Michelangelo is an internationally ubiquitous figure throughout the world, from references to his life and work through popular culture on post cards, commercials, and movies, he is known for a level of creative genius rarely achieved. The view of the irascible creative artist can be a misconception though, and disregards other entrepreneurial attributes that are essential to success, such as the interpersonal qualities of networking and relationship building.
The book Michelangelo at San Lorenzo: the Genius as Entrepreneur by William E. Wallace [Cambridge University Press, 1994], provides an interpretation of Michelangelo’s life as a networking collaborator, and sheds light on the operations and team work processes utilized to achieve his iconic status. Michelangelo raised the standards of the artist, and the way he accomplished this responsibility was through a loyal network of contractors, artists, and project commissions that he respected and worked with openly.
Michelangelo the Interpersonal Manager
Michelangelo holds a prominent position in raising the standards of the artist. He accomplished this through the genius of his work, a meticulous work ethic, and through valuable affiliations, leadership, and teamwork skills. He was very thorough and particular in his work and business. For most of the commissioned activities through his life there was a multitude of workers that assisted with the construction and completion of these assignments.
He managed and built an infrastructure that thrived on synergy, enhancing the productivity that any one person could achieve. In fact, later in Michelangelo’s life he became more of a supervisor for these workers, and instructed them as they followed a template of the undertakings.
Today, the historian is able to know these details, thanks to Michelangelo’s meticulous nature. He kept very detailed records of the names, wages, and other details about his workers on the back of the templates containing his ideas. This detail of the artistic process most likely reinforced the success gained by protecting against any mishaps or confusion that could have ensued without such attention to detail.
Michelangelo the Networker
Michelangelo also elevated the integrity of the artist by gaining an imperial recognition and affiliation. He believed he was a descendant of the affluent Medici lineage, and this specious assertion was eventually permitted. He joined the Medici household; bring him inimitable connections and opportunities. For instance, it gave him guaranteed income to enterprise his artistic talent with having access to abundant supplies and materials. It also gave him imminent job security.
During this time in history many Popes came from wealthy families. Michelangelo was connected to the Pope through the Medici family, and this provided multiple artistic prospects. It is important to give recognition to the investment his family connections provided, since he would not have been afforded these numerous opportunities without them.
During the sixteenth century, Europe was in the midst of disruption and modification due to the Protestant Reformation. This turmoil and confrontation that the Catholic Church was facing instigated a change in the purpose and depiction of art. The Catholics wanted to aggrandize the church by adorning it with artistic depictions of the holy. Consequently, much of the art at this time was commissioned by the church, and so reflected the views and desires of the Catholic institution. Michelangelo’s connection to the Pope and church through the Medici lineage can be viewed as a contributor to the abundance of papal commissions obtained.
Michelangelo the Entrepreneur
Michelangelo is without contention a redoubtable artist that has influenced preceding generations, but a catalyst for his imminent success may have been due to the capability to manage and coordinate a vast network of coworkers and joining a union with affluent counterparts that provided resources and further connections. All the manpower at his disposal would have made it easier to efficiently fulfill and complete the countless artistic works that are attributed to him today.
This shows the importance of blending soft skills with the implementation of a creative vision. Vision provides the path for the entrepreneur and the interpersonal skills and team building capacity to manage and lead offers the means to trend a path less traveled.