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Portrait of Michelangelo, by Daniele da Volterra.
Pietà, housed in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City.
Statue of David, 1504

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (March 6, 1475February 18, 1564), commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art.


The Creation of Adam, from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, c. 1512
The Last Judgment, 1536-1541
  • Your lordship, only worldly light in this age of ours, you can never be pleased with another man's work for there is no man who resembles you, nor one to equal you … It grieves me greatly that I cannot recapture my past, so as to longer be at your service. As it is, I can only offer you my future, which is short, for I am too old … That is all I have to say. Read my heart for "the quill cannot express good will."
    • Letter to Tommaso dei Cavalieri (1 January 1533).
  • Beauty is the purgation of superfluities.
    • Letter to Rene Lui Descartes XIV (6 March 1540)
    • As quoted in Character Sketches: Or, The Blackboard Mirror (1890) by George Augustus Lofton, p. 432.
  • I was never the kind of painter or sculptor who kept a shop.
    • As quoted in In Our Time : The Artist, BBC Radio 4 (28 March 2002).
  • As when, O lady mine,
    With chiseled touch
    The stone unhewn and cold
    Becomes a living mold,
    The more the marble wastes,
    The more the statue grows.
    • Sonnet addressed to Vittoria Colonna; tr. Mrs. Henry Roscoe (Maria Fletcher Roscoe), Vittoria Colonna: Her Life and Poems (1868), p. 169.
  • A quel pietoso fonte, onde siam tutti,
    S'assembra ogni beltà che qua si vede,
    Più c'altra cosa alle persone accorte;
    • (from sonnet "Veggio nel tuo bel viso, Signor mio")
    • Translation:
      That fount of mercy, whence we all exist,
      Every beauty seen here [on earth] resembles,
      More than anything else to knowing persons;
    • Variant translations:
      • To those who are wise, nothing more resembles that merciful spring whence all derive than every beauty to be found here;
      • Every beauty which is seen here below by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.


  • Recollect that trifles make perfection, and that perfection is no trifle.
    • Attributed without citation in Charles Caleb Colton (1822). Lacon: or Many Things in Few Words, p. 94. London: Longman.
  • The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.
    • Attributed without citation in Ken Robinson, The Element (2009), p. 260. Widely attributed to Michelangelo since the late 1990s, this adage has not been found before 1980 when it appeared without attribution in E. C. McKenzie, Mac's giant book of quips & quotes.
    • Similar to "Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit.” which has been attributed to Les Brown.
    • Similar to "The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark” appearing in the title sequence of The Martian (film) see also at the end of the clip.
  • If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.
    • Found attributed to Michelangelo in non-specialist publications as early as 1929, but no source is known. Not found in any known biography of Michelangelo.
  • If you knew how much work went into it, you would not call it genius.
    • On the paintings in the Sistine Chapel, as quoted in Speeches & Presentations Unzipped (2007) by Lori Rozakis, p. 71.
    • Earliest known citation is a Usenet post from August 2001. No source is given. Possibly a variant of the preceding longer-established quote.


  • What do you despise? By this you are truly known.
    • A few sites, perhaps most of them deriving their information from its previous placement among the "Attributed" quotes here, credit this to Michelangelo, but so far as definite citations go, it almost certainly originated with Frank Herbert when he used the phrase in the novel Dune (1965).
  • Ancora Imparo.
    • I am still learning.
    • Variant translation: Still I learn!
    • Inscribed next to an image of Father Time in a child's carriage, as quoted in Curiosities of Literature (1823) by Isaac Disraeli. Disraeli's attribution is, however, spurious. The attribution is retraceable to Richard Duppa's The lives and works of Michael Angelo and Raphael (London, 1806), where the author mistakenly attributes a drawing by Domenico Giuntalodi to Michelangelo Buonarroti. The original motto, properly spelled in Duppa as "ANCHORA INPARO," was popular throughout the 1500's (thus in the course of Michelangelo's life), signalling the return of old age to childhood (bis pueri senex). The motto appeared in one of Giuntalodi's drawings (an image known to us through engravings and etchings by contemporaries), together with the indication that learning is a lifetime endeavor (a Latin phrase from Senaca's 76th Letter to Lucilius is cited to this effect). However, Giuntalodi's drawing--where time's elapse (an hourglass) stands before man's quest for learning--conveighs the "anchora inparo" message in a finely satirical manner, suggesting the futility of human endeavors (for a kindred antecedent, see 1 Corinthians 13:11), with a specific allusion to humanist learning. See Sylvie Deswarte-Rosa, "Domenico Giuntalodi, peintre de D. Martinho de Portugal à Rome", in Revue de l'Art, 1988, No. 80, pp. (52-60). Deswarte-Rosa misleadingly links the "ancora imparo" motto to Dante Alighieri, to whom Deswarte-Rosa attributes a modified version of a citation that Dante offers with critical intent of Seneca in Convivio IV.12.xi. Throughout Convivio IV.12, Dante distinguishes between ordinary empirical learning (depicted at best as futile) and a philosophical learning returning to "first things." Dante's conclusion is that, "lo buono camminatore giunge a termine e a posa; lo erroneo mai non l'aggiunge, ma con molta fatica del suo animo sempre colli occhi gulosi si mira innanzi"--"The good walker arrives at an end and a rest; the one who errs (i.e. goes astray) never reaches it, but with great effort of the will always with gluttonous eyes looks ahead of himself"; ibid. xix.

Quotes about Michelangelo

In alphabetical order by author or source.
  • Italians have such illustrious people they can celebrate, that everyone celebrates — Michelangelo, Vivaldi and, of course, for us on the left, Sacco and Vanzetti.
  • Do we not say that the judicious discovering of a most lovely Statua in a piece of Marble, hath sublimated the wit of Buonarruotti far above the vulgar wits of other men? And yet this work is onely the imitation of a meer aptitude and disposition of exteriour and superficial mem­bers of an immoveable man; but what is it in comparison of a man made by nature, composed of as many exteriour and inte­riour members, of so many muscles, tendons, nerves, bones, which serve to so many and sundry motions? but what shall we say of the senses, and of the powers of the soul, and lastly, of the understanding? May we not say, and that with reason, that the structure of a Statue falls far short of the formation of a living man, yea more of a contemptible worm?
  • No one who has not seen the Sistine Chapel can have a clear idea of what a human being can achieve. ... The master's inner security and strength, his greatness is beyond all description. ... At the moment I am so engrossed by Michelangelo that even Nature makes no appeal to me, for my vision is so small compared with his. If there were only some means of fixing such pictures in one's soul!
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1786, as quoted in Michelangelo: Paintings, Sculptures, Architecture: Complete Edition by Ludwig Goldscheider (Phaidon, 1975 [1953])
  • ...he was a good man, but he did not know how to paint.
    • Marina Lambraki-Plaka, El Greco - The Greek, p. 47–49; as cited on Wikipedia/El Greco
  • To make something is to invent or discover it. Michelangelo cuts away the extra marble that hides the statue, right?
  • Who can measure the worth of a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo or Beethoven in dollars and cents?
  • Enough, enough, enough! Say no more! Lump the whole thing! say the Creator made Italy from designs by Michael Angelo!
    • Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad. Twain humorously depicts tourists being told that most every monument in Italy was designed or painted by "Michael Angelo", oblivious to the historic significance of "Michelangelo".
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