10+ Famous Michelangelo Sculptures and Where to Find Them

One of the most famous artists of all time, Michelangelo was an early prodigy, standing out as a sculptor, painter, and architect. 

Although he had mastery in all these arts, producing prominent works in the three fields, Michelangelo always considered himself to be a sculptor before anything else. 

So in this post, we will cover the most famous Michelangelo sculptures, from the first one to the most consecrated. 

About Michelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarroti was born on March 1475, in the city of Caprese in Tuscany, Italy, Even though he was born into a family of small-scale bankers, Michelangelo showed an early inclination towards art. 

At the age of 13, he became an apprentice to the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio in Florence, where he began his art training.

Michelangelo’s artistic talents were quickly recognized, and he soon gained attention for his exceptional skill in sculpting, painting, and architecture. He became well-known during the Italian Renaissance for his iconic works such as the statue of “David,” the “Pieta,” the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and numerous others. 

He started working as an artist and sculptor in his teenage years and continued creating masterpieces throughout his life, becoming one of the most influential figures in the history of Western art. Michelangelo’s dedication to his craft, his pursuit of perfection, and his immense contributions to art and culture have solidified his reputation as one of the greatest artists of all time.

Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra, c. 1545
Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra, c. 1545

Michelangelo’s love for sculptures

Michelangelo’s early interest in art led him to begin sculpting at a young age. He started his apprenticeship in art at around the age of 13.  Initially, Michelangelo was placed under the tutelage of Domenico Ghirlandaio, a well-known painter of the time, to study painting.

However, his passion for sculpture soon became evident, and he began studying under the sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni, who was the curator of the Medici Garden of San Marco. 

This association with Bertoldo allowed Michelangelo access to ancient Roman and Greek sculptures, which greatly influenced his artistic development.

Michelangelo’s first significant completed sculpture, believed to be carved between 1494 and 1495, is known as the “Madonna of the Stairs”. This relief sculpture depicts the Madonna seated on a stone block, holding the infant Christ. It’s a small marble bas-relief that showcases Michelangelo’s early talent and skill in sculpting.

Throughout his career, Michelangelo’s dedication to sculpture remained constant, producing numerous iconic sculptures. His extraordinary ability to breathe life into stone and capture the human form with unparalleled skill solidified his legacy as one of the greatest sculptors in history.

Famous Michelangelo Sculptures

Madonna of the Stairs

The “Madonna of the Stairs” is an early marble relief sculpture created by Michelangelo around 1491-1492, when he was still a teenager. This artwork is considered to be Michelangelo’s first sculpture. 

This sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary seated on a rock, holding the infant Christ. The title “Madonna of the Stairs” is derived from the background architectural motif of stairs or steps visible behind the figures.

Despite its small size, the sculpture portrays a sense of tenderness and maternal love between Mary and the infant Christ, displaying emotional depth and sensitivity in the depiction.

Though it may not receive as much attention as his later works, this sculpture remains significant in understanding Michelangelo’s evolution as an artist and his early mastery of sculpting techniques.

🗿 Where to see the Madonna of the Stairs: Casa Buonarroti, Florence.

Battle of the Centaurs

Michelangelo sculpted the “Battle of the Centaurs” around 1492 when he was just 17 or 18 years old. 

His early work portrays a violent struggle between centaurs and humans, symbolizing the conflict between intellect and brute force. 

This artwork was created for Lorenzo de’ Medici and was Michelangelo’s last work under his patronage. Michelangelo regarded it as the best of his early works and marked the beginning of his multidimensional era, as before this work, Michelangelo used sculpture for flat scenes. 

🗿 Where to see the Battle of the Centaurs: Casa Buonarroti, Florence.

Pietà

What was I doing when I was 24 years old? Nothing good probably, but Michelangelo? Well, he was sculpturing the Pietà. It is one of the most dramatic and celebrated sculptures in the world. 

It depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. The masterpiece is renowned for its emotional intensity, delicate details, and exquisite craftsmanship, showcasing Michelangelo’s exceptional skill in marble carving. 

The sculpture was commissioned to be a Cardinal’s funeral monument. It was later moved to its actual location in the first chapel of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. 

🗿 Where to see the Pietà: St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.

David

Probably the most beautiful man on Earth. Michelangelo sculpted the statue of David between 1501 and 1504. Commissioned as one of the twelve prophets statues to be placed in the roofline of the Cathedral of Florence, the sculpture represents the biblical hero David, symbolizing the defense of civil liberties. 

When finished it was placed in the public square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, instead, as the statue was too heavy to be lifted to the Cathedral’s roofline. 

David is now in the Galleria dell’Accademia since 1910, and a replica was placed in its original location. 

Standing at over 17 feet tall, the statue is the first colossal marble statue made in the early modern period. Admired for its anatomical precision, muscular detail, and expressive power, showcasing Michelangelo’s ability to capture the ideal human form.

🗿 Where to see the David: Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence.

Moses

Michelangelo created the sculpture of Moses between 1513 and 1515. Commissioned as part of a tomb for Pope Julius II in Rome, this would be just one of over 40 statues made for this funeral monument. 

Moses is depicted with horns on his head, inspired by a mistranslation of the Bible. In his right hand, he protects the Tables of the Law. 

The sculpture is renowned for its majestic presence, powerful expression, and intricate details, portraying Moses with a sense of grandeur and intensity that captivates viewers.

🗿 Where to see the Moses: San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome.

Rebellious Slave

Rebellious Slave is another statue commissioned for the tomb of Pope Julius II. The Rebellious Slave depicts a muscular, writhing figure seemingly struggling against the constraints of the stone block. 

This statue, alongside the Dying Slave, which we gonna cover next, was meant to symbolize the struggle of the soul, embodying the theme of human struggle against the limitations of the mortal body.

🗿 Where to see the Rebellious Slave: Louvre Museum, Paris.

Dying Slave

The Dying Slave was again, another statue created to adorn the tomb of Pope Julius II.

This sculpture portrays a figure in a state of gradual expiration, conveying a sense of both physical and emotional struggle.

 The “Dying Slave” symbolizes the human condition, the struggle with mortality, and the idea of the soul’s liberation from the constraints of the body.

🗿 Where to see the Dying Slave: Louvre Museum, Paris.

Young Slave

The “Young Slave” was another statue created as part of the unfinished tomb commissioned for Pope Julius II. 

This sculpture, along with others in the series like the “Dying Slave” and the “Brutus,” represents figures seemingly emerging from the stone, embodying a struggle against their physical constraints. 

The “Young Slave” is on display at the Galleria del’Accademia along with other Slaves statues that were not finished by Michelangelo, they are displayed in a corridor leading to David. 

🗿 Where to see the Young Slave: Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence.

Bacchus

Michelangelo sculpted Bacchus for Cardinal Raffaeli Riario, who rejected the statue. Bacchus was then sold to a banker and art patron in Florence named Jacopo Galli. The statue depicts Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, in a partially inebriated state, supported by a faun. 

It’s known for its portrayal of youthful exuberance and sensual pleasure. This work diverges from the typical classical representation of Bacchus, showcasing Michelangelo’s innovative approach by capturing a moment of drunken revelry, and incorporating emotional and psychological depth into the sculpture.

🗿 Where to see the Bacchus: Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.

Madonna and Child (Madonna of Bruges)

Michelangelo usually sculptured more pious and joyful sculptures when the theme was religious related, this one, however, is different. 

In Madonna and Child, Jesus is depicted upright, as if about to step forward, away from his mother.  Mary, on the other hand, doesn’t look at him nor smile, instead, she looks down and away, as if watching us. 

It is believed to have been made as an altarpiece. The artwork though, was bought in 1504 by two wealthy cloth merchants from Bruges, known as the Mouscron brothers. Madonna and Child was Michelangelo’s first artwork to leave Italy during the artist’s lifetime. 

🗿 Where to see the Madonna of Bruges: Church of Our Lady, Bruges.

Brutus

Michelangelo’s “Brutus” was part of a larger project commissioned by Ruberto Strozzi, an Italian nobleman. 

This work depicts the Roman statesman Brutus, famous for his role in the assassination of Julius Caesar. 

The bust showcases a mature, introspective portrayal of Brutus, characterized by intricate details and a sense of psychological depth. It’s one of the few busts by Michelangelo that were completed as individual artworks rather than part of a larger ensemble or project.

🗿 Where to see the Brutus: Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence..

Allegories of the Time of Day (day, night, dusk, dawn)

Michelangelo sculpted the figures “Day,” “Night,” “Dusk,” and “Dawn” between 1526 and 1534. These sculptures were part of a larger project: a tomb for the Medici family and were made to sit on top of the sarcophagi. 

The work was commissioned by Cardinal Giuliano de’ Medici, to adorn the Medici Chapel of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. 

These allegorical figures represent specific times of the day, each embodying different emotions and characteristics associated with their respective times. “Day” and “Night” are the central and most prominent figures among the group.

These works are celebrated for their portrayal of dynamic movement, intricate details, and the expressive power that Michelangelo infused into each sculpture, contributing to the grandeur of the Medici Chapel and showcasing his mastery in sculpting marble.

🗿 Where to see the Allegories of the Time of Day: Sagrestia Nuova, Florence.

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