“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”
Michelangelo was a sculptor, painter, architect, poet and much more. A new biographical film, Michelangelo Infinito came out this last year in Italy. I went this week to see it here in Buenos Aires.
The film reminds us of his passion and artistic ambition. It was a specially poignant reminder that artists have the ability to see beyond that which is most easily perceived by a quick glance. In the case of Michelangelo, where many saw a block of marble, he saw la pietà.
Michelangelo was also a poet. Here is one of my favorite poems and an English translation.
90. I’ mi son caro assai più ch’i’ non soglio
I’ mi son caro assai più ch’i’ non soglio;
poi ch’i’ t’ebbi nel cor più di me vaglio,
come pietra c’aggiuntovi l’intaglio
è di più pregio che ’l suo primo scoglio.
O come scritta o pinta carta o foglio
più si riguarda d’ogni straccio o taglio,
tal di me fo, da po’ ch’i’ fu’ berzaglio
segnato dal tuo viso, e non mi doglio.
Sicur con tale stampa in ogni loco
vo, come quel c’ha incanti o arme seco,
c’ogni periglio gli fan venir meno.
I’ vaglio contr’a l’acqua e contr’al foco,
col segno tuo rallumino ogni cieco,
e col mie sputo sano ogni veleno.
I feel more precious, I am more than one,
For, since you held my heart, my worth grew more:
A marble block, when carving has been done,
Is not the rough, cheap stone it was before.
As paper painted or just written on
No longer is a rag one can ignore,
So, since you looked at me, as I was won,
My value has increased for evermore.
Now, with your splendor printed on my face,
I go like one who, dressed with every kind
Of amulets and arms, can dare all wars.
I can walk on the ocean, brave all blaze,
Give in your name the light to all the blind,
And my saliva heals all poisonous sores.
Translation: Joseph Tusiani
*James M. Saslow. The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.
I have enjoyed two biographies of Michelangelo:
Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces, Miles J. Unger
A hagioscope was a hole in the wall of medieval churches that allowed people from the outside to see inside and most specifically to be present in the sacred moment of the eucharist. Michelangelo, like a hagioscope helps transform our vision of the mundane, the quotidian in order to be witnesses of that which is imbued with the holy. His vision represents a new paradigm or hermeneutic through which we can begin to perceive the sacred nature of our lives.