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The Agony and the Ecstasy
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The Agony and the Ecstasy

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  47,955 ratings  ·  1,302 reviews
Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo’s David, New American Library releases a special edition of Irving Stone’s classic biographical novel—in which both the artist and the man are brought to life in full. A masterpiece in its own right, this novel offers a compelling portrait of Michelangelo’s dangerous, impassioned loves, and the God-driven fury from which he ...more
Paperback, 776 pages
Published March 3rd 1987 by Signet (first published 1958)
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Anthony Metivier I personally wouldn't call it that, but it is epic in the sense that it goes into detail. It also uses fantastic metaphors and you really get a feel…moreI personally wouldn't call it that, but it is epic in the sense that it goes into detail. It also uses fantastic metaphors and you really get a feel for the era and Michelangelo's fascination for the human body. That said, there's a scene that is clearly more inspired by Frankenstein than history, and so elements like that certainly may make some people feel that it should be considered a "classic."

It's a bit dated now, but you might want to check out a book called "The Classic" by Frank Kermode. It has many great ideas on what counts as a classic.

Hope this helps! (less)
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Debbie Lazar
Oct 18, 2007 Debbie Lazar rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who enjoy historical novels
Goodreads crashed on me - I didn't realize the five stars were posted but not my review. You may be wondering why I rated this book so highly.

The book made Michelangelo and his times really come alive for me. I feel like I personally know, like and respect Michelangelo as a person. He was so recognizably human with family issues, rivalries, loyal friends, treacherous friends and, above all this fierce driving passion for his art, especially sculpture. He was born with a gift and a genius that h
Ericka Lutz
Oh good lord. No wonder I'm reading this book so slowly. I have to keep putting it down and fanning myself. Here's the young Michelangelo carving marble for the first time:

"He had removed the outer shell. Now he dug into the mass, entered in the biblical sense."

Really? He's fucking the marble? Apparently, yes...

"In this act of creation there was needed the thrust, the penetration, the beating and pulsating upward to a mighty climax, the total possession. It was not merely an act of love, it wa
Even with Art History 101 under my belt, I was shocked to learn of his monumental contributions to sculpture, paint, architecture and even politics. But I was even more inspired by the incredible challenges he overcame throughout all of his 90 years of life. Nothing came easy. What an inspiration! Here is a quote from his death bed:

"Life has been good. God did not create me to abandon me. I have loved marble, yes, and paint too. I have loved architecture, and poetry too. I have loved my family a
Finished: I am giving this 4 out of 5 stars. I learned a lot and this book will push me on to reading more about Italy in the 1500s, more about the Medici, more about the Borgia family, more about the Popes, more about Charles V,the Holy Roman Emperor. History was made VERY interesting. It was not difficult to keep track of the numerous people. It isn't necessary to keep a list of friends, foes, family and Medicis. The reader learns a lot about the internecine religious battles of the times. And ...more
Solveig Wherrity Granath
This is a book I got in Florence after having admired the works of Michelangelo. A wonderful reading experience - I found myself reading slower and slower towards the end, because I did not want to finish reading the book! Every time I opened it and started reading, it was like entering a secret gate to 16th century Italy.
rating: 4.5/5

I have conflicted feelings regarding this novel. There is just so much to love, so much that has made a profound emotional and intellectual impact on me. And yet in some aspects it seems incomplete, the presentation of Michelangelo Buonarroti's character is lacking a dimension.

I must clarify something before I go on, even though reading this book required research into Michelangelo's artwork and the politics during the period of Renaissance during which he lived, I am by no means
Clif Hostetler
This is a long classic (664 pages, 34 hours audio) historical novel about the life of Michaelangelo. It’s been on my informal to-read list ever since it was first published in the late 50s. It’s a relief to finally place it in the read category.

Michaelangelo is portrayed in this book as being very passionate about his art. He obviously was born with an abundance of talent, but he was also driven to always do his best. An example of his drive to perfection was his decision of paint the Sistine c
(My wife loved this book). I found the insights into the Medici family and into the culture of Italy at that time to be very interesting. But I found the details of Michelangolo's life to be a bit overworked. I don't think Mr. Stone really had to give insight for the reader into EVERY significant work of his life. After a while we come to understand the emotional process that he went through with each work without having to experience it over and over.

I was also rather disturbed by the author's
I didn't finish this book. But the one star doesn't mean that I thought it was a bad book. I just didn't like it. It was beautifully written and I found it compelling to read, but I was disappointed with how erotic it was in places. Early on Stone describes Michelangelo's experience with sculpting as if it were a sexual act. Then, when there was a real sexual encounter, I skipped the paragraph that described the act. A couple of words jumped out at me, however, and it was clear the description w ...more
Mary Kathryn
Jun 07, 2007 Mary Kathryn rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: one who would want a deluded view of history
In the wake of The Da Vinci Code, the field of art history has had a curious relationship with pop culture, especially mainstream literature. These books remain infinitely more accessible to readers than scholarly writings, and are marketed as if they carry the same amount of factual evidence, but with an enticing story so no one gets bored (overlooking the fact that the subjects were real people, and even as geniuses, were inherently boring).

The result is a public that feels informed, but in f
Aug 09, 2013 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: creative types
My reading list for 1961 started with this fictional biography of Michelangelo. It was the #1 bestseller that year, demonstrating that readers found a huge fat book about a renaissance artist worthy of their time and dollars in the early part of such a momentous decade.

The whole novel is a moving testament to art, artists, and the creative life. Michelangelo was never as famous or wealthy as other artists during his lifetime. For one thing, he was not a good businessman and cared not a whit for
A fascinating read! My only regret? That I didn't read it before I visited Rome.... However, it now gives me a reason to revisit Rome, and definitely head to Florence before I forget everything!

This book was written in the 1960's, so I have no idea what has taken me so long to read it. It was recently recommended to me by a friend of mine while we were touring a museum. She mentioned it was one of her favorites, so I put it on my "must-read" list.

Irving Stone brings the characters and those time
Jun 27, 2008 angelle rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to angelle by: my mom
The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) is a biographical novel of Michelangelo Buonarroti written by one of my favorite American authors -- Irving Stone. I am always amazed at how he does his research. For this book he lived in Italy for years visiting many of the locations in Rome and Florence, worked in marble quarries, and apprenticed himself to a marble sculptor. I read that a "primary source for the novel is Michelangelo's correspondence, all 495 letters of which Stone had translated from Italian ...more
I enjoyed reading it. And yes, I learned all sorts of things about Rome, history, Popes, art, Michelangelo, etc. At times though I thought it was waaaaay to dramatic. I don't know if the guy spent 14 hours next to his marble so he could see "The first light of dawn graze the surface" before he bought the thing. I mean come on! True, there are a lot of interesting ideas in the book. Like man's relationship to marble, etc. However it was very flowery to the point where it was silly. Not as bad as ...more
Apr 28, 2009 Chana rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chana by: my FIL
It was slow going for the first 100 pages or so. I actually started it, quit and read another book, and then went back to it with determination. I had to get used to the language (lots of Italian), the setting, the characters, and the author's writing style. The author took a while to warm up to his task. The writing is very detailed, formal and careful in the beginning, one could almost say boring. But it pays to stay with this book. I started to find it interesting about the time that Savanaro ...more
Apr 22, 2009 Jennifer rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: Jamie & Kristen
I've been longing for this day for three weeks now. When I started this book I couldn't wait for it to end. Not to find out the ending, but to be finished with the book. I really don't understand why so many people love this book. I feel that the information could have been condensed into a much smaller and more interesting book. The first 100 pages I was so totally bored I really wanted to stop reading it, but it was my book club's selection so I decided to power through. I felt like I was read ...more
Rachael Martin
At first glance, this giant tome seems daunting. Once you dive in, you won't want it to end.

Irving Stone gets a bit of flak in the literary world, as his historical novelizations may not be considered true histories. But, in my opinion, that is exactly what makes his writing so enjoyable.

The Agony and the Ecstasy is colored with the incredible complexities of Michelangelo's brilliance. Being a pawn of the Pope, living at the mercy of his lenders, struggling to release the true artist within him,
Vibina Venugopal
Read this book and you'll get a Que on how to write a biography that it almost feels like an autobiography..Renaissance is one the most interesting era in history were immense changes took place in the form of art, architecture, music and the whole thinking-thought process and ideologies...It was during the twelfth century spanning across the whole Europe starting from Italy....Leanardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, Vasco Da Gama are the ones that come into my mind instantly...Wit ...more
Mar 21, 2012 Lori rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Art history lovers, those interested in Michelangelo and his work
Recommended to Lori by: Art History teacher in college
This is my second time to read this excellent fictionalized biography of Michelangelo. I first read it many years ago while a young college student before I had much understanding of the Renaissance, Michelangelo or Florence. This book gave me a deep appreciation for Michelangelo and his work and since my first reading, I have studied his art with almost reverential devotion. Initially, in addition to the introduction to Michelangelo, it was an eye-opening insight to the Medici family and their ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
I first read The Agony and the Ecstasy in the Reader's Digest condensed version when I was in high school, and when I re-read it I was surprised how much of Michelangelo's life I remembered from so long ago. Irving Stone isn't the best writer in the world, but this biographical novel is straightforward and interesting. I especially enjoyed this second reading because we just returned from several days in Florence and the Tuscan countryside, and all the places were vivid in my mind's eye. It also ...more
Rendi Hahn
This novel is a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of Michelangelo - artist, poet, architect. It's a sad look at the religious world during that time - corrupt popes, religious wars, etc. It also highlights the shift to humanism in thinking and outlook.

Pluses: wonderful portrait of Michelangelo as a complex human being with hopes, dreams, family troubles, money troubles, yet driven by God to create - or as he would put it, to uncover art that was already present. I learned a lot about t
I LOVED it. I am beginning to realize that I really enjoy books about peoples lives, historical and contempory. I really liked Manhunt and a couple others that I had read before I started reviewing, like The Glass Castle and Issac's Storm.
This book had great character development, and flowed well. I felt the author devoted enough time to each event in Michelangelo's life to give it meaning and purpose, but was sure to move on when it was time--it wasn't boring. There was so much to learn about
Suzanne Arcand
This is a fantastic book and I came this close to giving it five stars which I’ve never, never done on the first reading of a book. I always wait to see if it ages well. Since “The Agony and the Ecstasy” was written in 1961, I could say that it did. The story and the theme are timeless.

It’s a “Biographical Novel of Michelangelo”. And what a character he is: a great artist, gifted, stubborn, strong and generous towards his family and friend but totally careless when it came to money. His whole l
“One should not become an artist because he can, but because he must. It is only for those who would be miserable without it.”

I don't even know how to start, I have many thoughts going through my mind right now so I have to try hard to write a relevant and relatively short review.
It took me a while to read this book, but not because I didn't enjoy it, but because my drawing classes left me with barely free time. It has more or less than 700 pages (it depends on the edition) and is easy to read
Finally, after the long agony of reading this book, the day of ecstasy has arrived, completion! I only kept reading because the chronological account of Michelangelo's works along with the basic history of Rome and Florence did help me weave the two together. By so doing it helps me to understand the historical circumstances surrounding him when he created his artwork; giving me a better ability to understand those works more so than receiving the art and the history separately.

However, knowing
The computer won't let me add my 4 stars. The only thing that would've made the book better is a photo of the art Michelangelo is working on throughout his life in the story. Great book! He was completely passionate about creating his sculptures. The only reason he painted the Cistine Chapel is because the pope asked him to. He actually tried to get out of it, but how do you tell the pope no? The whole thing was brought upon by his need to compete w/ Leonardo Da Vinci over which was the greater ...more
A very long time ago my mother told me she read that Michelangelo learned to be a sculptor by dissecting dead people in the night. That stuck with me so when my friend, Zoe, recommended this book my first question was did Michelangelo study corpses in the book. When she said yes, I knew this was the book my mom read and I had to read it.

It’s called The Agony and Ecstasy for a very good reason. Thanks to the author, I could feel each moment of Michelangelo’s despair, each time of triumph.

I read this book when I was 12 years old and it really made me aware of just how different the world of the 15th and 16th century Artists was in comparison to the current Art scene. To have sponsors like the Medici family and the Pope gives one a huge advantage over current artists. In the USA there used to be Federal funding for Artists to look for, but that is now dried up with the new concept that if you have the BEST talent then you should naturally float to the top. In the pre-twentieth cen ...more
Marcia Lonteen-Martin
I absolutely devoured this book. Irving Stone's style coupled with the subject matter makes the reading something to savor. Stone, as always, researched meticulously, reading and studying the 495 letters the artist left, art contracts, and other records for 6 years in preparation. Michelangelo is the first Western artist to have a biography published during his lifetime, eventually having two published. Michelangelo's life begins in this book at age 13. It shows the long road of apprenticeship h ...more
I remember my father reading this book - I was a teenager and into sports and music, but Dad found time to balance work and his love for athletics by reading one or two books a week.

So, after three kids and now two grandchildren, my interest in this historical novel came to fruition with much anticipation. At first, I found it a tough read, although the dialogue was lively and credible; but Stone's passion for history, and obvious adoration for Michelangelo's creativity, rings true throughout th
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Does eny one now a days have the determination of Michelangelo ? 4 20 Jun 02, 2014 02:35PM  
The passion of of Michelangelo 1 9 Feb 07, 2014 05:49AM  
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Goodreads Librari...: Do I Make a New Edition? 18 162 Nov 08, 2011 09:36PM  
The History Book ...: HF - THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY 71 252 Nov 28, 2009 09:49PM  
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In 1923, Stone received his bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley. In the 1960s, Stone received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Southern California, where he had previously earned a Masters Degree from the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.

When at home, Stone relied upon the research facilities and expertise made available to him by Esther Euler
More about Irving Stone...
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“Talent is cheap; dedication is expensive. It will cost you your life.” 119 likes
“One should not become an artist because he can, but because he must. It is only for those who would be miserable without it.” 66 likes
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