Comparative essay on Michelangelo Buonarrotti and Leonardo Da Vinci

This research work is meant to give a comparative analysis of the paintings of such prominent and magnificent artists as Michelangelo Buonarrotti and Leonardo Da Vinci. Both of these artists have plenty of great works which are considered real masterpieces of art. We chose two of them, they are “Deluge” (1508 ”“ 12), a work of tragic and terrifying grandeur by Michelangelo, detail within the Sistene Chapel ceiling, and “Lady with an Ermine” or “The Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani”(1483 ”“ 90), delicate and tender painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. These works are remarkable with their vivid color, interesting history of creating of them and communication which is vividly performed in each one.

Let “Lady with an Ermine” be the first to discuss. We may have a look at it on  Like many of the portraits of Leonardo Da Vinci there is some disagreement about this painting too. Some historians believe that the girl is Cecilia Gallerani, mistress of the Duke of Milan. As a matter of fact women of that period contrived to look middle-aged before they were twenty and if it is really her she would only have been 15 or so at the time. She was young and beautiful; Cecilia played music and wrote poetry, knew several foreign languages. Some historians also suppose that the painting is full of erotic atmosphere so it could be that a love affair between Cecilia and Leonardo took place.

What about the craft used in the painting? “Lady with an Ermine” is heavily over painted. The whole background is darkened, so it helps people to penetrate to the depth of inner thoughts and dreams of a young lady. Leonardo composed his works using geometric proportions ”“ this as quite typical of Renaissance painters. In this work the pyramid is the invisible base upon which everything else is built. The sitter is caught in the motion of turning to the left. It should be notable that there are no straight lines in the painting. The composition almost entirely consists of curves. The only almost straight lines to be seen are the band of the girl’s head and the square-cut neckline on her dress. We suppose that such plenty of curves are used by the artist in order to communicate the extreme tenderness and fragility of the young girl.

The presence of an ermine may be considered ironic: according to the legend these animals died if their white coats became dirty, so they may be represented as a symbol of chastity; also it is known that in that period a woman had to be chaste and devoted mistress[1]. Moreover the Greek name of an ermine is “galee” offering a pun on a girl’s name.

Besides, an ermine is a symbol of luxury in this painting as a brush made by fitting the tail tip of an ermine to a small piece of quill was considered to be of a very high quality in that time.

Another bright piece of art we are going to discuss is a fragment of “Deluge”, located on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel. This painting we can observe on Despite the beauty of the tightly conceived sculptural groupings, the painting is more scattered and fragmented than later scenes. The technique employed was fresco in which the paint is applied to damp plaster. Also he used a wash technique to apply broad areas of color. Also we may notice that somewhere golden tints are added. It is remarkable that it was the first fresco made by Michelangelo in the Sistene Chapel. As it was his first experience in the technique of fresco Michelangelo asked some prominent masters in making frescos to help him at first. But in a short period of time he realized that he didn’t’ need them any more and he was left alone with the huge ceiling.

The main communication of the masterpiece is not mere depiction of the global catastrophe, but of real people, and their strong and weak points[2]. People are depicted in a nonsense struggle against death, brought down on them with a downpour from the threatening sky. The whole earth is covered with water and only the peaks of the mountains can be seen. Small groups of people are gathered on such so-called islands and we can clearly see that each of them acts differently: the woman tries to hid her baby from the wind and water with her hands, an old man and a woman lend a helping hand to a man carrying a dead body of his son; right in water we can see people gone out of their minds who hopelessly fight to win a place in the boat”¦There is also a group of people near the Noah’s Ark.

There some people are begging to let them in, other ”“ are furiously shouting and thumping on the Ark with their hands. Michelangelo depicts the behavior of all these people face to face with death in order to reveal their genuine nature. Despite of the dramatic content of the fresco the artist managed to communicate a feeling of hope for those people in despair. And still looking at this piece of art we perceive everything in it as real facts due to the craft of Michelangelo Buonarrotti.

As a conclusion it would be fair to maintain that both of artists have fulfilled their task of creating wonderful worldwide known works which may change our minds and ideas without any words, but with brushes and paints.

[1] Anthony Blunt, “Artistic Theory in Italy”, p.26



[2] Anthony Blunt, “Artistic Theory in Italy”, p.60

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