Genius of Michelangelo

Course No. 7130
Professor William E. Wallace, Ph.D.
Washington University in St. Louis
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Course No. 7130
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Course Overview

The Sistine Chapel ceiling. The Pietà. The David. The Last Judgment. The Moses. The Dome of St. Peter's Basilica. Michelangelo's artistic achievements, in their scope and execution, seem unimaginable. His brilliance is apparent in every medium he worked in and with every tool he used. Today, more than 500 years after his unique artistry burst forth on the Renaissance world, the breadth and depth of his accomplishments still confound our attempts to grasp their full importance.

How much do we really know about Michelangelo? Conflicting viewpoints and much confusion surround many aspects of the Renaissance artist's life and art; myth and legend so envelop him that he sometimes seems more like a caricature than a complete human being. Despite a familiarity with some of his works, aspects of Michelangelo's art and life remain open to interpretation. For example:

  • Was he, in fact, difficult to work with?
  • Why did he fall out of favor with art critics until the 18th century?
  • Did he work alone or with assistants?
  • What was the significance of his name, his birthplace, and his religious beliefs?

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, unavailable in any other course. 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.

Rediscover a Master

Living nearly 89 years (twice as long as most of his contemporaries), Michelangelo Buonarroti's career spanned the glories of Renaissance Florence, the discovery of the New World, the Reformation and the stirrings of the Counter-Reformation, and the pontificates of 13 popes—9 of whom employed him at some point.

"Few artists have achieved as much as Michelangelo in so many diverse endeavors," notes Professor Wallace. "Few so completely embody our very notion of genius."

Arranged as a chronological survey of the artist's life, The Genius of Michelangelo presents a thorough understanding of Michelangelo's life and work, informed by a broad consideration of the artist and his times, as well as the specific circumstances and contexts in which he crafted his art. As you follow Michelangelo's rise, you learn to separate fact from fiction and to penetrate the myths that have long hampered a complete understanding of this unforgettable artist.

"We cannot help but wonder at the humanity, tenacity, and awe-inspiring accomplishments of such a man," remarks Professor Wallace. "Although deeply human and sometimes vulnerable, Michelangelo rose above mundane circumstances and employed his incomparable gifts and transcendent genius to create sublime works of art, for the world and for all time."

New Insights, Fascinating Stories

"The truth," notes Professor Wallace, "is that we are less likely to discover new works of Michelangelo but rather to discover new things about him." Throughout the course, you discover new insights about aspects of Michelangelo's formative years:

  • Born into a patrician family, Michelangelo spent his youth in the town of Settignano, a village of craftsmen in the stone trade whom he would later hire and use as his assistants.
  • By the time he was 12, Michelangelo was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio, one of the great Renaissance masters and the greatest artist in Florence.
  • At age 15, Michelangelo was brought by Lorenzo de' Medici into the Medici household, where he was educated alongside two Medici princes and future popes.

You also explore fascinating stories behind the creation of Michelangelo's most beloved works, all of which give you new vantage points from which to see this genius's personality at work:

  • The Pietà: Michelangelo insisted on traveling to the marble quarry himself to supervise the extraction of the marble block for this project, which is unusual considering the great number of places he could have purchased readily quarried marble in Rome. Off and on, he spent a total of four years of his life in marble quarries, supervising the extraction of marble for his favorite artistic medium: sculpture.
  • The David: Originally intended as a buttress for the Florentine Cathedral, its magnificence compelled the civic government to place it at Florence's very heart: the Piazza della Signoria. Shifting the statue from its expected religious context was the start of our modern conception of art, with an increasing burden of responsibility placed on the viewer to interpret a work's meaning.
  • The Sistine Chapel ceiling: Michelangelo was originally commissioned to paint the 12 apostles, but he successfully lobbied for a much grander and more complex scheme that illustrated major scenes from the book of Genesis, including the now-iconic scene of God bestowing Adam with life. The project was completed in four years.

A Well-Documented History

Michelangelo's work is among the most well documented and well preserved in the history of art; the bulk of his output in sculpture, painting, and architecture survives to this day. The Genius of Michelangelo draws on the master's works, as well as a wealth of additional documentation that survives, to help reconstruct the details of Michelangelo's life:

  • Nearly 1,400 letters in which more than 1,100 persons are named, creating a veritable cross-section of 16th-century society
  • More than 600 drawings, even though Michelangelo burned many of them toward the end of his life
  • Some 300 poems that he wrote, reflecting the artist's talent not just as a painter and sculptor but as a poet as well
  • Some 300 pages of miscellaneous records
  • Two biographies written during Michelangelo's lifetime that serve as testaments to his contemporary fame

A Passionate, Knowledgeable Instructor

The author of numerous books on Michelangelo, Professor Wallace has been enchanted by the Renaissance artist since a visit to St. Peter's Basilica as an undergraduate student, where he encountered the marvels of the Pietà, the Moses, and the Sistine Chapel ceiling for the first time.

His passion and knowledge of Michelangelo and his works earned him an invitation by the Vatican in 1990 to confer about the conservation of the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. In addition, Professor Wallace appeared in the BBC film The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Michelangelo's David, and served as the principal consultant for the BBC film The Divine Michelangelo.

Professor Wallace puts his teaching skills on display throughout these lectures, which feature more than 800 visuals, including stunning reproductions of Michelangelo's sculptures, paintings, and architecture, as well as rough sketches, preparatory drawings, and photographs of the places he lived and worked.

The Genius of Michelangelo, infused with the passion and knowledge of an expert instructor, enriches your appreciation of Michelangelo's many accomplishments and enhances your understanding of one of the world's greatest and most familiar artists.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    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. x
  • 2
    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. x
  • 3
    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. x
  • 4
    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. x
  • 5
    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. x
  • 6
    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. x
  • 7
    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. x
  • 8
    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. x
  • 9
    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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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 tondi, executed in both marble and paint, and we introduce three of these unique and surprising works. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x

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Your professor

William E. Wallace

About Your Professor

William E. Wallace, Ph.D.
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...
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Genius of Michelangelo is rated 5.0 out of 5 by 74.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In a breath: excellent course I took the lectures of this course almost in one breadth. Professor William E Walace is an enthusiasti of the life and the works of the great Michelangelo. Besides a beautiful italian accent when he speaks italian words and names, his deep knowledege of the life and the details of each of the great masterpieces of Michelangelo are impressive. Prof. Walace shows us not only the scultures, but also the paintings and the architectural marvellous built by the Great Italian. What is more interesting in this course is that Prof. Walace worried to show us a lot of drawings made by Michelangelo, no only as an actual plan to follow but as many attempts before took his last decision about the work to do. The analyses of the Pietá and the Last Judgement worth all the course. As I already visited the Vatican and had the unique opportunity to see all these beautiful works of the Genius, I am fully compensated and absolutely satisfied with this Course. It is highly recommended for all those to know more and in details the life and works of Michelangelo. The video option (or DVD or CD) is imperative, of course.
Date published: 2018-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course! Fantastic course content delivered by a true expert on Michelangelo. I have studied the Renaissance master for many years and still felt like a "rookie" learning so much more than I had previously known. Dr. Wallace's course is comprehensive and full of historical facts and interesting anecdotes about the artist. This course is highly recommended for anyone even remotely interesting in Michelangelo!
Date published: 2018-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Thorough and fascinating explanation of Michelangelo's art and life.
Date published: 2017-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am enjoying every second of watching this program. I watch it at all hours of the day - which I have never done before. It is wonderful to see, and have explained, the various sights I have been to in my 4 visits to Rome.
Date published: 2017-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Michaelangelo comes alive in this presentation! Presentor is enthusiastic and shares his research with energy!
Date published: 2017-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pre-Florence/Rome trip class - excellent! These 36 lessons will be very helpful before my upcoming trip to Florence/Rome which will be chalk full of tours in both places. I appreciate the blending of history, politics and religion along with Michelangelo's life and art. Highly recommend this class.
Date published: 2017-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorites I love the topic, Michelangelo Wallace has complete command of the material, his presentation is outstanding. I have watched this excellent DVD over and over again. I wish that Wallace would create another course - Leonardo ?
Date published: 2017-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Genius of Michelangelo Learned a great deal more about Michelangelo, the person, the artist, sculptor, and architect. The course has helped to appreciate Michelangelo's genius and artistic gifts to our world. The learning I acquired has inspired me to think more creatively.
Date published: 2017-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A really great piece of teaching I have had way more education than any sane man should subject themselves to. And I have to say that this course stands out as an educational experience. It was not only well presented and packed with information, it was enjoyable. I find myself lecture after lecture, saying to my wife ( who was trained in art history) "I have to tell you about this" or "you have to see this." I look forward to each lecture, and now that I am nearing the end I am regretting that I soon will not be able to sit down in the evening and spend some time with Professor Wallace and Michelangelo.
Date published: 2016-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My second purchase I am about one third of the way thru the course. Very pleased with the detailed information about Michelangelo. Good course.
Date published: 2016-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Genius of Michelangelo A fascinating look at the life and works of Michelangelo. A wealth of information on the man and a generous sampling of his works.
Date published: 2016-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Genius of Michelangelo This was a well presented and very interesting course. The professor made the content interesting through examples, photographs and film clips especially concerning the quarrying of marble
Date published: 2016-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course has made me rethink Michelangelo - the professor has brought out much of the emotional and personal background which Michelangelo used for motivation in his work - this course teaches a very human and personal Michelangelo - a very beautiful new side to this genius is presented.
Date published: 2016-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course This is possibly the best course I have purchased. Professor Wallace worked on the restoration of the Sistine Chapel, and is a true Michelangelo scholar. He also is a fabulous lecturer. His commentary on Michelangelo's sculptures, paintings and architecture is interesting and informative.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hardly Non-finito Video download "There is nothing within a block of marble that cannot be realized by the superior artist, provided his hand obeys his intellect." (“Non ha l’ottimo artista alcun concetto”, from a poem written by Michelangelo late in his long life, Chapter 35). These lines for me define the mind of Michelangelo as it applies not only to his work in sculpture, but in all his artistic endeavors, obviously extending to poetry. These lines also provide us with a life-lesson that can be used to guide our personal lives and work habits (not only to those with the intellect of Mr Buonarroti). For those wondering about investing in these lectures (they aren't often heavily discounted), be aware that these are detailed lectures about the life works of an artistic genius, with only a bare-bones biography (we are referred to Giorgio Vasari, who is heavily referenced). And what wonderful lectures they are. Dr Wallace is an expert in presenting the meanings of some of the famous, and not-so-famous works...from 'David' to the Sistine and Pauline Chapels to 'The Pietà' (and the equally impressive later-in-life non finito Pietàs...Florentine and Rondanini ) to St Peter's Dome, down to the hundreds of sketches that reveal the inner workings of his artistic mind. The constant thread of all his work was his incredible piety and devotion to his religion. His 'invention' of non-finito was not an effort to promote procastination, but rather a powerful artistic effect that emphasizes the theory known today as 'less is more'. While he might not have been someone with whom I'd share a beer after work (he never seemed to be done working, anyway), he is someone for whom I have the greatest admiration and find inspiration to try to be the best that I can be (I'm thinking about repainting the ceiling in the bedroom). Highly time to buy is when on sale (70% off) and during the 'additional 50% off' patient, it's worth it!
Date published: 2016-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Renaissance Genius Lives On Most when thinking of Michelangelo, like I, think of the Sistine Chapel, the David, and the Pieta, but do not realize that Michelangelo was a gifted architect, poet, and artist of charcoal drawings. I cannot adequately recount the lessons of this extensive, detailed course, but I can write that it is one of the most compelling Great Courses I have completed. Not only does Professor Wallace recount the details of Michelangelo's life, but he gives insights into the papacy of his times, the extent of the Medici wealth and influence (especially on Michelangelo's development), and on the art and architecture of Florence and Rome. I must acknowledge the genius of Professor Wallace in preparing and presenting this course. He has expansive knowledge of Italy and of the Italian Renaissance. His love of Michelangelo is almost sacred; the viewer can almost feel his emotions as he describes Michelangelo's creations, recounts Michelangelo's labors in the marble quarries and at work carving marble, and finally in conveying Michelangelo's doubts of his own faithfulness to the Catholic Church. Michelangelo's final years were spent drawing and carving the crucified Jesus. Professor Wallace brings these events and emotions to life!
Date published: 2015-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine Introduction to Art History for any Engineer One of the true joys of the Great Courses is the ability to reach out to a field where you have absolutely no expertise, and learn from someone accomplished in that field. When sculptors are asked the identity of the greatest sculptors of the sixteenth century, they can claim Michelangelo, on the basis of “David” and “The Pieta”. Similarly for painters, who can look at “The Last Judgement” or the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, who can claim Michelangelo as one of their own. And architects, based on St. Peter's and the Laurentian Library and, following Professor Wallace's lectures, engineers can claim him as one of theirs. Most of us are more familiar with the engineering skills of Leonardo da Vinci, a contemporary of Michelangelos than with Michelangelo himself, but as a practicing engineer, Leonardo must stand in Michelangelo's shadow. Doctor Wallace pointed out that Michelangelo deserves credit for his ability as an engineer. At a time when mechanics of materials had not even been cataloged as a specific topic of specialization, this man's knowledge of stone was unparalleled in the world. As an engineer who has worked on moving large, heavy, expensive items, I should have been aware that Michelangelo surmounted weighty problems moving marble from the quarry to his shops and finally to his patron's site. It would be impressive even today. Professor Wallace brings details like this to the forefront of the student's knowledge. Coming from a technical background, this is the first course I have ever taken which could be called art history. It is fascinating, Listening to the professor's lecture as Michelangelo evolves from a young, brash artist to a supreme position in the art world. And it wasn't simply the great art. His choice of patrons showed a superior organizational and business sense, using his familial position and contacts to advance his career and his art. The only piece of Michelangelo's art I have seen personally was the Pieta, while it was on display in New York City. Professor Wallace describes this piece in detail, and I really wish I had seen the lecture before I saw the piece. The sculpture was so overpowering that the sense of being overwhelmed is all I remember. Professor Wallace goes into such detail that you can almost feel the chisels as the piece is revealed. The professor covers each of the major pieces of Michelangelo's body of work, He explains the histories and the cultural content of each, and often, the technology involved. This course is itself an impressive piece of work. Professor Wallace presents the material with a studied, suppressed excitement that is, in a word, contagious. He can excite the student on several planes, from the cerebral to the emotive, without resorting to the feigned excitement which American consumers are so accustomed to, even in educational settings.
Date published: 2015-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The nearest model of perfection, Michelangelo In this excellent course I learned several of the many facets of a truly renaissance man: sculptor, painter, architect and poet. I think it is a good idea to take this course, along with the great course on Leonardo by Professor George R. Bent (as I did). Although Michelangelo and Leonardo did not work together, their lives illustrate the best of the high renaissance.
Date published: 2015-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive Treatment of an Extraordinary Artist This course is a gem. Bill Wallace skillfully treats Michelangelo from various facets and nevertheless tells a cohesive, captivating story. Illustrations are copious and of very high quality. What is most apparent is Professor Wallace's passion for his subject. That is an infectious experience that reminds us of our best classes in college.
Date published: 2015-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Much More than David and the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo is famous for good reason, but his amazing talent created so much more than just the few things most people think of when they hear his name. This course is a grand tour through his life and his work and is an example of what a great course should be. This course can be split into three interleaving parts: 1. A biography of Michelangelo. I feel it is important to understand who the person is and Wallace does an excellent job introducing us to Michelangelo. 2. A history of Italy during the time period in which Michelangelo lived. This puts Michelangelo's life into context and explains why he took on the projects that he did, why those projects were available, and why they were done the way he did them. 3. And, of course, a detailed look at an astonishing number of the works of Michelangelo. This includes such important details as who the work was for, whether it was finished, what artistic details are important, and even how the work should be displayed and viewed. That last item was truly an eye opener - I'd never really given a lot of thought to how high a sculpture should be displayed or how it should be lit. One of the things I was most surprised to learn is how many projects Michelangelo never finished. This course also showed how interesting a course on art could be and has inspired me to buy many other art courses from The Great Courses.
Date published: 2015-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All-encompassing Examination I thoroughly enjoyed this course, although, if you are only interested in overview of Michelangelo's most famous works, this is not what you are looking for. However, if you are interested in a thorough, engaging examination of Michelangelo's art, life , and times, then you will love the course. While I enjoyed Professor Wallace's overall presentation, I found his storytelling to be rather rambling at times, which is why I gave the professor presentation 4 stars instead of 5. However, this did not distract from my enjoyment of the course, and I enjoyed his lectures and feel the course benefits immeasurably from both his knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject.
Date published: 2014-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Michelangelo Champion This was an excellent course. Good visuals, good presentation, interesting and informative.
Date published: 2014-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from enchanting I agree with all of those who felt this to be one of the best courses. I personally believe it is by far "the best course". Michelangelo’s life and work were extraordinary and his production unique. To go through his life and work is by itself a magnificent cavalcade through art and history . In this course one has the fortune of being guided by the company of Professor Wallace. He talks about Michelangelo with precision and extraordinary passion. One almost has the impression of hearing a father who proudly and emotionally reports on his beloved son’s magnificent successes. All this, while we admire the extraordinary beauty of Michelangelo’s sculptures, his architecture and his poetry. Of the last there is just a glimpse, but the natural reaction, at least for me, was to order a full copy of his glorious and intensely religious verses. The combination of a marvelous subject and a description of his opus within the historical context provide an enchanting course. As somebody else said, its only defect is that it ends. “Beautiful and mortal things pass and do not last’”. But this exceptional and splendid course leaves an enduring memory and an intense desire to go (again?) to Italy, to see at least the Pietà, the David, the Sistine chapel and the Capitol.
Date published: 2013-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive with Great Visuals One of the best courses I have ever watched. Not only is the Professor easy to understand and clearly interested, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about his subject, but the extensive use of visuals really adds significantly to this course. I enjoyed learning more about Michelangelo as a person and about all the aspects of his artistic achievements. Because of how well-known works like the David, the Sistine Chapel, and the Last Judgement are, it was good to spend adequate time on lesser known works, especially in the realm of architecture. Fascinating information about the stone quarries and the process of sculpture, as well as the discussions and examples of drawings, for sculpture, painting, and buildings. I also enjoyed the way the Professor peppered his discussions with quotations from Michelangelo's assistant and contemporaries. This was one of those courses that made time fly. Also, it was an incredibly enjoyable way to learn a lot about the artist,the times, and his art forms. I agree with other reviewers who have indicated a hope that there will be more courses from Professor Wallace.
Date published: 2013-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strong course I agree with the very positive ratings of Wallace and hope he will teach more Great Courses. It is welcome to have an indepth look at an artist with an ample number of lectures. My interest was greater in those lectures which focused more on the works of art as opposed to those which focused more on biography. I would like more on other sculpture, or on Michaelangelo's contemporaries.
Date published: 2013-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nothing Else Quite Like It One of a kind: enthusiasm defines a lot of good teachers but Wallace involves himself in his subject with a passionate intensity I don't think I've seen anyplace else in the catalog. You get the sense that he has tried chipping the marble, daubing the paint onto the wet plaster, even blasting the stone out of the mountainside, if not in reality though certainly in imagination (from the look of those hands, I'll go with reality). So also with the person: you can tell he resonates with M's pride, his melancholy, even his irascibility. I'm not ready to follow him everywhere in these flights of enthusiasm but I can't think of anybody else in the catalog so engaged or engaging.
Date published: 2012-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very best I have watched This was easily the most engaging and interesting of the 10 or so courses from The Teaching Company that I have seen. Professor Wallace is a subperb lecturer, and kept the course interesting from start to finish. The visuals also focused on the artwork rather than the lecturer talking, as is a problem in some courses where the visuals may be less compelling. Anyone with an interest in Michelangelo will love this course.
Date published: 2012-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Wallace brings Michelangelo Alive! I love Michelangelo and have seen a great deal of his work. But this course by Dr. Wallace is so alive with information not only about the artist, his life, but also of the world he lived in politically as well as socially that I have learned even more about this genius. It is wonderful, pure and simple . It is also so thrilling to hear Dr. Wallace who was part of the restoration project (as a scholar) share about the Sistine Chapel. This man has done all of the work for us and now we can sit back and enjoy his efforts. Truly a worthwhile series that be found no where else. Claudia in Jacksonville, Florida
Date published: 2012-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Renaissance branding DVD review. THE GENIUS OF MICHELANGELO is a full-blown, year-by-year, art project-after-art project exploration of a genius’ career, a man who epitomized his country and age. He also foreshadowed something that would become much more common in later centuries: the European artist as superstar whose every project showed a unique style that “branded” his past works and future expected output. By buying into it, his patrons shared in a new kind of immortality. The Bible may have provided the figures and themes, but it was the style that smothered the earthly rivalries between Italy’s leading art-patron families with awe-inspiring tinsel. Michelangelo himself, as Dr Wallace repeats many times in his lectures, fancied himself of noble origin and did all he could to promote his aristocratic connections. His association with Florence and the Medici family allowed him, along with his incredible talent of course, to skip the many years of servitude that came with apprenticeship in a master’s workshop. He associated himself with different painters and sculptors, learned quickly and moved on. On first viewing Dr Wallace’s excellent lecture series, several assertions stood out for me. — On Michelangelo’s much-discussed sexuality, he seems to have been bisexual in his early youth, but his work soon absorbed much of his energy. We live in a s*x-obsessed age eager to confer identity through bed-sheet exploits, but Renaissance culture allowed for more ambiguity as long as the family line was perpetuated. In any case, Michelangelo never married. Too busy. — In connection with several pieces, Wallace emphasized the importance of Michelangelo’s pre-planned observer point-of-view. The PIETA, for example, was designed to be seen from higher up, thus emphasizing Christ. At present, it is exhibited slightly higher, behind glass. Ironically, the iconic image is now all about the youthful virgin’s sense of loss, not Michelangelo’s original plan. — His tendency to use “Schwarzeneggerian” figures with twisted, muscle-bound torsos even in the case of female figures gradually grew in time, including of course the two SISTINE CHAPEL projects (ceiling and Last Judgment). Some explain this through the lack of nude female models at the time. This may have been a factor, but (and this is only my 2 cents worth) I can’t help but feel the Pieta’s sculptor knew very well how women are built. Instead (ahem…) it makes more sense to me that he came to exaggerate musculature as a style, a signature, just as El Greco (1541-1614) later elongated his figures. Exaggeration was a much more effective “see what I can do” than technical slavery to reality. It also bound the artist with his patron into a common artistic choice. Both gained renown in the process. I fully intend to see this course more than once. I’m sure I will see new things. I could go on and on since Michelangelo is a very interesting figure. TTC customers interested in this lecture, however, should know that this is a very detailed overview of a single (albeit famous) artist. If your interest in Michelangelo is only casual, the courses on Renaissance or Western art might be more to your liking.
Date published: 2011-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation I recently vacationed in Rome and Florence which inspired me to purchase the DVDs for this course. I wish I completed Professor Wallace's course before going to Italy. I learned so much on Michelangelo during my visit to Italy but the knowledge gained after viewing the course is invaluable. The DVDs have a lot of pictures and diagrams. Professor Wallace is clearly knowledgeable on Michelangelo. You also gain more insight in the history of Italy during Michelangelo's time. I would definitely purchase any future courses by this brilliant lecturer. This is clearly a job well done.
Date published: 2011-06-26
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