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Ascanio Condivi was a young pupil and assistant of Michelangelo's who gained the trust and confidence of the great artist. His biography of Michelangelo to a large extent is based on the artist's own words, tells the story of his life, his relationship with his patrons, his objectives as an artist, and his accomplishments, forming the basis of a biography that has been central to the study of Michelangelo for four centuries.
The significance of Condivi's text was recognized early on. Within fifteen years of its publication in , Vasari incorporated much of it to correct and revise his biography of Michelangelo in the second edition of his Lives of the Artists. But, although Vasari knew Michelangelo well, the sculptor never confided in him to the extent that he did in Condivi, making this the indispensable source for the life of Michelangelo.
First published in , this translation is now available in paperback for the first time and includes a revised introduction based on new research, as well as an up-to-date bibliography and endnotes section. Alice Sedgwick Wohl is an independent scholar and translator. The Life of Michel-Angelo. Ascanio Condivi. Hellmut Wohl. Alice Sedgwick , Alice Sedgwick Wohl.
The Life of Michelangelo
Ascanio Condivi — 10 December was an Italian painter and writer. Generally regarded as a mediocre artist, he is primarily remembered as the biographer of Michelangelo. He moved to Rome circa , where he became an acquaintance of Michelangelo. In he published Vita di Michelagnolo [ sic ] Buonarroti ,  an authorised account of Michelangelo's life over which his subject had complete control. The Vita was partly a rebuttal of hostile rumours that were being perpetuated about the artist, namely that he was arrogant, avaricious, jealous of other artists, and reluctant to take on pupils. Condivi's Vita denies that Michelangelo was indebted to any other artist and claims that he was self-taught he was in fact a pupil of Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Michelangelo’s Duelling Biographers
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. Of all the many lives of Michael Angelo that have been written, that by his friend and pupil, Ascanio Condivi, is the most valuable. For not only is it a contemporary record, like the lives inserted by Giorgio Vasari in the two editions of his famous book, "The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects," published in Florence in and ; but Condivi's work has almost the authority of an autobiography, many phrases are in the same words, as certain letters in the hand of Michael Angelo still in existence, especially those relating to the early life and the ancestry of the master, to his favourite nephew Lionardo, and concerning the whole story of the Tragedy of the Tomb to Francesco Fattucci and others. Condivi's description of his master's personal appearance is so detailed that we can see him with his sculptor's callipers measuring the head of his dear master, and gazing earnestly into his eyes, recording the colours of their scintillations, with the patience of a painter. Extracts have been given, and it has been the main resource of every writer on the master; but the faithful and reverent character of the whole work can only be given in a complete translation, its transparent honesty, and its loving devotion. Even had the subject of this naif and unscholarly narrative been an ordinary man in an ordinary period, it would have been worth translating for its truth to life and human nature, much more, therefore, when it is about the greatest craftsman of the Cinque Cento. Condivi published his "Vita di Michael Angelo Buonarroti" on July 16, ; probably incited thereto by the master himself, who desired to correct certain misstatements of his excellent friend, Giorgio Vasari, without hurting that worthy's feelings.
Almost all the famous anecdotes about Michelangelo come from two books. Both those writers knew Michelangelo and wrote while he was alive. Or perhaps of how the pen is mightier than the paintbrush. Because though Vasari made his living, and a good living, as a painter, architect, and sculptor, his lasting and influential work was a book. Most men cannot tell good painting from bad but they all could be told where and how to look. And that criticism came complete with a ranking of all the artists; and for many it has not changed in all these four hundred and fifty years.