The central focus of this course will be Michelangelo’s prolific production in sculpture, painting and architecture while making substantial use of his writings, both poetry and letters, and his extensive extant body of preparatory drawings to help us understand more about his artistic personality, creative processes, theories of art, and his intellectual and spiritual biography, including his changing attitudes towards Neoplatonism, Christianity and politics. Our structure will be roughly chronological starting with his highly precocious juvenilia of the 1490s in Florence at the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent through his death in Rome in 1564 as an old man who was simultaneously already the deity of art and a lonely, troubled, repentant Christian, producing some of his most moving works in a highly personal style. Beyond close examination of the works themselves, among the themes that will receive considerable attention for the ways they bear upon his art are Michelangelo’s fraught relationship with patrons such as the Medici and a succession of popes; his complex devotion to and rivalry with ancient classical art and his living rivalries with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Bramante and others; his changing attitude towards religion, especially his engagement with the Catholic Reform and some of its key personalities such as Vittoria Colonna; his sexuality and how it might bear on the representation of gender in his art and poetry; his “official” biographies created by the devotees Giorgio Vasari (1550, 1568) and Ascanio Condivii (1553) during Michelangelo’s lifetime and some of the most influential moments in the artist’s complex, sometimes ambivalent, reception over the centuries; new approaches and ideas about Michelangelo that have emerged in recent decades from the unabated torrent of scholarship and, especially, the restoration and scientific imaging of many of his works. Through the concentrated art-historical material studied, the course will take seriously the attempt to introduce students with little or no background in art or art history to some of the major avenues for interpretation in this field, including formal, stylistic, iconographical, psychological, social, feminist, theoretical and reception. Readings are chosen with this diversity of approach in mind.