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

by Irving Stone

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2,867582,019 (4)114
Member:TheCriticalTimes
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
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Tags:Historical Fiction

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The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone (1961)

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Audiobook read by Arthur Morey.

Stone’s epic historical novel tells the life story of Michelangelo. Stone did extensive research, living in Italy for several years, and using many of Michelangelo’s letters and documents found in various archives. He really brings the artist (and his works) to life. While most of us are familiar with his Pieta and David sculptures, and the Sistine Chapel paintings / frescoes, Michelangelo was also an accomplished poet and architect. Stone brings all these elements into the novelized biography.

Additionally, the novel includes much of the politics of the times, from the Medicis in Florence to the various Popes in Rome, it’s a fascinating history of the era.

This man was a giant among giants, whose influence on art and architecture is almost without measure. His life requires an epic story. That being said, the novel is incredibly long in order to cover all of Michelangelo’s eighty-eight years, and his life’s opus. I found his efforts to study anatomy in an era when dissection was absolutely forbidden fascinating, but grew tired of the repetitive references to his search for “peasant models” or insistence on the male nude form.

I may have noticed the repetition more because this was a second reading. I first read the novel sometime in the mid- to late-1960s; I’m fairly certain I read it before the movie, starring Charleton Heston, was released, but maybe it was shortly after that. My rating reflects my recalled reaction at that time.

I do wish there was an “illustrated” edition of the novel, to show some of his works alongside those chapters describing their creation. But I suppose that what Google is for!

Arthur Morey does a fine job narrating the audio version. At 34 hours in length, it’s a significant commitment, but worth it (and you don’t have to carry that huge tome around). ( )
  BookConcierge | Jun 24, 2017 |
"The Agony and the Ecstasy" - what a wonderful title for this novel that tells the story of Michelangelo based on all the facts and details of his real life. Blessed to be born in Tuscany during the height of the Italian Renaissance, he dedicated his life to the arts. At the age of 10 he was already digging in the marble quarries learning the proper technique of mining for good marble slabs to use for sculpture.

By the age of 13, when the story begins, his raw talent is recognized by the best sculpting studio in Italy which eventually leads to a job working for the ruling family of Florence - the Medicis. Lorenzo de Medici welcomes Michelangelo into the royal palace as employee, friend, and confidant. As his fame grows he is summoned by the Pope to work on projects at the Vatican.

In many ways Michelangelo had a wonderful life - lived to an old age of 89 surviving under the reign of 10 Popes, several wars, and two outbreaks of the plague. He created some of the most beautiful art of the Renaissance including the Statue of David and painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.

Michelangelo’s ecstasy was being able to create original works of art. He was a perfectionist and dedicated to his life to creating work that has inspired people throughout the ages. Michelangelo was a simple man - his needs were few. Just give him a good block of marble and a chisel and he was ecstatic.

The agony was in the details of of his daily life. He loved three women but never married. He was married to his work. His health suffered from twelve hour days of sculpting in freezing temperatures in open courtyards and years of lying on his back on scaffolding in the cold barren Sistine Chapel painting the ceiling. Often his work was unappreciated, and depending on which Pope was in charge he was lucky if he got paid.

Irving Stone dedicates 8 pages to listing the references and sources of information used in writing "The Agony and the Ecstasy": biographies and autobiographies, history books - books on art, costumes, architecture, painting and sculpting including journals and encyclopedias. Even though The Agony and the Ecstasy takes place over 500 years ago Stone creates an authentic story of Michelangelo’s personal life.

Stone schools the reader on minute details of sculpting and painting - provides colorful descriptions of every day life in Florence and Rome. He provides descriptions of Michelangelo’s family home with stories interwoven of his 4 brothers and father. He tells of the bitter rivalry between Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. And he takes the reader into the ruling families palace for social events and politics, and into the Vatican for outrageous behavior of the popes (gluttony, corruption and illegitimate children).

A quote from one of Michelangelo’s friends, “From my reading, Michelangelo I have been able to follow the rise, fulfillment, decay and disappearance of many religions. That is what is happening to our religion today. Christianity has had fifteen hundred years to prove itself, and has ended in.... what? Borgia murders, greed, incest, perversion of every tenet of our faith. Rome is more evil today than Sodom and Gomorrah when they were destroyed by fire.”

As I was reading "The Agony and the Ecstasy" I also read "Michelangelo - Artist’s Life" - an illustrated coffee table book I purchased while visiting Florence. It gives a brief biography and photographs of all Michelangelo’s greatest works which was a huge help in visualizing many of Irving Stones elaborate artistic descriptions. And it also confirmed that Stone truly based this fictional novel on Michelangelo’s real life. ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Jun 20, 2017 |
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 |
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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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