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The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical…

The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo (original 1961; edition 1987)

by Irving Stone

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Title:The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo
Authors:Irving Stone
Info:Signet (1987), Mass Market Paperback, 776 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Historical Fiction

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The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone (1961)

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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. ( )
1 vote ryner | Apr 26, 2017 |
I learned a lot from this book, although it was a bit long and overly full of details for an audiobook experience. I also had some trouble remembering names among the large cast of Italian 'characters.' Generally interesting and worth reading. ( )
  JBP11 | Oct 14, 2016 |
Irving Stone has produced a fine fictional biography of the Italian Renaissance sculptor and painter Michelangelo Buonarroti in ’The Agony and the Ecstasy’. Stone was an American author (1903-1989) who specialised in fictional biography, his two best known works being ‘Lust for Life’ about Vincent Van Gogh and the volume under review here. Both books were adapted for the cinema in Hollywood.

Stone went to great lengths to research Michelangelo’s life and work: living in Italy for many years, working in marble quarries, working with a sculptor (the Canadian Stanley Lewis) and arranging for Michelangelo’s letters to be translated into English (later published as ‘I, Michelangelo, Sculptor’). This research has paid off, with lots of period detail, although he has a tendency to sound like Google Maps directions when he describes local trips through Florence and Rome.

The focus here is on Michelangelo’s relationships with the Medici family in Florence and Rome, the several Popes that he worked for and his own immediate family in Florence. There is much less on his personal relationships and nothing to suggest anything other than heterosexual desires (his extensive homoerotic poetry is glossed over).

Perversely, the descriptions of the art itself and the contemporary responses to it are generally muted, so declarations of his genius come as a bit of a surprise. There is not much insight for the non-artist into his process and where or how his talent came into being.

This is a fine, if slightly overlong, book tracing Michelangelo’s life and times; I would call it more of a fictionalised biography rather than a fictional biography. ( )
  pierthinker | Jun 16, 2016 |
A great book to read if you know nothing about Michelangelo's life. A good overview that is essential reading prior to travel to Italy and seeing any of his work in person. Florence anyone? ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
I read this book in German many years ago and was fascinated. And again, this time in English this book fascinated me.

Irving Stone describes the life of Michelangelo Buonarotti. It is a story about a life lived serving his family and several politicians, noble men and popes. He gets in between feuds between families like the Medici and the borgias, comes between popes and kings, gets raised high up and thrown to the ground the next time. He always gets back up and fights on. He sends all his money to his father who doesn't make good use of it. Many times he has no money to feed himself but his art and his work is his nutrition.

This book always makes me regret never having traveled to Florence and Tuscany. I would love to see the Sistine Chapel and his paintings and statues. Knowing the background of them and his suffering would make the experience even better.

If you love history, art,Italy then this is the book for you. ( )
  PeterNZ | May 11, 2015 |
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He sat before the mirror in the second floor bedroom sketching his lean cheeks with their high bone ridges, the flat broad forehead, and ears too far back on the head, the hair curling forward in thatches, the amber-colored eyes wide-set but heavy-lidded.
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1st ed. (1961): The agony and the ecstasy, a novel of Michelangelo.

Please distinguish between this work, Irving Stone's 1961 novel The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo, and the similarly titled The Agony and the Ecstasy: Short Stories and New Writing in Celebration of the World Cup edited by Nicholas Royle. Thank you.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451213238, Paperback)

Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo’s David, New American Library releases a special edition of Irving Stone’s classic biographical novel—in which both the artist and the man are brought to life in full. A masterpiece in its own right, this novel offers a compelling portrait of Michelangelo’s dangerous, impassioned loves, and the God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has ever known.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:11 -0400)

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Fictional biography of Michelangelo. High demand.

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