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Free MonkeyNotes Summary-The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone-Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

Chapter 1 - The Studio

Summary

Michelangelo accompanies his friend, Grannaci to the studio of the renowned artist, Ghirlandaio. Since Grannaci is the student of the latter, he volunteers to introduce his thirteen years old friend to his master. Michelangelo requests Ghirlandaio to make him his pupil and also grant him a stipend in order to appease the anger of his father. Ghirlandaio, impressed by the forthright manner of the boy accepts the latter as his student.

Michelangelo observes other students doing sketches and tries to copy the originals of his master. His earthly and expressive portrayal of men impresses Ghirlandaio. His talent invokes the envy of other students but Michelangelo continues doing his work with dedication. However, his hand craves to cut stones and carve statues. His fellow-artists at the studio mock at him but Michelangelo sets his mind on working on the marble ultimately. One morning, he reaches his birth town, Settignano, to meet his childhood neighbors and observe them cutting stones. The Topolinos invite him to join them in their work. Michelangelo is excited working on the marble. His hand moves eagerly to carve figures on the white stone. Later, he visits the quarry along with his friends to gain knowledge about the stones.

After spending a day at Settignan, Michelangelo goes back to the studio. Ghirlandaio looks agitated in his anxiety to paint the required figures on the fresco of the chapel. Michelangelo tries his hand at drawing some of the figures but Ghirlandaio disapproves of them as too crude for divine presentation. However, the master painter detects talent in the boy and allots him place at the back of the studio. He also asks Michelangelo to pose as his model for the biblical figures. Michel starts work with the assistance of Grannaci and Maradius. Later, he visits the Chapel and works on the top of the scaffold. He paints gods and goddesses of his vision and invites more criticism than praise.



One morning Grannaci enters the studio calling for Michelangelo. He drags the boy to a park near by. Michelangelo is surprised to behold the sight in front of him. The garden is filled with sculptors working on the marble. Grannaci informs him that Lorenzo Medici had turned the garden into a school for sculptors. Bertoldo, the renowned sculptor was to impart training to the students. Michelangelo is in a daze. The stones, the sculptures and the carvers mesmerize him and he is drawn towards them. He requests Grannaci to introduce him to Bertoldo. Grannaci asks his friend to be patient and wait till he finished his contract with Ghirlandaio.

Notes

Irving Stone traces the artist in Michelangelo at thirteen. Born to aristocratic parents, Michelangelo is discouraged from pursuing art as a profession. His father, Lodovico, sends him to a school to make him a learned man. When Michelangelo shows no interest in studies, he desires to make the boy a merchant. However, Michelangelo shows no interest in business. Only stones and images make him ecstatic and he spends his free time sketching himself and his surroundings. His friend, Grannaci takes note of his talent and introduces the boy to Ghirlandaio, the great master of fresco painting. Though Michel is more interested in sculpting than painting, he agrees to become an apprentice to Ghirlandaio and learn the intricacies of the art from his teacher.

Michelangelo’s talent invokes the jealousy of a few of his classmates and provokes criticism from Ghirlandaio. At a tender age, Michelangelo feels rejected. However, when Ghirlandaio provides a place for him in the studio and allows him to paint a section of the ceiling of the Chapel, he is more than content. Little words of appreciation and tiny gestures of recognition make Michelangelo happy.

Michelangelo works at the studio but his heart craves to sculpt the marble. Thus, he walks towards Settignano instead of the studio one morning and tries his hand at cutting stones along with the Topolinos. His desire is partially quenched and he feels refreshed to visit the studio next morning. More temptations are in store for him. A few days later, Grannaci takes him to the marble garden to show him the sculptors under the training of the great Bertoldo. Michelangelo is excited and becomes impatient to start working on the marble. His hand itches to touch the marble and carve out images on it. However, he has to wait till he completes his contract with Ghirlandaio. Thus, with a heavy heart, he turns away from the garden to walk into the studio.

It is ironical that Michelangelo is born to a miserly and mercenary man like Lodovico who fails to appreciate the value of fine arts. Disappointed with his father’s attitude and his progress at Ghirlandaios’, he turns to the Topolinos for moral support. The Topolinos understand him better than his parents and thus, he visits Settignano to give vent to his feelings. In this place of his birth, he gets the opportunity to fulfil his desire of carving on the stone slabs. He also walks to the quarry to look at the stones and gain knowledge about the quality of the slabs. Touching the marble and working on it is therapeutic to Michelangelo. A day’s stay at Settignano refreshes him and gives him the impetus to continue his routine at the studio. Later, the hope of working in the marble garden one day makes him pursue his work at the studio with devotion. Michelangelo loves and lives for the marble and he is prepared to do anything in order to get the object of his desire.

Irving Stone gives an authentic picture of an adolescent who experiences agony at being kept away from his ambition and feels ecstatic observing the sculptors practicing his choice vocation at the marble garden. Book I brings alive the emotions and feelings of a thirteen year old child prodigy who is forced to spend time doing uninteresting things and is compelled to restrain his longings due to the force of circumstances. Michelangelo desires to break away from the shackles binding him to escape into a world of chisels and stones.

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