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The Agony and the Ecstasy

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  74,064 ratings  ·  1,829 reviews
Irving Stone's powerful and passionate biographical novel of Michelangelo.

His time: the turbulent Renaissance, the years of poisoning princes, warring popes, the all-powerful Medici family, the fanatic monk Savonarola.

His loves: the frail and lovely daughter of Lorenzo de Medici; the ardent mistress of Marco Aldovrandi; and his last love - his greatest love - the beautiful
Paperback, 777 pages
Published January 1st 1991 by Arrow (first published 1958)
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Emma Iadanza It's based on historical facts and the majority of it is true, but it is a fictionalized version of Michelangelos life. That is, it's not a research…moreIt's based on historical facts and the majority of it is true, but it is a fictionalized version of Michelangelos life. That is, it's not a research paper, but it's pretty accurate. (less)
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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4.07  · 
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 ·  74,064 ratings  ·  1,829 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
***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
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone
The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) is a biographical novel of Michelangelo Buonarroti written by American author Irving Stone. Stone 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. A primary source for the novel is Michelangelo's correspondence, all 495 letters of which Stone had translated from Italian by Charles Speroni and published in 1962 as I, Michelan
Ericka Lutz
Jun 03, 2011 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 Lazar
Oct 16, 2007 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
Feb 23, 2008 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
Debbie Zapata
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturdaymx
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
Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy was a magnificent literary biographical novel of the renowned and beloved artist Michelangelo. It beautifully details the complexity, not only of the man, but a lifetime of his works, including the many and famous sculptures from Carrara marble, paintings, frescos and architecture, not only in Florence, but in Bologna and Rome. Michelangelo's large body of work included his iconic sculptures of David and the Pieta. Although he preferred other forms of art ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I took delight in the legend, I cherished just as much the reality. A remarkable, wonderful and true story-telling about Agony and Ecstasy. And, to the same extent, I liked the constant striving to split up from the existence of this demiurge the exact detail from the legend itself.
And yet, however impressive is in its proportions the list of titles of books dedicated to the life and creation work of the great Florentine artist, despite researches and although numerous papers have been brought o
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, arts, 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
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a thoroughly well-researched historical novel about the life of Michelangelo. What an incredible time in history! Michelangelo was definitely passionate and driven when it came to his art. He finished the Pietà when he was just twenty-five years old! This depicts the body of Christ on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion.

Detail of Pietà

He finished the statue of David before he was thirty.

Sculpting marble was what he loved most and most of his works were sculptures. He paint
Book Concierge
Audiobook read by Arthur Morey.

Stone’s epic historical novel tells the life story of Michelangelo. Stone did extensive research, living in Italy for several years, and using many of Michelangelo’s letters and documents found in various archives. He really brings the artist (and his works) to life. While most of us are familiar with his Pieta and David sculptures, and the Sistine Chapel paintings / frescoes, Michelangelo was also an accomplished poet and architect. Stone brings all these elements
The only Irving Stone story I've re-read and re-read. Wonderful history and fascinating characters coming to life.
page 87
"'I have never realized,' said Michelangelo, 'architecture is almost as great an art as sculpture.'
"Bertoldo smiled indulgently. 'Giuliano da Sangallo, the finest architect in Tuscany, would tell you that architecture is sculpture: the desighning of forms to occupy space. If the architect is not a sculptor all he gets is enclosed walls. ..."
Mary Kathryn
Jun 07, 2007 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
Aug 09, 2013 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
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a brilliant & thoroughly researched account of a multi-talented artist who suffered and worked till extremities. Michelangelo's life and his artwork is truly inspiring. He did everything what he believed he could not or should I say he was made to do it by pontiffs. Nonetheless, he excelled in everything.
Too many Italian names while reading becomes a little annoying but then I got used to it gradually. Highly recommended.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the book. I found 3/4 of this book really great and captivating. the last fourth was still ok, but in comparison to the first part, which was more detailed, was a bit dissapointing. It is of course very complicated to cover almost 90 years in only 800 pages (this old romanian edition) but Irving Stone still did a good job. With this book in mind, i am sure next time when I visit Florence and Rom I will look at all these marvels with a different eye.
So I liked it, but I found the book ab
Sep 05, 2012 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
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all art lovers
It took me a while to get through this huge tome (just over a year!)...but once I got into it, I sped through it pretty quickly. The first third took me a year and the last 2/3 took me a couple weeks. Ha. I loved Michelangelo's character. He was so devoted to his art, so passionate, so driven. Witnessing his love for his work was a delight.

It was a bit difficult to keep track of so many names, especially since many were similar over the course of his life...(which Lorenzo are we talking about h
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
Tyler Knowlton
Jan 01, 2009 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
Mario Ascencio
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I think all artists should read it.
Dec 04, 2008 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
Feb 26, 2015 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.
Lisa Vegan
I really enjoyed this. I read it in 1965 or 1966 when I was 12 and home sick with the flu for a week. Reading this book is a lot of what I did that week. Unfortunately, the two seem to be forever associated. But at the time felt I learned a lot about Michelangelo as an artist, and about how artists learned and worked back then.
Jan 29, 2017 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!
Paul Weiss
The "agony" and the "ecstasy" of "The Agony and the Ecstasy"!

I wonder if Stone would feel honoured or slighted at my brash theft of HIS title The Agony and the Ecstasy, as the basis for my review of his wonderful work!

Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy is an enormous, comprehensive re-creation of the life and death of Michelangelo Buonarroti, one of the acknowledged world giants of art. Not only has he allowed us to share Michelangelo's triumphs as a sculptor, painter, architect and poet b
Feb 01, 2008 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
Feb 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was just have someone whose work I'd studied in school come to life like this was an amazing experience. It definitely helpes to have some knowlegde of Renaissance art before reading it though. I could see I would have been confused if I hadn't known much about Michelangelo's work before. But it really gives it a whole new meaning. I also enjoyed meeting the popes, Lorenze de Medici, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci through Michelangelo's eyes, it really brought the whole ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Correct year 3 10 Apr 27, 2019 11:21AM  
Does eny one now a days have the determination of Michelangelo ? 6 41 Feb 22, 2018 12:15AM  
Michelangelo 20 126 Feb 21, 2018 02:18PM  
Historical Fictio...: July 2017 Group Read- The Agony and the Ecstasy - NO SPOILERS 21 71 Jul 16, 2017 10:55PM  
Play Book Tag: The Agony and the Ecstasy / Irving Stone - 4**** 2 9 Jun 30, 2017 08:46PM  
The passion of of Michelangelo 1 19 Feb 07, 2014 05:49AM  

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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
“Talent is cheap; dedication is expensive. It will cost you your life.” 204 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.” 115 likes
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