Michelangelo's earliest sculpture was made in the Medici garden near the church of San Lorenzo; his Bacchus and Sleeping Cupid both show the results of careful observation of the classical sculptures located in the garden. His later Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs and Madonna of the Stairs reflect his growing interest in his contemporaries. Throughout Michelangelo's sculpted work one finds both a sensitivity to mass and a command of unmanageable chunks of marble. His Pietà places the body of Jesus in the lap of the Virgin Mother; the artist's force and majestic style are balanced by the sadness and humility in Mary's gaze.
In 1504 he sculpted David in a classical style, giving him a perfectly proportioned body and musculature. Michelangelo's approach to the figure has been contrasted to that of Donatello, who gave David a more youthful and less muscular frame. In 1505 Michelangelo was offered a commission for the design and sculpting of the tomb of Pope Julius II. The original dimensions of the tomb were 36 × 34.5 × 23 ft (11 × 10.5 × 7 m); it would include almost 80 oversized figures. Because of various complications, the tomb was reduced drastically in size. Michelangelo made only one figure for the tomb, Moses, his last major sculpture. The artist made the statue from a block of marble deemed unmalleable by earlier sculptors; his final product conveys his own skill for demonstration of mass within stone and a sense of Moses' anguish.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.