Michelangelo Paintings

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) was perhaps more a sculptor at heart than he was a painter, and thus Vasari quoted him saying, "I cannot live under pressures from patrons, let alone paint."

It seems impossible that the artist responsible for the grand and glorious frescoes on the Sistine Chapel walls and ceiling often declared that he was not a painter. Imagine the wealth of talent an artist must possess to create such vivid and triumphant work. And consider that Michelangelo was working against his own will and under the weight of self-doubt -- only then can one truly begin to appreciate the unparalleled genius of Michelangelo, the painter.

Describing himself as first and foremost a sculptor, Michelangelo often expressed regret that he had not dedicated his life fully to the art of sculpture. He even signed his letters and contracts "Michelangelo, the Sculptor."

The artist's dislike for painting is plainly illustrated in the fact that he found it to be opposed to his chosen art form. Even in his seventies, Michelangelo suggested to Benedetto Varchi, in response to Varchi's study of the relative merits of painting and sculpture, that "painting seems to me more to be held good the more it approaches sculpture, and sculpture to be held bad the more it approaches painting: and therefore I used to think that sculpture was the lantern to painting, and that between the one and the other was that difference which there is between the sun and the moon."

In spite of his dismissive attitude toward painting, Michelangelo proved to be a gifted painter of sacred art. In fact, he surpassed his contemporaries in expressive intensity and skill to become the reluctant visionary of Italian Renaissance painting.

This article explores some of Michelangelo's paintings, his methods and techniques, and the subjects of his art. Follow the links below to learn more.

  • Doni Madonna: This painting shows the sculptural quality to Michelangelo's paintings, the three-dimensional force that they possess. See Doni Madonna by Michelangelo.
  • Libyan Sibyl study: This study for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the finest examples of Michelangelo's sketches for that work. Learn more here.
  • Crucifixion:(c. 1541): This drawing has many features in common with Michelangelo's sculptures, and as such reiterates the artist's comment about painting approaching sculpture. Get the details on Crucifixion on this page.
  • Crucifixion:(1540s-50s): Michelangelo became increasingly introspective in his art as he grew older. Crucifixion, and other works from this period, reflects his inner turmoil.

The first painting in this article is Doni Madonna, which is a Michelangelo tondi, rich in symbolism and visual depth. Go to the next page to learn more about this work. To learn more about Michelangelo, art history, and other famous artists, see: