Stone presents Michelangelo as the idealized Renaissance humanist, the artist whose commitment to his work becomes a religion and whose creative efforts are no less than godlike. In fact, his commitment to art is such that it alienates him from society, makes him a misunderstood recluse, and, in becoming the outlet for his passion, prevents him from finding love. Because art becomes religion, art cannot be commercialized; the artist is not a businessman. Overly generous to his parasitic family and deaf to the warnings of his banker/agent Galli, he lives in relative poverty, unlike Leonardo and Raphael. Also unlike them, he works alone, refusing to compromise his work by using, even in the Sistine Chapel, other painters. Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, despite their stature, exist in Stone’s novel primarily as foils, artists whose deficiencies help define Michelangelo’s greatness.
Other characters serve to demonstrate the plight of the artist whose superior work is often prey to the jealousy of less talented colleagues. Torrigiani breaks Michelangelo’s nose, itself part of a work of art, as Stone carefully points out in the first paragraph of the novel. Later Vincenzo, an inferior sculptor in Bologna, defaces Michelangelo’s St. Petronius because of jealousy. Perugino’s vicious attack on Michelangelo’s work is motivated, according to Raphael, by envy and despair: Michelangelo has made Perugino’s work obsolete. Another act of...
(The entire section is 546 words.)