10 Most Famous Works By Michelangelo

Michelangelo was an Italian artist of the High Renaissance whose works exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of art in the west. He is widely considered the greatest sculptor in the west and though he had low opinion of painting, his frescos on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and The Last Judgement on its altar wall guarantee him a place among the greatest painters. Michelangelo was also among the best architects of his time. Here are 10 most famous works of perhaps the greatest artist of all time.

#10 Doni Tondo

Doni Tondo - Michelangelo
Doni Tondo (1507)
Type:Panel Painting
Location:Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

During the early 1500s, Michelangelo was commissioned by Angelo Doni to paint a “Holy Family” as a present for his wife, Maddalena Strozzi. Michelangelo used the form of a tondo, or round frame, for the painting. Doni Tondo features the Christian Holy family (the child Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph) along with John the Baptist in the foreground and contains five ambiguous nude male figures in the background. It is the only finished panel painting by the mature Michelangelo to survive.

#9 Bacchus

Bacchus - Michelangelo
Bacchus (1497)
Type:Marble Statue
Location:Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, Italy

Completed by Michelangelo by the age of 22, this famous work depicts the Roman god of wine Bacchus holding a goblet of wine in his right hand and in his left the skin of a tiger, an animal associated with the god. Sitting behind him is a faun, who eats the bunch of grapes slipping out of Bacchus’s left hand. Along with Pietà, Bacchus is one of only two surviving sculptures from the Michelangelo’s first period in Rome.

#8 Madonna of Bruges

Madonna of Bruges - Michelangelo
Madonna of Bruges (1504)
Type:Marble Statue
Location:Church of Our Lady, Bruges, Belgium

The Madonna of Bruges, which depicts Mary with the infant Jesus, was unlike other depictions of the same subject by other artists which tended to feature a pious Virgin smiling down on Jesus. Also known as Madonna and Child, and Bruges Madonna; the sculpture shows a somewhat detached Mary which looks away as if she knows her son’s future while the infant Jesus is mostly unsupported and appears to be stepping away from her mother and into the world.

#7 Laurentian Library

Laurentian Library Staircase
Staircase of the Laurentian Library designed by Michelangelo
Location:Florence, Italy

In 1524, Michelangelo was commissioned by the Medici pope to design the library for the San Lorenzo’s Church in Florence, Italy. Michelangelo designed both the interior of the library itself and its vestibule. He pioneered the Mannerist style in his design of the library which became renowned for its architecture. The Laurentian Library is one of Michelangelo’s most important architectural achievements and his innovations and use of space in the library were revolutionary.

#6 Moses

Moses - Michelangelo
Moses (1515) – Michelangelo
Type:Marble Statue
Location:San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, Italy

In 1505, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to build his tomb. Located in the Church of S. Pietro in Vincoli in Rome, it is most famous for the marble statue of Moses. It depicts the Biblical figure Moses with horns on his head. Michelangelo felt that the statue was his most lifelike creation and legend has it that when it was completed, Michelangelo struck the right knee of the sculpture with a hammer commanding it to speak.

#5 Pietà

Pieta - Michelangelo
Pieta (1499)
Type:Marble Statue
Location:St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Pietà depicts Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus who is lying on her lap after the Crucifixion. The subject is not a part of the Biblical narrative of the Crucifixion but was common in religious sculpture of Medieval Northern Europe. Michelangelo was just 24 at the time of completion of Pietà, which was soon regarded as one of the world’s great masterpieces of sculpture.

#4 The Last Judgement

The Last Judgement by Michelangelo
The Last Judgement (1541)
Type:Fresco Painting
Location:Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

The Last Judgement is one of the most influential works in fresco in the history of Western art. Painted on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, it depicts the Second Coming of Christ (a future return of Jesus to earth) and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. Jesus is shown in the center of the painting and is surrounded by prominent saints; while the Resurrection of the Dead and the Descent of the Damned into Hell is shown in the zone below.

#3 St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City
Location:Vatican City

Located in the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture, is regarded as the greatest building of its age and remains one of the two largest churches in the world. Aged 74, Michelangelo succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as chief architect of the building. He is regarded the principal designer of a large part of the building and although he died before completion of the project, it was Michelangelo who brought the construction to a point where it could be carried through.

#2 The Creation of Adam

The Creation of Adam (1512) - Michelangelo
The Creation of Adam (1512) – Michelangelo
Type:Fresco Painting
Location:Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

The work done by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is a cornerstone of Renaissance art and The Creation of Adam is the most famous fresco panel of the masterpiece. The popularity of the painting is second only to Mona Lisa; and along with The Last Supper of Da Vinci, it is the most replicated religious painting of all time. The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity and has been imitated and parodied innumerable times.

#1 David

David - Michelangelo
David (1504)
Type:Marble Statue
Location:Accademia Gallery, Florence, Italy

Michelangelo’s most well-known work is the statue of David. The most famous sculpture in the west, the masterpiece established Michelangelo as one of the greatest sculptors of all time. It represents the Biblical hero David apparently after he has made up his mind to fight Goliath but before the actual fight. The colossal statue, with a height of 5.17 meter (17.0 ft.), showcases Michelangelo’s exceptional technical skill as well as his strength of symbolic imagination.

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