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A Michelangelo Hypothesis

Let Me Think About It

By Darrell Roberts

Did Michelangelo hate to paint?  It is common knowledge that Michelangelo enjoyed making sculptures over paintings.  Consider the Daily Press article titled “A Divine Discovery on Michelangelo, ‘…found his greatest source of pride in his unsurpassed abilities as a sculptor.  He was far less impressed with his painting, regarding the medium as a much lower form…drawings he dismissed…in such little esteem that he destroyed great stacks of them by fire in the days before his death” (St John).

Additionally, Michelangelo employed the practice of minimalist paintings.  He refused to use image enhancing accessories such as trees and landscapes.  Plus, Michelangelo was on written record as having made multiple comments degrading the art of painting.   One such famous Michelangelo quote, “Oil painting is only good for women” (Müntz, E. P135).  Furthermore, Michelangelo’s displeasure of painting the Sistine Chapel was well documented in his writing to Giovanni da Pistoia.

The real question is not if Michelangelo hated painting.  The real question is why did he not like painting? Here is a list of three proposed theories.

  • The most straightforward assumption is that Michelangelo just enjoyed sculpting more than painting. There is no fun in simplicity.  Another hypothesis, perhaps Michelangelo was soured by the painting process.
  • This hypothesis is highly plausible with his work on the Sistine Chapel. He spent over four years working under pressure and hard physical conditions.  During this period, he goes a long time without being paid while under immense pressure from the Pope.   Also, this same Pope went so far as to threaten Michelangelo.
  • Evidence demonstrates that Michelangelo had a healthy sized ego. In sculpture, Michelangelo was apparently superior to his peers.  In fact, he was so good at sculpting that he intimidated others from even engaging in the art form.  The same was not true when it came to painting.  During this period, many great painters produced classic works such as his legendary rival Leonardo Da Vinci.  Plus, Michelangelo faced much more justified criticism in his paintwork than his sculptures. His paintings were not overwhelmingly superior to his peers.  Thus, Michelangelo may have downplayed merely the painting art form as a way to maintain his self-confidence.

Finally, Michelangelo was a talented artist that, “excelled as a sculptor, painter, and architect, he was most ardently and consistently fond of sculpting: scultore was the only title he ever used” (Müntz, E. 25).



Works Cited

Müntz, Eugène “Temptis: Michelangelo.” New York, US: Parkstone International, 2005.

ProQuest ebrary. Web. 22 September 2016. P25. P135.


St, John E. “A Divine Discovery.” Daily Press Feb 17 2013.

ProQuest. Web. 22 Sep. 2016.




1 thought on “A Michelangelo Hypothesis

  1. I knew he did not enjoy painting the Sistine Chapel, but i did not know any of the rest! See DR, you taught me something! YAY!! I don’t know why, It is absolutely beautiful. I think any 3 of your theories would be solid.

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