Just finished reading the biographical book on the great Italian Master-Michelangelo Buonarrotti. Some thoughts from the reading:
a. He lived a full life, dying short of age ninety. And yet, the book (by Irving Stone) will have us believe that on his death bed, Michelangelo was not ready to die, not because he loved life very much, but because he loved his work-his creativity with marble, too much. He still thought that he had an entire (one more) lifetime of sculptures to chisel and frescoes to paint. Is this really what a truly passionate person thinks of in his/her last moments?
b. Despite his creative genius, and the accompanying passion he had for his work, he comes across as very stereotypically chauvinistic. Completely in sync with the opinions of his times, he expected women to be nothing more than wombs to 'bear sons' in order to 'carry the family name forward'. Not only did he never question the relative subservience of women in his society, but that he almost naturally treated them with the same prevalent attitude. Additionally, throughout the book, spanning ninety golden years of Renaissance, it is noteworthy that women appear only as part of the background. Not because Michelangelo was a misogynist, but because there was actually so little role for women to play in that society. Women in the book were mostly wives, daughters or mothers, or if they had some separate identity, then it was because they were either mistresses, or nuns. It makes me realise that actually human history-----the greatest majority of it, is 'man's history'. Women seldom created landmarks--they just marched on and on and on, to the tunes of the times. It was men who carried out trade, waged wars, preached from the pulpit, carved, created and ruled. They created ripples on the lake of time, and thus created History--a chronicle of events, made up of actions and meditations of men.
Needless to say that those few women of the past(like Joan of Arc, Rani Lakshmibai and so on) who actually did dare to do more than what was asked of them, deserve a tremendous amount of awe.
c. Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were contemporaries for some years. They shared the love of painting, and were rivals too. It would be interesting to compare their lives and note how events shaped the two people.