Michelangelo’s public career, after a brief apprenticeship with Ghirlandaio, began around 1490 at the age of fifteen, when he left home and was taken into the household of Lorenzo de’Medici. There he acquired his convictions concerning the purposes of his art, understanding for the first time its potential for a true nobility. Lorenzo possessed political abilities of a high but not extraordinary order. Within two years of his death in 1492 his family was expelled from Florence (when Michelangelo also fled the city), and not long afterward his line was extinguished (and commemorated by Michelangelo in the Medici Chapel, where the last of his male descendants lie buried). His policies led in part to the French decision to invade Italy, an event that was to keep the country in a continuous state of war, that was to lea to the sack of Rome itself by Spanish troops in 1527, and that incidentally was to lead to the...


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