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The Agony and the Ecstasy: The Biographical Novel of Michelangelo

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  61,804 Ratings  ·  1,571 Reviews
Florence in the year 1475 was the intellectual & artistic center of the flowering Italian Renaissance. Into this gem-like city-state, ruled by the patron of arts & letters, Lorenzo de' Medici, was born one of the greatest geniuses the world has produced--Michelangelo Buonarroti, sculptor, painter, poet, architect & engineer. Few artists have matched the grandeu ...more
Hardcover, 664 pages
Published February 17th 1961 by Doubleday (first published 1958)
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Ricardo Baseada na vida de Michelangelo. Obra de ficção, baseada em fatos e suposições históricas.
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)

Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 08, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing
***4.5 stars out of 5***

”To some people stone was dead; ‘hard as stone,’ ‘stone cold,’ they said. To him, as he once again ran his fingers along its contours, it was the most alive substance in the world, rhythmic, responsive, tractable: warm, resilient, colorful, vibrant. He was in love with stone.”

 photo Michelango_Portrait_by_Volterra_zps93nufpzf.jpg
Michelangelo portrait by Volterra

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born in Florence on March 6th, 1475. It was a fortuitous time to be born. He was coming of age just as the Renaissance
Debbie Lazar
Oct 16, 2007 Debbie Lazar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 03, 2011 Ericka Lutz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Debbie Zapata
Jul 31, 2015 Debbie Zapata rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturday
I discovered this Irving Stone title in high school many many years ago, but I had not read the book again since then so it was fresh, new, and incredibly stunning for me. We meet Michelangelo when he is thirteen, and follow him through his almost tortured life until he dies at age 88. In between we see him become an Artist like no other before or since. We learn Art History, Italian History, Vatican History, and meet an incredible number of Popes, all of whom keep Michelangelo on a short leash. ...more
Feb 23, 2008 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 07, 2009 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arts, italy, hf
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
Aug 09, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 18, 2017 Nataša rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Možda bih nakon "Agonije i ekstaze" mogla reći da mi je omiljeni žanr, ako izuzmemo klasike, definitivno romansirana biografija. Nisam neki poznavalac umetnosti, pa mi upravo knjige poput ove pružaju mogućnost da spojim lepo i korisno - uživam u čitanju, istovremeno učeći o umetnosti.
Istina je da sam odugovlačila sa njom (ne zato što nije lagano štivo, naprotiv), ali sam zaista uživala, stapala se sa pričom, vizualizirala predele o kojima je pisano, gradove, trgove, ulice... tražila po internet
Jan 01, 2009 Tyler rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
(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
Dec 04, 2008 Dianna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 05, 2012 Candy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 03, 2013 Chrisl rated it it was amazing
The only Irving Stone story I've re-read, and re-read. Get a re-read urge just pasting the copied Kirkus


While previous works on Michelangelo either never fulfilled the picture of the man or were beyond the means of the average reader, this extraordinary work is fully rewarding on every count. Against the surging many-threaded setting of the Renaissance, Michelangelo emerges with his own many-sided genius. In addition, Stone writes out of intimate personal acquaintance with techniqu
Feb 26, 2015 kaśyap rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, art
A very detailed and thoroughly researched biographical novel of Michelangelo. Portrays his struggles and thoughts during the creation of each of his works. Paints a vivid picture of the life and politics during Italian renaissance.
My only problem with this novel was that there were a ridiculous number of characters with similar sounding Italian names, and I soon lost track of who’s who except for some main ones.
Jan 29, 2017 Whitney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned SO MUCH about Michelangelo. I wouldn't say the reading experience was always fun, but I do feel smarter!
Ahmad Sharabiani
Oct 03, 2008 Ahmad Sharabiani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, art
میکل آنژ، در ششم مارس 1475 زاده شد. در شش سالگی مادرش را از دست داد، پدرش چندی شهردار کاپزر و شیوزی بود. دایه ی میکل آنژ زنی سنگتراش از اهالی ستلین یانو بود. هنگام تحصیل فقط به نقاشی دل سپرد. به مدرسه ی پیکر سازی که لوران دو مدیسین در باغهای سن مارک دایر کرده بود، وارد شد. و جزو هواخواهان مجسمه سازی و حجاری یونان باستان گردید. در مارس 1505 میکل آنژ به فرمان ژول دوم به رم رفت، و دوران پر افتخار زندگی خود را آغاز کرد، او بیش از همه کاوالیوری را دوست داشت، و عشقش به او از دیگران پایدارتر بود. کاوال ...more
Feb 01, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  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
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
Jun 27, 2008 angelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 19, 2012 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 11, 2009 Chana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Armine Mamikonian
Jul 13, 2015 Armine Mamikonian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Время- это тоже инструмент, орудие работы,большое произведение искусства требует, чтобы прошли месяцы, даже годы, прежде чем заложенная в нем энергия чувств отчетливость и твердость. Время играло роль своеобразной закваски..." - очень мне близка эта фраза из книги "Муки и Радости" Ирвинга Стоуна (по биографии Микеланджело Буонаротти), несмотря на то, что я не создаю произведения искусства(
Книга очень длинная, иногда даже затянутая: первую половину книги с трудом прочитала, даже было ощущение, ч
Jan 02, 2009 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Rachael Martin
Jan 20, 2013 Rachael Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
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
Jul 29, 2008 Brooke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Does eny one now a days have the determination of Michelangelo ? 4 25 Jun 02, 2014 02:35PM  
The passion of of Michelangelo 1 13 Feb 07, 2014 05:49AM  
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Goodreads Librari...: Do I Make a New Edition? 18 162 Nov 08, 2011 09:36PM  
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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.” 171 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.” 98 likes
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