Michelangelo's Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs (c. 1492) is
hailed as the most advanced figure composition of its time. With this
sculpture, it is hard to imagine any classical work available to the
young Michelangelo that he had not already surpassed in quality and
depth of emotion. The extreme violence of Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs, a twisting turmoil of human misery, foreshadows the anguished figures of Last Judgment. This piece's subject and mood contrast with the sacred reverie of Michelangelo's Madonna of the Stairs.
Taken together, these two early pieces already show with startling
clarity the two opposite strains in Michelangelo's temperament.
Michelangelo's Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs is a
relief in marble. Measuring 33-1/4 x 35-5/8 inches, it
hangs in the Casa Buonarroti in Florence.
While the subject matter of Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs is based on the gory accounts of the Roman poet Ovid, there are no specific acts of violence evident in the piece. Michelangelo chose to represent the brutal tale in symbolic terms, allowing violent passion and tragedy to be expressed through the interaction of struggling, anonymous human bodies. Even on closer inspection, no actual blows are shown and no individual figure is identifiable, leaving only a glorious and turbulent ballet.
More typical of Michelangelo's subject matter than the Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs are the variety of Madonnas he sculpted. The next section of this article provides information on one of the most beautiful, the Bruges Madonna.
To learn more about Michelangelo, art history, and other famous artists, see: