Notes of Lessons: Art, Class IV

Notes of Lessons: Art, Class IV

[We have thought that it might be of use to our readers (in their own families) to publish from month to month during the current year, Notes of Lessons prepared by students of the House of Education for the pupils of the Practising School. We should like to say, however, that such a Lesson is never given as a tour de force, but is always an illustration or an expansion of some part of the children’s regular studies (in the Parents’ Review School), some passage in one or other of their school books.—Ed.]

Group: Art • Class IV • Time: 35 minutes

By Elsie R. Tetley
The Parents’ Review, 1906, pp. 67-69

Michael Angelo


I. To increase the girls’ knowledge of the life of Michael Angelo, and their appreciation of his work.

II. To point out the chief characteristics of his style, viz., passion, strength, and perfection of line.

III. To contrast his work with that of several other artists, earlier and later.


Step I.—Show the girls a picture by Michael Angelo, and ask them who painted it, with their reasons for assigning it to Michael Angelo.

Step II.—Draw from the girls what they already know of Michael Angelo, and then give a short sketch of his life and work.

He was born in 1475, at Caprese in Tuscany, and was sent out to be nursed by a stonemason’s wife. His father, Leonardo diLudovico Buonarotti Simoni, was a poor gentleman of Florence, but he was very proud, and thought it degrading for his son to become a sculptor, so with hard words and blows, he tried to drive away his love for it. Michael Angelo was sent to school till he was thirteen, when, having already shown extraordinary talent, he was sent to the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandajo to learn sculpture. He remained there three years and then went to the garden-school of Lorenzo the Magnificent, to study antique sculpture. While there he executed his two first works, “The Fight of the Centaurs,” and the “Madonna,” both bas-reliefs. Lorenzo died in 1492, and Michael Angelo fled to Bologna for a year, and then returned home to Florence, proceeding thence to Rome for four years. He was then called back to Florence where he executed his “David.” In 1503, Julius II. became Pope, and immediately sent for Michael Angelo and commissioned him to design his tomb. Michael Angelo worked on it for forty years, but hindered all the time by the intrigues and spite of his enemies. He was ordered to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and this occupied four years, but when completed, was the most stupendous work ever done by the hand of man. Then Julius died, and Leo X. who succeeded him, took no interest in the tomb; but ordered Michael Angelo to beautify Florence first, by executing tombs for Guiliano and Lorenzo di Medici, and then by rebuilding the façade of the church of San Lorenzo. Even now he was not left in peace, but was hindered as much as possible in the collecting of the marble. While he was working on these two tombs, Florence was attacked, and, having studied fortification, Michael Angelo was foremost in the defence of the city. It was taken, and Michael Angelo hid for some time, but then recommenced work on the tombs. Again he was hindered by a command to adorn the Sistine Chapel with frescoes. He painted the “Last Judgment,” finishing it in 1541. Next year, he was appointed architect of St. Peter’s, Rome; and worked on it till his death in 1564.

Step III.—Show reproductions of some of Michael Angelo’s paintings, and point out their chief characteristics, viz., strength and passion, with perfect drawing, force of line and marvellous anatomy.

Step IV.—Contrast his conception of the Madonna with examples by Murillo, Botticelli, and Raphael; and notice the chief differences in style and execution, especially his force and passionate work, their gentleness, peace, and rather effeminate beauty.

Reproductions of Paintings (to be shown at the lesson).

By Michael Angelo. Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel:—

Doni Madonna.
Details.            Erythrean Sibyl, Temptation of Eve.

Last Judgment.
Detail.             Charon.

Florentine Soldiers surprised while bathing in the Arno.

By Murillo.      Holy Family (from the Louvre).

By Botticelli.   Madonna and Child (Uffizzi Gallery).

By Raphael.     Madonna della Tenda.

Step V.—Show reproductions (from photographs) of his chief sculpture, noticing that they are characterised by the same features as the paintings, but are more sublime and magnificent.

Notice the exquisite play of light and shade; show how Michael Angelo’s own character is seen in his work. He was a man of strong passions and fiery patriotism, and though bitter and even cruel to those who opposed his work, he was loving and gentle to those who loved him. He sought always to expend his passion in strong physical labour, and that is what gives such passionate strength to his work, especially to his sculpture.

Like many earlier Italian artists, he studied many arts, and was sculptor, painter, draughtsman, architect, poet, and military engineer.

Step VI.—Contrast his sculpture with the Victory of Samothrace and with the St. John, by Donatello.

Examples of Sculpture:—

Combat of Centaurs.

Madonna and Child (first bas-relief).

Pietà (earlier one).

David. Detail—Head of David.

Tomb of Julius II. Detail—Moses.

Tombs of Guiliano and Lorenzo di Medici.

Detail—Head of Night.