Few artists in the history of the world have attained the mythic status of Michelangelo--painter of the heavenly Sistine Chapel and sculptor of the nearly divine David. And it is his towering presence that makes it so difficult to imagine the artist as a man. Art historian James Beck helps unlock the mystery of Michelangelo by opening the doors of the three very different worlds to which he belonged. Michelangelo's father, his famous and influential patron Lorenzo de Medici, and Pope Julius II who, according to Beck, forced the Sistine Chapel commission onto its now-famous painter, divided the rule of these worlds between them and held powerful sway over the artist. Michelangelo left behind a fair amount of correspondence, upon which Beck heavily relies. But beyond that, there is a dearth of reliable information about the subject. Michelangelo himself carefully oversaw the contemporary biographies--selling 16th-century writers on the notion that he was divinely preordained to become a renowned artist. Beck is clearly a careful researcher and he skillfully combines the facts at hand and collateral information about the era to recreate the artist's world. He freely draws on this information to form opinions about his subject's sexuality, passion for his art, and relationships to the powerful men in his life. He evokes, too, a strong visual sense of Michelangelo's environment--the Medici palace where he lived for a time, the Vatican of the Renaissance, the artist's own work. This is definitely a compelling story, but bear in mind that because of the distinct lack of reliable source material, this biography falls somewhere between fact and well-informed historical fiction.