3 Historical Masters of Art

Michelangelo, Monet, and Caravaggio.

These are only three of the most famous Artists in history. Their works are timeless and magnificent, impacting the world with their unique ingenuity.

Perhaps without conscious thought, the world’s greatest artists have documented our history with their forte. Telling stories by constructing paintings, sculptures, and poems which narrate with boundless detail of the era in which the creator lived.

Sometimes the respected work of art causes one to become breathless, standing there in awe as your eyes gaze at the masterpiece.  Maybe because the piece itself is the most beautiful creation you’ve had the pleasure to encounter. Or maybe, just maybe the artist captured the perfect moment in time or the perfect scope of imagination, obligating you to experience it as if you were really there.

A person needn’t  be an art enthusiast to have a work of art impact you on an emotional level.  These three artists have little in common. They each had different styles, used different mediums, and are from different contemporaries. Still, their extraordinary works touch all of us as a result of their creations.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

Michelangelo, born 1475 in Tuscany, is one of the most esteemed artists in the world. His prodigious works consist of many things such as paintings on many entities, sculptures out of marble, and poetry written on real parchment.

Michelangelo started drawing as a young child, then worked sculptures in his early 20’s, paintings in his late 20’s, and eventually wrote poetry later in his life. He left the world with an incredible legacy from the sixteenth century Renaissance Era.

English: Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's B...
English: Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Français : La Pietà de Michel-Ange située dans la Basilique Saint-Pierre, au Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The Pieta” is one of Michelangelo’s most famous masterpieces. Creation of this sculpted marble wonder started in 1498 and completed by 1500 in St. Peters Basilica where it remains on display to this day.

The life-size sculpture is a young version of  Mary holding her son, Jesus, after his brutal crucifixion. Jesus’ lifeless body is resting on Mary’s lap, as she might have held him when he was a child. Her right hand and arm holds the man who once was her little one, and her left hand is held palm up as if she is presenting Jesus to GOD himself. There is no bereavement in her expression, only acceptance of what was done. Total surrender of her first-born child to a father she has never met, and to a place she cannot follow.

Michelangelo created a young Mary because he believed that the Virgin would not have aged as any other woman would.

This glorious piece is sculpted from a solid marble slab in less than two years. Scholars claim the sculpture is a miracle due to the detail carved in such a short time frame.

It is the first and only piece that Michelangelo has signed. This wondrous creation bares his signature because he overheard a group who were gossiping about the piece being sculpted by Christofero Solari. Crazed by anger, Michelangelo grabbed his tools and carved his name into the stone. Michelangelo’s temper bested him that day, a day he would always regret vowing never to sign another work of art crafted by his hands.

The world’s first Art HistorianGiorgio Vasari was so moved by “The Pieta” he wrote about Michelangelo in histories first artists biographies in 1550,“It is certainly a miracle that a formless block of stone could ever have been reduced to a perfection that nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh.”

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

It’s assumed that Caravaggio was born 1573 in Milan. The infamous Caravaggio is the most documented artist in history. He is known as the Italian Baroque master, and even though his masterpieces were always sought after by patrons, never lacking a buyer, Caravaggio has stirred up more controversy and heated debates than any other artist.

It’s been written that this man was exceptionally violent, impossible to get along with, and severely disturbed. Convicted of several assaults and murder, sentenced to death in three different countries and imprisoned in Rome. Capable of fleeing the city, he spent sometime in Naples and Malta, eventually earning the reputation of a prodigious artist.

In a time when live models were not used, Caravaggio invented realism as he procured actual people to pose for him. He would precisely create a painting like no other by constructing his models tortured features to show an overwhelming anecdote on canvas.

He was the first to manipulate light and color to create pieces that had darkened backgrounds to enhance the expressions of his models. The people posing are clothed and positioned in a way that Caravaggio can convey a parable without uttering a single word.

English: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Ca...
English: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio. Found at http://www.christusrex.org/www2/art/images/carav10.jpg. Category:Artistic portrayals of Jesus Category:Images of paintings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” is a 107 cm x 146 cm oil painting commissioned in 1601 and completed in 1602. Currently the painting is in Potsdam, Germany where it had survived the war and is the most copied Caravaggio.

The piece is awe-inspiring. Words can barely touch ones imagination to describe what has been marked on this canvas. It is almost insulting to try. The beauty of this conception is worthy of being displayed in the kingdom of heaven for all the angels to gaze upon.

The background is very dark and the lighting flows down the canvas. Jesus and his disciples appear on the material as a photograph, not as if they positioned there by colored oils, and a brush.

Two disciples witness an amazing miracle as a surprised Thomas is bowing down to Jesus while his right hand outstretched as Jesus grabs his wrist and places Thomas’s finger into the wound on his right side. Thomas must support himself with his left hand holding on steadily to a walking stick.

Thomas bears an expression of tortured shame, shock, grief, and loneliness. Humiliation takes hold as he realizes that he has denied Christ.

As Jesus holds Thomas firmly with his left hand, his head also depresses, displaying a sorrowful expression. Wondering why of all people he would have to prove himself to his beloved Thomas.

Gazing at this painting one can almost hear the words written in the bible, John 20:27-28, spoken from Jesus’ very lips.

27Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God. 

Oscar-Claude Monet

I would like to paint as the bird sings,” Monet, 1860.

Monet, born 1840 in Paris, is the most famous impressionism artist of all time. In fact, art historians claim he is the first to create this new style of painting. He started drawing at a very young age capturing the times with remarkable detail as he documented history without even knowing it. He drew and painted what was in his direct line of sight, bequeathing to us a trip back in time at least 150 years.

Painting: Terrace at Sainte-Adresse.
Painting: Terrace at Sainte-Adresse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Created in 1867 the “Garden at Sainte-Adresse” is an oil painting fashioned on canvas. This glorious piece is of a garden in  Port Town of Normandy, Honfleur, France.

The contrast of the bright colors Monet exploited was almost unheard of and the piece created quite the sensation in his era.

In his aunt’s garden set up above the ocean, Monet captures a day not to be faulted. Flags take to the air as the wind’s gust with pale blue clouds collecting in the sky making the water beneath, dark and undulating.

The boats and ships in the background add to the verisimilitude of the time, as commodities transported in and out of France contribute to the wealth of certain social classes.  And no doubt, those captured in this scene are of good fortune.

The shadows cast in an easterly direction which indicates it is late afternoon. Flowers are vibrant with color conveying the impression that it is spring bestowing this spectacular picture frozen in time.

Monet painted the modern world as it was. We are amazingly fortunate to have his creations displayed for us to treasure.

Art is a form of expression that can make one person feel specific emotions and the next persons interpretation completely different, that’s the beauty of it. Mankind’s blessed with so many artists from various time periods, utilizing different styles.

Today we live in an age when everyone’s granted the opportunity to experience the virtuoso’s old and new. Seeing into the past through the eyes of an artist we experience how that artist viewed the Virgin and our Messiah, actually see what it was like 150 years ago, and witness the return of Christ to his disciples may have been like.

These art pieces are the first of their kind. No one has ever manipulated marble in the way Michelangelo had done. Monet was the world’s first impressionism artist using landscape to give us visions of a time long since passed. Caravaggio blessed the world with a realism that cannot be replicated.


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