The almost ‘God Like’ adoration given to Michelangelo is in my view misplaced and many sculptors out stripped his skill. I acknowledge only that he was a great sculptor and painter of his time.
Half of humanity he left out completely.
Artists in the 16th century in this part of Europe generally didn’t have access to female models at all. For faces and portraits, yes, but not for figures.
Is that strictly true? Probably not completely.
There’s a whole lot of sociological issues you could go into there, but it’s not fair to hold those against Michelangelo. For an artist, like Michelangelo, without much first hand exposure to the female form or much interest in the subject, it’s not surprising that his female creations were often somewhat masculine.
There may be some truth in what Jeff says here but I am not convinced; if Michelangelo had wanted to do a good female form he would have found away, from the little I know about him he was not too afraid of doing his own thing despite powerful opposition and conventions.
(I do sympathise however with the many young men who went to their deaths in the Great War of 1914-18 having seen nothing more that what was on show in the Nation Gallery and a naughty French post card or two. Such is the puritanical society.)
The Virgin Mary in Michelangelo’s Pieta is an acceptable female face (much too young but that’s another issue) not to my mind especially beautiful, so as Jeff says he could do it.
There are plenty of paintings by other Artists of the time, Leonardo, Raphael and others were able to produce passable female forms which vary in actuate femininity. (See examples above.)
For what it is worth I do not believe ‘Mich’ wanted to paint or sculpt women.