Stanley, Diane. Michelangelo. Harper Collins, 2003. ISBN 978-0060521134 48 pp. $8.99
Award-winning author Stanley presents a stunning picture book biography of true Renaissance man Michelangelo Buonarroti, who came to master the arts of sculpting, painting and architecture in fifteenth and sixteenth century Italy. Stanley blends information about Michelangelo and his life as an artist with historical detail to set the scene, and then introduces a fascinating cast of personalities that include his first master Domenico Ghirlandodaio, the Warrior Pope he offended, and his contemporary Leonardo Da Vinci, who was Michelangelo’s envy and rival.
Stanley reproduces and discusses Michelangelo’s greatest works (David, the Sistine Chapel, the Pieta) then adds details such as fresco painting techniques and the gruesome necessity of dissecting cadavers to study anatomy. Quotes from Michelangelo’s own letters enrich the text; it is a tragedy that he destroyed many of his personal papers before his death.
A full-page illustration to exemplify the narrative compliments each page of text; the text pages are decorated with period coins, coats of arms, stone-cutting tools, portraits, sketches and reproductions. The illustrations are an unusual mix of paintings which feature scanned images of Michelangelo’s works of art, including drawings and sketches, sculpture and paintings.
Stanley’s paintings (which show the housing, dress and goods of the poverty stricken as well as the palace-dwellers) seem flat when paired with Michelangelo’s dimensional artwork, and the contrast is a bit awkward. Her paintings imitate the style of the times in color, layout and subject, while still following the narrative.
A richly-hued historical map of Italy explains the government of the time as well as the layout of the country, while the author’s note opposite gives a defines the Renaissance. Bibliography & permissions are provided; the absence of a timeline and glossary may disappoint teachers.