Michelangelo's genius was not his art. It was his vision of life and the way that he used his art to translate and communicate that vision to us. Proust wrote, "The great artists have never made more than a single work, or rather they have never done more than refract through different settings the same beauty that they bring to the world." Michelangelo's work was basically a metaphor for his vision of a higher plane of existence, of man's eternal struggle with himself and others, and how to reconcile that vision and struggle.
Michelangelo's life and art were a constant struggle between human and divine beauty. As Michelangelo grew older and began to contemplate the meaning of life, his works began to represent life's inner turmoil. The bodies that he created took on more heroic proportions and symbolized the dimension of the struggle within.
Michelangelo was attracted to boys and young men and lived with a young male prostitute for several years. His greatest love was Tommaso dei Cavalieri , who was 16 years old when Michelangelo met him in 1532, at the age of 57. The artist struggled to reconcile his erotic longings with his love of God. These feelings were reflected in Michelangelo dedicated to him over three hundred sonnets and madrigals. In his religious poetry of his late years, where he addresses Jesus with the same passionate affection that he had earlier lavished on Tomaso.
There are several excellent documentary films on the artist/architect/poet including Robert Snyder's pair of films: The Titan: Story of Michelangelo (1950) and Michelangelo: Self-Portrait (1989).
In Italy where his architecture is celebrated as much as his sculpture, paintings, drawings, Michelangelo's birthday is celebrated with a wonderful cake, Zucotto alla Michelangelo.The word zucotto means dome or pumpkin, a reference to the dome-shaped basilica of St. Peter's which Michelangelo designed and which the cake represents. Having this eponymous culinary tribute to one of the word's greatest artists is somewhat ironic since he lived quite frugally and once, told one of his apoplectics that he ate "more out of necessity than of pleasure."
Zucotto alla Michelangelo (Michelangelo's Dome Shaped Cake)
12 eggs, separated 2 cups powdered sugar 2 TB vanilla 1 tsp salt 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup cornstarch 1 tsp cream of tartar 1/3 cup maraschino liqueur
Cream Filling Ingredients
1/2 cup hazelnuts 1/4 cup maraschino liqueur 2 cups cup whipping cream 1/3 cup powdered sugar 1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries 1 oz unsweetened chocolate; grated
Instructions for cake
Preheat over to 350° F. Butter and flour 3 9" cake pans.Combine egg yolks, powdered sugar, and vanilla into a large bowl and beat for about 8 minutes, or until thick and lemon colored.Combine egg whites and salt in a separate bowl and beat until whites hold soft peaks. Fold whites into yolk-mixture. Sift flour, cornstarch, and cream of tartar in a separate bowl. Fold into yolk mixture. Pour batter evenly into 3 cake pans and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert cakes on racks to cool.
Instructions for nuts
Bake hazelnuts in ungreased baking pan at 400° F for 5 minutes or until skins begin to crack. Wrap hazelnuts in clean towel. Let stand 2 minutes. Rub hazelnuts in towel to remove skins. Chop hazelnuts. Return to baking pan. Bake about 8 minutes until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool.
Instructions for filling
Beat together whipping cream and powdered sugar in chilled medium bowl until stiff. Fold in hazelnuts, cherries and chocolate. Spoon filling into cake-lined bowl. Place remaining cake pieces on filling. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours.
Instructions for assembly
Spray a 5-quart bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bowl with plastic wrap.. The bowl should not be more than 10" in diameter.When cakes are cool, cut 2 of the cakes in pieces to cover bottom of and line sides of a 5-quart bowl or mold. The bowl or mold should not be more than 10" in diameter. After putting pieces in place, sprinkle cake with 2/3rds of maraschino liqueur.Spoon in filing. Cover with remaining layer of cake. Cover top of bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours. When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap. Cover with serving dish. Invert and tap on top of bowl to loosen. Remove bowl and plastic wrap.
© 2010 Gordon Nary