Vic Hoyland

Michelagniolo, NMT

The Place, London, November 1982

Michelangelo Buonarroti was born on 6 March 1475 and died 18 February 1564.

For text I selected those letters, poems and inscriptions that seemed most revealing, in the hope of giving, within a small compass, an idea of this complex, disturbed and troublesome genius.

I have followed a scheme analogous to that of the Sistine frescoes – eleven panels, which begin with ‘Chaos’ and end with ‘The Flood’, plus the commanding altarpiece ‘The Last Judgement’.

The Pope celebrated solemn Vespers at the unveiling; I introduced the Vespers into my text when they proved most appropriate.

Had not the Medici ‘adopted’ Michelangelo, he would have become a Dominican friar, like his brother, and followed the awesome Savonarola. As a young man he came under his heavy influence, attended those sermons given in Florence, and retained vivid images of death, disaster, flood and judgement-day - which eventually found their way into the Sistine Chapel. I have included those alarms of Savonarola that so stunned the Florentines.

I employ a physical theatre; I have used images from the frescoes and supplemented them with those from sketches, and sculpture, to inform the actions which are played out on the raised platform.

Early works show a Renaissance balance between passive and active; there is a progression towards what he called, violent passion for tremendous, infinite heroic beauty opposed by inertia, even catatonic derangement. There is a profound change in the artist’s spirit from ‘the serene melancholy of youth to tormented maturity on the threshold of old-age’: he vexed over death for 50 years of his long life. The constant feeling is that of an aspiration towards something which cannot be reached; it is a tension that inevitably clashes with fatal condemnation – there are, therefore, frequent analogies with slavery. I‘ve attempted to unite various episodes from his life and work, and present, not simply a ‘biography’, but of a vision of the opposite poles in the Italian’s personality. There are things not to like in Michelangiolo.