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The Genius of Michelangelo

Gain a comprehensive introduction to one of history's greatest artists with this groundbreaking and visually dazzling course that gives you a full portrait of Michelangelo as an ambitious businessman and an unparalleled artistic genius.
Genius of Michelangelo is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 83.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best I have enjoyed many Great Courses' courses on art history and this one is at the very top. It is not merely an artistic survey. It provides a tremendous amount of context - historical, sociological, political- that is stupendous. And the visuals are amazing. I have seen David in Florence a number of times....but I would never get to see David's face-on gaze and his leonine features (as so described in this course). Awesome!
Date published: 2024-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course! This course is a real treat. Prof. Wallace is one of the world's leading scholars on Michelangelo, and in this course he provides a passionate, in-depth, year-by-year study of Michelangelo's life and work. The videos and photographs are excellent, the professor's lecture style is urgent but easy to follow, and the amount of information imparted is prodigious. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2024-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a Wonderful Course If I let myself go, I would use up all the superlatives available to me with a good thesaurus. First and foremost, Professor William E. Wallace is a great teacher. He has a real genius for describing art and architecture that absolutely made Michelangelo’s work come alive for both me and my wife. Secondly, the depth of his knowledge is amazing. Obviously, he has devoted much of his career to this subject, and it shows. Thirdly, Prof Wallace is very much a fan of Michelangelo, and his enthusiasm is evident throughout the series of classes. One part I really enjoyed was how Prof Wallace tied in what was going on with Michelangelo’s life and the Italian/Renaissance in general, with the period of creation for many of the works. It added a layer of understanding to the presentation. And just get to see many of these works that I had seen before in a much different light was worth the price of admission. At first I was little put off by the number of classes. Did I really want to spend 18 hours with this subject? My answer to you would be… I realized that I did. I learned so much about Michelangelo, how to appreciate his art and architecture… and even some of his poetry (poetry is not my thing). We were both a little sad when the series came to an end. I do have one problem with the course though. I lived in Italy for three years. I went back there for two weeks of a honeymoon with my second wife. I had seen many of the pieces and buildings touched on in the series, but now I want to go back and see them again, to look at them eyes that have been opened just ever so slightly. But then again, to be Italy is always a wonderful thing. One little confession, like the interviewer Prof Wallace mentioned at the start of the series, I sometimes confused Michelangelo with Da Vinci. Never again. Michelangelo was truly an artist/architect/man for ages, a true genius that walked among us for a spell. Professor Wallace has a genius for teaching. I highly recommend this course, if you have the least amount of interest in the subject matter.
Date published: 2024-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Series helped me to have a greater appreciation of I just finished watching this series and it made me want to go back to view Michelangelo's great works like the Slaves, Pieta and David. Professor Wallace does a great job of discussing in detail virtually all of Michelangelo's great works. I did find that it was best for me not to binge watch this series since it is pretty heavy. This truly one of the best things I have viewed on Wondrium.
Date published: 2023-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Professor Wallace makes the life and accomplishments of Michelangelo most interesting and enjoyable. His delivery is passionate and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed his lectures. Having said that, I would like to take the opportunity to suggest shorter Wondrium classes for those of us who are not majors in the subject matter and hence don't necessarily need to know every single detail on a given subject. This course is no exception to my suggestion.
Date published: 2023-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding review of art and history Watched this twice it was so good. Included history of the man and his time as well as his art
Date published: 2022-04-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Facts or Myths I was so excited to finally get the, “The Genius of Michelangelo,” I was hoping to learn something new about this great artist. I have studied him and his works for many years. This Professor stated in the first lecture that he was going to dispel the myths and get to the facts. My interest peaked I have seen many Great Courses that have done just that. But then it all came crashing down. Instead of facts this professor continued to give his own opinion as to the artist and what was happening at that time in history. Instead of facts I got personal opinions, probables, and farcical statements regarding the life and times in which this great artist lived. In the first lecture this professor states that he is going to dispel the myths and present the facts which surround Michelangelo. Then the professor proceeds to ask the question, “Was Michelangelo a homosexual?” His answer. “Probably.” This is not a fact it is a personal opinion. There is nothing in Michelangelo life that even suggests he was a homosexual. As I stated earlier I have studied this great artist for many years. In fact there is proof that the opposite is true. His letters and life style prove this out. In another lecture the professor states that Michelangelo was late in starting his apprenticeship because most boys started at the age of seven. This is also a myth. Most youths were assigned to an apprenticeship around the age of 15 or 16, some a little later, but this age was very common. In another lecture the professor claims that these boys were trained and participated in homosexual practices until the age of 30 years when they made up their own minds which way they chose to go. This was just another farcical statement. This Professor is in essence claiming that the city was filled with homosexual debauchery and that Michelangelo was taking part in all ot this. I found this course to be very offensive to the artist who was not a perfect man but was a virtuous man and committed to his work, his Lord and his family. I completed five lectures and returned the course. I could no longer listen to the farcical statements being made against this great mans character I found this course to be about dispelling the facts and miss guiding those that truely want to learn.
Date published: 2021-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic class by an amazing lecturer A truly remarkable class, by one of the best lecturers I have ever Heard. Professor Wallace is so good, run don't walk to order this class. He has extensive knowledge of the artist and places him within the framework of his time.
Date published: 2021-07-16
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Overview

In The Genius of Michelangelo, internationally recognized Michelangelo expert and award-winning Professor of Art History William E. Wallace gives you a comprehensive perspective on one of history's greatest artists. Drawing on a vast command of artistic knowledge and period detail, these 36 intellectually rewarding and visually dazzling lectures explore the relationship between truth and legend to reveal a groundbreaking new picture of Michelangelo as an artist, a businessman, an aristocrat, and a genius.

About

William E. Wallace

I became an art historian on my first trip to Italy, perhaps on that first night in Rome when, I walked to St. Peter’s in the rain and tried to grasp the enormity of this building, and its equally important place in history.

INSTITUTION

Washington University in St. Louis

Dr. William E. Wallace is the Barbara Murphy Bryant Distinguished Professor of Art History at Washington University in St. Louis, where he has taught since 1983. He earned his B.A. from Dickinson College, his M.A. from the University of Illinois, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has written more than 80 essays on Renaissance art and four books on Michelangelo, including Michelangelo at San Lorenzo: The Genius as Entrepreneur; Michelangelo: Selected Scholarship in English; and Michelangelo: The Complete Sculpture, Painting, Architecture, which was awarded the 1999 Umhoefer Prize for Achievement in the Humanities. He recently completed a scholarly biography of Michelangelo. Professor Wallace has received numerous awards and fellowships, including stays at the Villa I Tatti (Harvard University's Center for Renaissance Studies in Florence) and the American Academy in Rome. In 1990 Professor Wallace was invited to the Vatican to confer about the conservation of Michelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel. He appeared in a BBC film, The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Michelangelo's David, and served as the principal consultant for the BBC film, The Divine Michelangelo.

By This Professor

Who Was Michelangelo?

01: Who Was Michelangelo?

Michelangelo is a highly mythologized figure. This lecture begins to peel away much of the fiction that surrounds him, enabling us to approach the truth about the man, his art, and his prodigious impact on the history of art.

31 min
Artist and Aristocrat—Michelangelo's World

02: Artist and Aristocrat—Michelangelo's World

This lecture discusses the places and people of Michelangelo's world, establishing a "mental geography" and genealogy—in essence, a capsule history of the artist—that can serve as a framework for the course.

29 min
An Unconventional Beginning

03: An Unconventional Beginning

Why, when, and how did Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni become an artist? We start by examining the family connections that gave the young Michelangelo such privileged access—first to the shop of Florentine painter Domenico Ghirlandaio and then to the household of Lorenzo de' Medici himself.

31 min
Michelangelo's Youth and Early Training

04: Michelangelo's Youth and Early Training

We consider how Michelangelo's two years in the privileged environment of the Medici retarded his artistic "career" but furthered his connections among the social elite who would become his patrons before introducing his first works in marble.

30 min
Florence and Bologna in the Early 1490s

05: Florence and Bologna in the Early 1490s

The death of Lorenzo de' Medici leaves Michelangelo with neither a patron nor a means of support. We follow him to Florence, where he begins his serious study of anatomy, and then to Bologna, where his work for the Sienese sculptor Jacopo della Quercia furthers his artistic maturation.

31 min
First Visit to Rome and Early Patrons

06: First Visit to Rome and Early Patrons

This lecture recreates Michelangelo's earliest impressions of the Eternal City—his first extensive exposure to the art of the Classical past—and introduces Cardinal Raffaelle Riario and the marble sculpture he commissions from Michelangelo, the "Bacchus."

32 min
The

07: The "Bacchus" and the "Pietà"

We look at the two principal works—the "Bacchus" and the "Pietà"—carved by Michelangelo during his first sojourn in Rome. These two works represent contrasting currents that consistently run through Michelangelo's art: his interest in pagan antiquity and his profound commitment to the Christian faith.

28 min
The Return to Florence and the

08: The Return to Florence and the "David"

After first looking at the commission that brings about Michelangelo's return to Florence—the Piccolomini altar—we turn to the history of the "David," examining what Michelangelo achieved in extracting that magnificent figure from what was considered a ruined block of marble.

31 min
The

09: The "David" and "St. Matthew"

We continue our discussion of the "David"—including the implications of the city's decision to move it from its cathedral setting to Florence's very heart, the Piazza della Signoria—before turning to his commission to carve 12 apostles, only one of which, the "St. Matthew," was ever begun.

32 min
For the Republic—The

10: For the Republic—The "Battle of Cascina"

We take up one of Michelangelo's most important, although never executed, commissions, the "Battle of Cascina," a giant fresco intended for the Florentine Hall of State in direct competition with a work by Leonardo da Vinci—whose own fresco was also never completed—before turning to Michelangelo's "Bruges Madonna."

31 min
The

11: The "Taddei Tondo" and the "Pitti Tondo"

Between 1501 and 1507, an ambition-driven Michelangelo achieved both astonishing success and equally astonishing productivity, appearing to refuse no one. His commissions included the round compositions known as "tond," executed in both marble and paint, and we introduce three of these unique and surprising works.

30 min
The

12: The "Doni Tondo"

We continue our examination of the "Doni Tondo" introduced in the previous lecture, the only painting in tempera ever created by Michelangelo and one of the greatest treasures of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

30 min
Rome and the Tomb of Julius II

13: Rome and the Tomb of Julius II

This lecture introduces one of Michelangelo's most steadfast patrons, Julius II, as well as the ambitious project they conceived together. The Julius Tomb would have a 40-year history; it was a project that dogged Michelangelo for much of his life.

31 min
Bologna and the Return to Rome

14: Bologna and the Return to Rome

We discuss the tumultuous relationship and rift between Michelangelo and Julius II and the monumental bronze statue of the pope he was directed to carve in penance—a prelude to the even greater penance that lay ahead: the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

30 min
The Sistine Chapel

15: The Sistine Chapel

This lecture looks at the overall organization of one of our greatest works of art. We examine the halting beginning, the earliest narratives, and the emergence of a masterpiece: the visualization of the book of Genesis for all Western Christianity.

30 min
The Sistine Chapel, Part 2

16: The Sistine Chapel, Part 2

We continue an examination of the major narratives of the ceiling's central spine—especially the "Creation of Adam, Creation of the Sun and the Moon," and "Separation of Light and Dark"—before taking up a discussion of the ceiling's other decorations, beginning with the Prophets and Sibyls.

29 min
The Sistine Chapel, Part 3

17: The Sistine Chapel, Part 3

We conclude our discussion by looking at the Prophets and Sibyls and the well-known, but little understood male youths, or "ignudi," before concluding with the lunettes and a final consideration of the Sistine Ceiling as a magnificent whole.

28 min
A Story of Marble

18: A Story of Marble

In looking at the three years Michelangelo devotes to an unrealized commission to create an all-marble façade for the Medici church of San Lorenzo, we follow him to the quarries themselves, examining the effort required to extract tons of marble and transport it to Florence.

30 min
The Medici Chapel Sculpture

19: The Medici Chapel Sculpture

With more than 300 people assisting him on two large and simultaneous Medici projects—the Medici Chapel and Laurentian Library—Michelangelo proves that he is an effective business manager as well as something of an entrepreneur.

30 min
The Medici Chapel Sculpture, Part 2

20: The Medici Chapel Sculpture, Part 2

The Medici Chapel is the first realization of Michelangelo's longstanding ambition to combine architecture, painting, and sculpture. Although the painting campaign was aborted, and the sculpture only a fraction of his original intentions, the ensemble is satisfying, complex, and one of his foremost masterpieces.

29 min
The Medici Chapel Sculpture, Part 3

21: The Medici Chapel Sculpture, Part 3

Continuing a focus on some of the difficulties of marble carving, we look at the profound challenge Michelangelo faced in carving figures essentially at eye level, with no opportunity to view them at the much higher level at which they would ultimately be placed.

28 min
The Laurentian Library

22: The Laurentian Library

While working on the Medici Chapel, Pope Clement VII asks Michelangelo to also design a library at San Lorenzo. We focus on that library, including the magnificent staircase that leads to its entrance, and briefly consider a number of simultaneous projects also undertaken during an incredibly busy period.

31 min
Florence—A Republic under Siege, 1527–34

23: Florence—A Republic under Siege, 1527–34

In a little-known episode of his life, Michelangelo devotes himself to the defense of Florentine liberty. We examine his long-lasting contribution to fortification design and military science before considering a series of sculpted and painted works undertaken after the war, including the "David/Apollo" marble sculpture and the painting of Leda.

28 min
Inventing a New Aesthetic—The

24: Inventing a New Aesthetic—The "Non-Finito"

This lecture considers some of the greatest of Michelangelo's unfinished works—including the four "Slaves" or "Prisoners" in the Accademia Gallery—and considers the possibility of his increasing interest in intentional incompletion: a genuine exploration of the idea of the "non-finito" as a new aesthetic.

30 min
Michelangelo's Drawings, 1520–40

25: Michelangelo's Drawings, 1520–40

We look at a remarkable series of drawings Michelangelo makes for his closest friends that will revolutionize attitudes toward drawings—making them a medium to collect and treasure—before introducing the great work that would occupy him for nearly six years: the Last Judgment.

31 min
The

26: The "Last Judgment"

The fresco of the Last Judg­ment in the Sis­tine Chapel is Michelangelo's first great work for Pope Paul. More than 20 years after com­plet­ing the chap­el's ceiling, Michel­angelo again finds him­self painting a monumen­tal work at the heart of Christendom and papal au­th­or­ity, a vision of enormous scale and power.

30 min
The

27: The "Last Judgment," Part 2

The individual figures and details of the Last Judgment demonstrate Michelangelo's great inventive capacity but also reveal the unconventional nature and multiple meanings of the gigantic fresco. The work's reception was not always positive, reflecting a controversy about the number and appropriateness of the artist's nudes.

26 min
The Pauline Chapel

28: The Pauline Chapel

The frescos of the Conversion of Saul and the Crucifixion of Peter in the so-called Pauline Chapel, begun for Pope Paul III immediately after completing the Last Judgment, will be Michelangelo's final paintings.

32 min
The Completion of the Julius Tomb; Poetry

29: The Completion of the Julius Tomb; Poetry

This lecture brings to a close the long, convoluted history of this compromised but still magnificent monument—completed only after 40 years of delays and re­negotiated contracts—and considers Michel­angelo's deep friendship with Vit­toria Colonna, to whom he presented some exquisite drawings and many poems.

28 min
The Capitoline Hill Projects; the

30: The Capitoline Hill Projects; the "Brutus"

In some ways, architecture occupied most of Michelangelo's creative energies in his last decades. This lecture begins a consideration of his many architectural contributions to Rome, including the transformation of the Capitoline Hill, or Campidoglio, before turning to one of his final sculptures, the bust Brutus.

31 min
The New St. Peter's Basilica

31: The New St. Peter's Basilica

This lecture is devoted to Christendom's finest monument and one of Michelangelo's most successful architectural achievements—the design of a new St. Peter's—undertaken in 1546 after nearly 30 years of ill-designed accretions. It would remain a constant concern for the rest of his life.

30 min
Michelangelo's Roman Architecture

32: Michelangelo's Roman Architecture

In the first of two lectures devoted to Michelangelo's architectural projects for Rome, we consider his additions and "corrections" to the Farnese Palace and his innovative drawings for the new church of the Florentine nation in Rome, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini. Although the church was never built, Michelangelo's drawings vividly demonstrate his inventive, "sculptural" conception of architectural space.

30 min
Michelangelo's Roman Architecture, Part 2

33: Michelangelo's Roman Architecture, Part 2

We conclude our look at Michelangelo's architectural legacy to Rome with his innovative gate to the city, the Porta Pia; his transformation of a pagan place of leisure, the partially ruined baths of Caracalla, into a Christian church; and the more modest chapel he designed for the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

30 min
Piety and Pity—The

34: Piety and Pity—The "Florentine Pietà"

We focus on a single sculpture and singular work of art: the Florentine Pietà, which Michelangelo carved to be his own grave marker. It is an intensely personal work of art, made not on commission, but for himself; an artist's last will and testament.

30 min
The

35: The "Rondanini Pietà" and the Late Poetry

This lecture considers Michelangelo's final works. They include the Rondanini Pietà—which he worked on until a few days before dying—and a series of drawings of the Crucifixion, through which he revealed his most private thoughts and prayers and prepared himself for death.

28 min
Death of Michelangelo—The Master's Legacy

36: Death of Michelangelo—The Master's Legacy

In this lecture, we review Michelangelo's last two decades, summing up where his life and goals stood as he approached death, before going on to those final days and our attempt to come to grips with the meaning and legacy of this extraordinary life.

31 min