The Agony and the Ecstasy: Character Profiles
Michaelangelo’s paternal grandmother Monna Alessandra is the only one in the family who supports his desires. She offers him some of her money to buy clothes when he is an apprentice.
Aldovrandi is Michaelangelo’s friend and patron in Bologna, who takes him in and gets him the commission to finish Dell Arca’s statues. They read Dante together, and the artist illustrates the margins.
Marco Aldovrandi is nephew of Gianfrancesco whose mistress is Clarissa Safi, one of the artist’s lovers.
Giralmo Benivieni teaches the young Michaelangelo to write sonnets in the Medici palace.
Baglioni is an agent for Cardinal Riario of Rome, who brings Michaelangelo there and helps him negotiate with the Cardinal. He becomes a lifelong friend in Rome.
Balducci is the head bookkeeper for Jacopo Galli’s bank in Rome. An old Florentine acquaintance of Michaelangelo’s and his friend in Rome, he takes over the bank when Galli dies.
Michaelangelo lives with Bertoldo, his scupture master, in the Medici palace in the school run by Lorenzo Medici. Bertoldo had studied with Donatello and is the last living master of sculpture in Italy. He considers Michaelangelo his heir as he had been Donatello’s.
Donato Bramante is one of the famous Renaissance architects who influences Julius II to build a new St. Peter’s and takes the commission away from Sangallo, Michaelangelo’s friend. Bramante represents new trends in art and architecture but he and Michaelangelo do not see eye to eye. Bramante opposes him with the Pope.Michaelangelo admires his design but not his sloppy building methods.
Lionardo Buonarroti is the ascetic older brother of Michaelangelo, who is a monk and follower of Savanarola. He dies in a monastery of an overly ascetic life. He disapproves his brother’s art at first but realizes it comes from devotion.
Lodovico di Lionardo Buonarroti-Simoni
Lodovico di Lionardo Buonarroti-Simoni is the father of Michaelangelo who worries over the failing fortune of his clan. He opposes the boy lowering the family honor further by going into trade (painting and sculpture). He tries to educate his son so he can be part of the Wool Guild and be a merchant to win back the family money. All during Michaelangelo’s life, his father takes all his earnings, even when the artist is legally emancipated from him.
An apprentice for Ghirlandaio, Giuliano Bugiardini does not know how to draw the human figure. Michaelangelo teaches him to make it more realistic. He sometimes works with Michaelangelo later and was one who fled Florence with him to Bologna.
Michaelangelo Buonarroti trained as a painter but wants to be a sculptor. Austere by nature, he is strong and spiritual, strong willed and direct. He is courageous and passionate, and hungry for knowledge, risking death to dissect cadavers to learn about anatomy. He fights with many popes and patrons to create the art he wants, becoming known as Il Divino in his old age.
Marquis of Carrara
Marquis of Carrara helps Michaelangelo when he is getting the Carrara marble for the San Lorenzo church façade
Thommaso de’ Cavalieri
Thommaso de’ Cavalieri becomes an important soul companion for the older Michaelangelo. He is his painting and architecture apprentice in Rome, who makes Michaelangelo feel young again. Michaelangelo writes many of his sonnets to Thommaso, whom he thinks of as a perfect man, the Adam of his painting. Thommaso is loyal and promises to carry out all Michaelangelo’s work after he dies.
Cardinal Caraffa, later Pope Paul IV
Cardinal Caraffa, who becomes Pope Paul IV, is the villainous Pope who brings the Inquisition to Rome in the 1550s and tortures so-called heretics. He persecutes Vittoria Colonna, Michaelangelo’s beloved, and her family, and tries to whitewash the “obscene” figures from the Sistine Chapel, satisfied that they will at least have breeches painted over the genitals.
Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa di Pescara
Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa di Pescara is a beautiful widow and poet in Rome whose platonic love inspires Michaelangelo while he works on the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. He writes many sonnets to her, but she chooses to marry Jesus and live the life of a nun. She is persecuted by the Inquisition and has to stay secluded.
Agnolo Doni is the burgher who commissions a wedding painting from Michaelangelo and is shocked by the nudes in it. He tries to get out of paying for it. The painting is famous as the Doni Tondo.
One of the Plato Four, Marsilio Ficino founded the Plato Academy for Cosimo de Medici, Lorenzo’s grandfather. He translated all of Plato and other great world philosophers. He introduced printing to Florence.
Jacopo Galli is the Roman banker who commissions the Bacchus from Michaelangelo. He is learned and becomes a friend and patron of the artist’s, inviting him to stay at his home and meet other intellectuals and artists. He plays an important role in the artist’s life, like Lorenzo de’ Medici and Prior Bichiellini because he delights in Michaelangelo’s talent and vision.
Successful master of a painting Guild in Florence, Domenico Ghirlandaio is forty, with a sensitive face and black shoulder length hair. He can be gruff and strict but is kind and reasonable at heart, “lovable and loved.” He gives Michaelangelo his first break by paying the father to teach his son, which is backward from the usual practice. From him, Michaelangelo learns drawing and the difficult techniques of painting frescos on wet plaster.
Francesco Granacci is the artist’s lifelong friend, an apprentice to Ghirlandaio who helps Michaelangelo get accepted to that studio. He had been an apprentice to Fillipo Lippi. He is the son of a wealthy Florence family, and does not take his art as seriously as Michaelangelo does but he is always supportive. He and Michaelangelo are transferred together to the sculpure studio of Bertoldo. He is tall, blond and blue-eyed. He is a businessman and helps his friend in hard times, getting him commissions or selling his work for him.
Julius II, Pope of Rome
Like Michaelangelo, of fiery temper, Julius II, Pope of Rome pushes the artist into painting the Sistine Chapel, rather than letting him work on marble. He is a Rovere, and later his relatives sue the artist for not finishing work on his tomb. He makes Michaelangelo do a portrait of him in bronze for Bologna. Julius is a warlike Pope who tries to subdue various city-states and run the French out of Italy. The great statue of Moses carved by the artist is on his tomb.
One of the Plato Four, Cristoforo Landino was tutor of Lorenzo’s father, an authority on Dante. He takes Lorenzo to be the ideal ruler.
Lapo and Lotti
Lapo and Lotti are the two bronze casters who help Michaelangelo with the statue of the Pope are dismissed because Lapo is stealing from him.
General Malatesta betrays the Republic of Florence in a war with the Holy Roman Emperor. Michaelangelo in fear of assassination by him flees to France.
Contessina de Medici
Contessina de Medici, Lorenzo’s learned and frail daughter, is attracted to Michaelangelo. They are educated in the Medici palace together and love each other from youth but keep a distance, confessing love only on her deathbed. She marries Piero Ridolfi and has two sons, one of which, Niccolo, is poisoned on the eve of being elected Pope.
Cardinal Giovanni ‘de Medici, Pope Leo X
Cardinal Giovanni ‘de Medici, Pope Leo X is a son of Lorenzo who later becomes Pope and makes Michaelangelo miserable mining marble from Pietrasanto for the Medici tomb. He ties up the artist’s time, doesn’t pay him, changes his mind about projects, and plunges into bloody wars.
Cardinal Gulio ‘de Medici, Pope Clement VII
Pope Clement VII is the illegitimate son of Lorenzo’s assassinated brother, later declared legitimate by Pope Leo X, his cousin. Finally he becomes one of the most hated popes, the one in charge when Rome is sacked. He forces Michaelangelo to work on the Medici tomb and gives him the commission for the Last Judgment, completed under Pope Paul III.
Lorenzo de Medici
Lorenzo de Medici, Il Magnifico, is the greatest ruler of Florence and the great patron of art. He has an open trusting nature and is loved by the citizens. His palace with its great art treasures is open, and he walks the streets unafraid, even though his brother was killed by conspirators. He believes in freeing the mind through humanist thought and sponsors scholars like Pico and Ficino as well as great artists and poets. His grandfather, Cosimo, had created a republic of Florence by healing the civil strife between Guelphs and Ghibellines. This is the Golden Age of Florence.
Piero de Medici
Piero de Medici is the arrogant oldest son of Lorenzo who treats Michaelangelo like a servant. He succeeds his father as ruler of Florence but is thrown out by Savanarola.
Pico della Mirandola
One of the Plato Four who knows twenty-two languages, Pico della Mirandola is a beautiful and sweet scholar, whose goal is to unify all knowledge. His influence was so great, he is thought to be a seminal thinker of the Renaissance. Michaelangelo studied with him in the Medici Palace.
Pope Pius IV
Pope Pius IV is Giovanni Angelo Medici, a distant Medici, the last pope Michaelangelo deals with. He is fair and brings peace to Italian and European politics through the influence of the church. He funds Michaelangelo and confirms his position as architect of St. Peter’s.
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III sponsors Michaelangelo to do the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. He understands the artist and gets along with him
Poliziano is one of the Plato Four. He is a great scholar and poet, who inspires Michaelangelo’s first great piece, The Battle of the Centaurs, a scene from Ovid.
Lorenzo and Giovanni Popolano
Lorenzo and Giovanni Popolano are the Medici cousins who commission Michaelangelo to carve a St. John.
Antonio Mini was an apprentice to Michaelangelo in Florence to whom he gives a painting to sell so he could marry.
Cardinal Riario is the man who first brings Michaelangelo to Rome and promises a commission, which he never gives.
A muralist from Livorno, Piero Rosselli helps Michaelangelo prepare the Sistine Chapel for painting.
With Michaelangelo and Leonardo, Raphael Sanzio is one the greatest painters in Italy. He studies Michaelangelo’s work but becomes a rival, a critic of the Sistine Chapel. He becomes partners with Bramante in designing St. Peter’s. They are superceded by Antonio da Sangallo, and then Michaelangelo.
One of Michaelangelo’s close friends in the sculpture garden, Rustici shows the young Michaelangelo the beauty of horses. Later he holds the meetings of the Company of the Cauldron at his house (the society of Florence’s twelve most prominent artists).
Clarissa Safi is Michaelangelo’s first love in Bologna, to whom he writes sonnets, and returns to twelve years later. She leaves him because he is too preoccupied with his art.
Guiliano da Sangallo
Guiliano da Sangallo is a Florentine architect whom Michaelangelo meets in Rome. He is Pope Julius II’s architect who gets Michaelangelo appointed to sculpt the tomb, but Bramante replaces him.
Antonio da Sangallo, nephew of Guiliano
Michaelangelo complained to Pope Paul III that Antonio da Sangallo, nephew of Guiliano,
had destroyed Bramante’s design for St. Peter’s and was building it wrong. He is a rival of Michaelangelo’s in Rome.
Cardinal of San Dionigi
Cardinal of San Dionigi is the patron in Rome who commissions the Pieta. He dies before it is finished. He is a spiritual man who appreciates Michaelangelo’s interpretation of the Virgin.
Sansovino is a scupture apprentice who believes that an artist must return to the earth. He becomes a respected artist in Florence and friend to Michaelangelo.
Conservative overzealous and charismatic, Girolamo Savanarola is the Dominican Friar who preaches not only against the excesses of the Church of Rome but against all pleasures of the senses, including art. He took over the rule of Florence briefly from the Medici family and is best known for his Bonfire of the Vanities in which precious art was burned in the street as a sacrifice. Later because of excessive zeal, he was hanged.
Friar Sebastiano was one of Michaelangelo’s apprentices in Rome, who became a good oil painter but delayed the Sistine fresco by preparing it for oil painting instead of fresco.
Piero Soderini is the Mayor of the Republic of Florence after the era of Savonarola. He is honest, plain, and can make harmony between opposing factions. He does his best to help Michaelangelo get commissions, especially the David.
Giovanni Spina is the manager of the San Lorenzo project in Florence.
Soggi is the sculpture apprentice, who gives up and leaves the sculpture garden, and tries to get Michaelangelo to follow him, saying it is too much work.
The Topolino family are stonemasons living on the Buonarotti farm at Settignano who had raised and trained the boy Michealangelo to cut stone. They treat him as a son. He has learned everything about stone from quarrying and cutting with them. As a child, Monna Margherita, the wife, had nursed him with her own son.
Sculpture apprentice, handsome and outgoing, Pietro Torrigiani wins Michaelangelo’s friendship, but then turns on him, smashing his nose and disfiguring him for life.
Francesco Urbino is one of the enduring relationships in the artist’s life, an apprentice who replaces Mini and treats Michaelangelo like a father. He has nobility of spirit, which goes into his art and into the studio. He takes care of Michaelangelo in his later years in Rome and prepares the plaster for the fresco. Eventually his wife and children live with the artist as an extended family.
Giorgio Vasari is Michaelangelo’s apprentice and later the famous author of Lives of the Painters, first-handsource for much of the information about all of the great artists during the Renaissance.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci is an engineer, anatomist, inventor, painter of The Last Supper, the only other artist in Italy of Michaelangelo’s stature. He is often called the great Renaissance Man, competent in every area from science to the arts. He is also from Florence and he and Michaelangelo are both members of the Company of the Cauldron, an artist’s society, and briefly rivals for commissions for murals in the Council Chambers. They quarrel in the beginning over their differing opinions of sculpture but eventually admire each other’s work.