The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Agony and the Ecstasy

A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo

Book - 2004
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Dramatizes the life of the Renaissance artistic genius Michelangelo, recalls his love affairs, his disputes with cardinals and popes, and his years of working on the Sistine Chapel.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : New American Library, 2004
ISBN: 9780451213235
Branch Call Number: FIC STONE 2004
Characteristics: 776 pages ; 20 cm


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Jul 14, 2019

A biographical fiction, The Agony and The Ecstasy breathtakingly captures the genius’ life in a logical yet intimate way. Seeing through Michelangelo’s own eyes, Stone explores his reasoning behind each significant project and twirls the reader through a myriad of relationships, showing not only the artist, but also the son, the friend, and lover.

While visiting Raphael’s The School of Athens, I had heard the tour guide compare the two in something along the lines of “Raphael enjoyed the affluence that came with his talent, while Michelangelo was often tormented.” At the time, I did not understand the source of this torment, but Stone has provided a convincing interpretation: the ecstasy comes from creating, while the agony lies in being forced to forestall his projects to survive socially, financial and emotionally.

Stone’s depiction of Michelangelo’s struggles would speak to any artist. The ecstasy of creation and the agony, of whether waiting for a belated inspiration or working another job to provide oneself, remains as relevant for artists today as in Michelangelo’s Renaissance and Stone’s own 1960’s. Such similarities bring the genius so close to the reader, and by the end of the book, #Michelangelo has not only come to life as an artist and comrade, but also the epitome of human potential.

For more book reviews, visit me on Instagram @RandomStuffIRead :)

Apr 26, 2017

When I initially beheld this hefty tome, I wasn't confident that I was in the appropriate mood for it or prepared to dig in and digest such a dense, detailed tale of the extraordinary life of Michelangelo Buonarroti, but WOW! Once I began, I very nearly couldn't put it down, and eagerly looked forward to devouring passages at every opportunity. Irving Stone has assembled a truly legendary and unforgettable work. Although fictionalized, this is the fruit of six years of research, the author even becoming apprenticed as a sculptor himself during that time, all in the name of inquiry. You need not have more than elementary knowledge of Michelangelo or much in the way of art appreciation to enjoy it (I had neither). However, you will absolutely wish to have access to a collection of images of his works nearby for reference.

I was moved by Michelangelo's innate passion to create; his yearnings were palpable, even to a non-creative type like myself. To see him throw every ounce of strength and energy into his work at the expense of eating and sleeping, even to the point of wasting away, consumed by desire, it's understandable why genius and madness are often said to be closely intertwined.

Although the customs and familial obligations of the day were admittedly different, I can't be the only reader who desired at times to strangle Michelangelo's astonishingly incompetent and ungrateful family members. The ways in which he was toyed with and pushed around by family and notables of the day, when his only longings were to produce his art, are heartbreaking.

After many years, this is a re-read for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Characters are complex, as is the political setting where genius is developed. The millennial should have this book on their curriculum. It is a reality check for all those clock watchers.

Jul 04, 2016

I enjoyed this book. The history of Michelangelo brought to life. Definitely worth the read if you're a history buff.

Apr 29, 2014

Great book

Apr 26, 2011

Anyone familiar with the works of Michelangelo will enjoy this tale of his life and how the artist lived and interacted with the world around him. It's not a book to be read in one sitting but gives some insight to the artist's passion, his family dynamics and the political and royal interactions of the time period. Worth delving into for those who want to learn more and still escape into the colorful and difficult life of a renaissance artist. Recommended for late night reading but not a beach book.


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