Michelangelo and George Washington: Two Men, One Weekend

On February 18, 1564, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni died.

On  February 22, 1732, George Washington was born.

I’m thinking of both today, in part because our American calendar is making me: originally designed to honor the birthday of George Washington, we split the difference and celebrate Presidents’ Day on the third Monday of every February. Sometimes this is George Washington’s birthday. Sometimes it is not. This year it is not.

But it is the day Michelangelo died.

Portrait of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Jacopino del Conte. 1535. Care of Wikimedia Commons.

Portrait of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Jacopino del Conte. 1535. Care of Wikimedia Commons.

Michelangleo was considered the greatest living artist of his time, and is still the standard by which we measure many artists today (often whether the comparison is warranted or not: have you ever heard someone standing in front of an abstract expressionist piece, saying “It’s no Michelangelo?” I have).

Michelangelo was part of a select group–some might say a group of two, including only also Leonardo DaVinci–considered to be true Renaissance Men.

Michelangelo was born in Caprese, Italy. Even though I consider it equally famous for its salad, it has been renamed Caprese Michalengelo.

"1776 George Washington 1876 In Commemoration of the Hundredth Anniversary of American Independence." Wittemann Bros., American. 1877.

“1776 George Washington 1876 In Commemoration of the Hundredth Anniversary of American Independence.” Wittemann Bros., American. 1877.

What does any of this have to do with George Washington? With Presidents’ Day?

George Washington was considered one of the greatest military minds and politicians while he was alive, and has retained such esteem all these years since his death. His reputation as an honest, fair, and strong leader has become the yardstick by which so many politicians are measured (despite the drastically altered demands of the American socio-economic-political landscape).

George Washington too is one of the most famous members of a very select group: the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. He often stands apart from this group as “The Father of Our Country.”

On July 9, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which approved the creation of a national capital. The exact location was to be selected by President George Washington, who signed the bill into law on July 16. Guess what the capital was called?

So. Both men were revered in their lifetime and remain celebrated greats even today. Both men were definitive representatives of their generations. And pieces of geography important to both men now bear their names.

These men were separated by a continent, language, and hundreds of years, to say nothing of the likely divergences in spiritual, cultural, and personal inclinations. They may not have even been friends had they the chance to meet. But it is rather nice to imagine the ways that greatness–despite differences in geography, language, time, spiritual, cultural, or personal preferences–can reach down to any one or all of us.

michaelangelo commons

Tell us: what do you admire about these two?

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