Considering Michelangelo’s Antisocial Behavior in the Times of the Coronavirus

Bleak times appear to be ahead for all of us, as number of coronavirus cases are on the rise again all over the world. The looking threat of another imminent lockdown, which has been actuated in some parts of the world, hangs over us like a shadow.

It is important, in these times, to remain positive. It’s easy to give into the negativity brought on by such frustration. Why not embrace, instead, the potential of having to spend time on our own? Such potential includes the possibility of learning a new skill and dedicating our time to passionate self-development, in response to social distancing.

Indeed, this has been the secret of many of the great masters of the past. Including Michelangelo, the great Italian Renaissance sculptor, among the most celebrated of his period. Michelangelo lived a remarkably long life during which he held fort as the most important artist in the world, loyally serving several popes in his lifetime.

A true Renaissance man, Michelangelo was a 360 degree artist — a painter, poet, architect and philosopher. But most of all, especially as the years progressed, he considered himself a sculptor. In reading Martin Gayford’s 2013 biography on his life, Michelangelo: His Epic Life, I have been fascinated to find that he had already reached an incredibly high standard of sculpting in his adolescence.

Part of his secret, Michelangelo would have said, was that he was endowned with a divine gift from God himself. He so wanted to promote this idea that in his lifetime, he almost successfully concealed the contribution of the people who trained him in his craft, including Ghirlandaio, and underplayed the importance of his mentors in his formative years.

Yet, to be sure, part of the reason why he was able to reach such a high standard of sculpting from an early age was that he truly did eat, think and breathe art, and dedicated himself wholly to perfecting his skills. In fact, Gayford even concludes from his research on Michelangelo’s formative years that as a young man, he was downright anti-social.

“Michelangelo, however, stood apart from these musical parties. It sounds as though, even as an adolescent, he was already antisocial, reclusive, and driven: constantly drawing and carving. Only such dedication could explain the rapidity of the progress he made. Within two years, he had become as skilful a sculptor in marble as any alive.”

Martin Gayford, Michelangelo: His Epic Life

In coming across this particular quote, I found it particularly inspiring and worth of being shared. I am not suggesting that the key to maintining a positive frame of mind is withdrawing from the world entirely, though it may suit some just fine. However, I do believe that in these times where withdrawing from others is more or less imposed on us, remembering that Michelangelo’s self-imposed social distancing greatly contributed to his rise as one of the greatest artists in the world.

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