Michelangelo Drawings

Michelangelo Drawings

Michelangelo Drawings

Michelangelo Drawings

Excerpt

An artist paints with his brains and not with his hands. MICHELANGELO, 1542 Michelangelo did never sketch. Ever line of his has meaning. WILLIAM BLAKE, 1811

IN the life and art of Michelangelo we are continually coming across the unexpected -- things which are not in accord with the general ideas of his time or are even violent contradictions in the master's own nature.

Michelangelo began his career in the service of the Medici, despite the fact that he was a supporter of their arch-enemy Savonarola, 'whom he has always held in great veneration, says Condivi, 'the memory of his living voice still remaining in his mind.' Later, while engaged in fortifying Florence against the Medici, he carried on as best he could with the sculpting of their family tombs. With Vittoria Colonna, Flaminio and Cardinal Pole he dreamt of reforming the Roman church, but these heretical aims did not prevent him serving the Popes. Fear of sin gnawed at his heart like a vulture, yet he remained an addict of that vice which Savonarola described as the worst defect of the Florentines. He had the most delicate feeling for adornment and beauty, but preferred to be dirty in his house and in his person; he appreciated good food, but was content to live for weeks on bread and cheese. His courage was as surprising as his cowardice and his sudden flights from Florence; he appears to have shirked every kind of human and moral responsibility and yet took a patient and affectionate interest in the welfare of his servants. He spoke with contempt of other artists, but helped even barbers and pedlars with their designs when they displayed an amateur interest in art. He had nothing to do with the spirit of his times, except when he himself evoked it. His art developed in fits and starts, with sudden stylistic breaks and complacent returns to old motives. He began works with furious zeal, with fanatical dedication, and would then suddenly stop or even shatter them to pieces, or indifferently leave their completion to incompetent hands. Even the simplest facts of his life are surprising and out of harmony with the customs and aspirations of his time.

This surprising, one might almost say this unseemly element is found for the first time in the contract for Michelangelo's apprenticeship. The usual term of apprenticeship in those days was six years, during which a not inconsiderable fee was paid to the master, but in Michelangelo's contract with the brothers Ghirlandaio, concluded on April 1, 1488, it was stipulated that the term should be three years, and that a gradually increasing salary should be paid by the masters to the apprentice.

Michelangelo was then thirteen years old, but it seems that even then there was nothing Ghirlandaio could teach him. His entry into this workshop was due to Granacci, one of Ghirlandaio's pupils, who had noticed Michelangelo's 'great skill in drawing', and brought him some of his teacher's models to copy. According to Condivi and Vasari, the presence of Michelangelo in this craftsman's workshop was an intolerable nuisance. Thus on one occasion the master gave one of his drawings, a draped female figure, to a pupil to copy, whereupon Michelangelo snatched the sheet away and 'con penna piu' grossa', with broader strokes of the pen, retraced the outlines of the figure, thus showing the old man . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.