording of this session is available for $10.

At age 71, Michelangelo Buonarroti, carver of the Pietà, David, Moses and painter of the Sistine Chapel -- was suddenly busier than ever. In 1546, Pope Paul III handed Michelangelo control of the beleaguered St. Peter’s project -- a study in architectural mismanagement, plagued by flawed design and faulty engineering. Assessing the situation with his uncompromising eye and razor-sharp intellect, Michelangelo overcame the furious resistance of Church officials to persuade the Pope that it was time to start over. For the remaining 18 years of his life, Michelangelo devoted himself to constructing the largest building in the world, and the artist’s greatest masterpiece.

In this interview, we talked about Michelangelo's last two decades, his last creations, family relations, loss of dear friends, and ultimately, his own mortality. This is the story of a person who never retired yet gained strength and vitality by devoting himself to his most important creation.

While Michelangelo was the greatest artist of his time, he nonetheless considered himself an aristocrat of noble birth. He aspired to be treated as a gentleman, that is, someone who does not work with his hands and someone who does not carry a ruler... Ultimately, Michelangelo proved remarkably successful in sustaining both roles: artisan and aristocrat.

William E. Wallace is a world renowned expert on Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti. He is the author/editor of seven different books on Michelangelo, including the award winning, Michelangelo: The Complete Sculpture, Painting and Architecture (1998, now owned by Rizzoli Intl. with more than 100,000 copies in print); Michelangelo at San Lorenzo: The Genius as Entrepreneur (Cambridge, 1994); and Discovering Michelangelo (Rizzoli, 2012). His biography of the artist, Michelangelo: The Artist, the Man and his Times (Cambridge University Press, 2010) was issued in paperback in 2011.

He has been a principal consultant for two BBC television programs on Michelangelo, and has taped a 36-lecture audio-visual course, “The Genius of Michelangelo” for “The Teaching Company.” He is currently working on a late-life biography of Michelangelo, from age 70 to 89, that traces Michelangelo’s building of St. Peters in Rome (God’s Architect), and how at age 80 he became the world’s greatest architect.

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