Fame often does an artist little good. Quite apart from the moral temptations, there is the danger of sticking with what works, closing oneself off to new ideas, refusing new challenges, becoming a brand. In Michelangelo’s case, fame’s ill effects, limited in his lifetime, in the long run turned disastrous. To be sure, Michelangelo never let success freeze his creativity; he remained brilliantly creative down to the end of his long life. But once he had achieved his place in the world of Renaissance art, he confined his creative energies within rather strict guiderails. He stopped taking certain risks. After some youthful experiments, he showed little stylistic development, and almost none in his last fifty years (he lived to eighty-eight). He clung to the techniques he had learned in his youth. Unlike his older contemporary Leonardo da Vinci, he was no experimenter when it came to artistic media. His...


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