Michelangelo came to Lorenzo de Medici’s’s palace as an apprentice sculptor. Lorenzo was impressed by his intelligence and fervor and surprising aptitude, and asked Michelangelo’s father to let him “keep him as one of his own sons”.
He gave the boy a room of his own and had him looked after as one of the Medici household. “Michelangelo,” says Vasari, “always ate at Lorenzo’s table with the sons of the family and other distinguished and noble persons who lived with that lord, and Lorenzo always treated him with great respect.”
Those were great days for learning. There was a revolution going on (called “Humanism”), a new way of understanding the world.
The great city of Florence, Italy, where Lorenzo de Medici ruled when Michelangelo was a young man (a Wikipedia commons photo)
Great lords in all the towns and cities hired famous scholars to teach their sons not only Latin and Greek but even the precepts of pagan morality. Lorenzo de Medici brought the most outstanding of them to Florence, to his palace, where they lived and worked in a kind of permanent discussion group they called, after Plato’s, an “Academy”: men like Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Politian (Poliziano).
Learned men at Lorenzo de Medici’s palace
Zachariah in the Temple [detail] by Domenico Ghirlandaio: Marsilio Ficino, Cristoforo Landino, Angelo Poliziano and Demetrios Chalkondyles (detail). Fresco. Santa Maria Novella, Cappella Tornabuoni, Florence, Italy. 1486-1490.
They wrote and read poems to each other and to Lorenzo and his family and they discussed the ancient writers with great learning and enthusiasm.
This Academy was active when Michelangelo came to Lorenzo’s palace. For three years the teen-age Michelangelo, sitting at table in the scarlet robe Lorenzo had given him, listened in deep silence and respect to the discourse of these teachers. It was his “Harvard and his Yale college”; and its influence lasted most of his life and can be seen in every work of art he made until his declining years, when he dumped Humanism for a more Counter-Reformation Catholicism.