In the footsteps of Michelangelo

A fascinating journey through the artworks of Casa Buonarroti: paintings and sculptures dedicated to various episodes from the life of the artist, interspersed with masterpieces created by Michelangelo at the time.

The young Michelangelo carving the head of a faun (Fine XIX secolo) by Casare ZocchiCasa Buonarroti

The youth in the garden of San Marco 

Michelangelo was born in Caprese on 6 March 1475. He moved to Florence with his family, and was entrusted to the care of a nurse of Settignano. She was from a family of stonemasons and thanks to this, according to the official biographer Ascanio Condivi, Michelangelo may have developed his first artistic vocation. His apprenticeship as a sculptor began in 1487 when he was introduced in the workshop of Domenico and Davide del Ghirlandaio. Noticed by Lorenzo the Magnificent for his skills, he was invited to the intellectual circle of the San Marco's garden: here young artists, led by Bertoldo di Giovanni, were encouraged to practice and confront with the classical art. In this fortunate nineteenth-century sculpture by Zocchi, Michelangelo, still an adolescent, is sculpting the head of a faun, on imitation of an ancient piece. The mask of the faun carried out by Zocchi takes up from the ones in sandstone stored in Casa Buonarroti, once believed to be Michelangelo’s and now datable to the XVI century.

Madonna della Scala (1490) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

To this first phase, between 1490 and 1492, belong the two marble reliefs depicting the 'Madonna della Scala' and the Battle of the Centaurs, masterpieces of Casa Buonarroti.

Battle of the Centaurs (1490/1492) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

Michelangelo expresses his apologies to pope Giulio II for getting away from Rome (1620/1621) by Anastasio FontebuoniCasa Buonarroti

Michelangelo in Rome, at the service of Pope Julius II

This painting of the Casa Buonarroti Gallery, by Anastasio Fontebuoni, narrates the episode of Michelangelo’s arrival in Bologna, in 1506: he was there to offer his apologies to Julius II for leaving Rome the year before. In 1505, in fact, the Pope commissioned Michelangelo the realization of his mausoleum in the Vatican Basilica. When the draft was approved, Michelangelo left for Carrara to find the marbles needed for the commission. But, once back in Rome, the Pope had changed his mind, and Michelangelo, deeply disappointed, returned to Florence.

AB I, 82 Sketches of marble blocks (1516/1517) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

In this double sheet, Michelangelo illustrated the marble blocks templates to be extracted from the Carrara quarries. These blocks were supposed to be destined for the tomb of Julius II.

AB XIII, 111 Sonnet and selfportrait (1509/1512) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

Reconciled to Julius II in 1506, Michelangelo returned to Rome to paint the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. In this famous illustrated sonnet he complained about the difficulties of this enterprise.

64F Study of Adam (1509) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

This sheet shows some preparatory studies for the figure of Adam in the episode "The Expulsion from Paradise" on the Sistina ceiling.

Male torso (1513 circa) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

This sketch, showing a male torso, is linked to the figures of the “Prigioni” series, originally intended for the tomb of Julius II.

Michelangelo shows to pope Leone X the projects for the Fabbrica of San Lorenzo (1617/1619) by Jacopo Chimenti da EmpoliCasa Buonarroti

The important commissions of the Medici Popes 

The new Pope Leo X, birth name Giovanni de' Medici, summoned Michelangelo to Florence to commission him the realization of the façade of the Saint Lawrence Basilica. Buonarroti developed several projects but also this enterprise was never completed because of its extreme expensiveness. The pope then asked Michelangelo to focus on designing the New Sacristy of Saint Lawrence, earmarked for the monumental burials of Lorenzo Duke of Urbino and Giuliano Duke of Nemours, and also those of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Julian. Once again, the successor, the Medici Pope Clement VII, addressed his attention to the complex of Saint Lawrence, and asked the great Michelangelo to design a library for the purpose of preserving valuable books.

Model for the facade of San Lorenzo (1518 circa) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

This great wooden model was created on the basis of Michelangelo's project. It shows the revolutionary idea for Saint Lawrent’s façade.

43A Project for the facade of San Lorenzo (1517) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

This view of the façade of Saint Lawrence represents the final design made by Michelangelo and then used for the realization of the wooden model.

71F Madonna and Child (1524 circa) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

This beautiful drawing by Michelangelo is linked to the statue of “Virgin and Child” designed by Michelangelo for the Medici Chapel at Saint Lawrence (New Sacristy).

80A Project of the secret library (1525/1526) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

The drawing shows a project for a "small library" which Clement VII commissioned to Michelangelo. This secret space was designed to preserve the rarest and most valuable books.

Michelangelo supervises the fortifications of Florence (1615/1615) by Matteo RosselliCasa Buonarroti

Michelangelo, supervisor the fortifications of Florence

After the sack of Rome in 1527, the Medici were banished from Florence and a Republic was established in the city. Michelangelo, who was a republican, put aside the projects for Saint Lawrence and went to Florence to supervise the fortifications of the city, besieged by the imperial army. This painting of the Buonarroti Gallery, by Matteo Rosselli, portrays Michelangelo in the role of governor of the fortifications on the hill of San Miniato al Monte, a crucial point of the city defense.

13A Study of a fortification for the Porta al Prato of Ognissanti (1529) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

This sheet shows one of the several projects made by the artist for the fortification of the city gate, Porta al Prato. These are very innovative drawings.

Two fighters (1530 circa) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

This sketch is linked to the commission of the “Ercole and Caco” statue, requested by the Florentine Republic to Michelangelo, but eventually assigned to Baccio Bandinelli by the Medici.

Michelangelo shows to pope Pio IV the model of San Pietro in Vatican (1618/1619) by Domenico da PassignanoCasa Buonarroti

The last Roman commissions

Michelangelo was entrusted the post of architect of the Saint Peter's Basilica by Pope Paul III Farnese and was reconfirmed by the next pope, Pio IV. Due to this commitment, Michelangelo refused the invitation of Cosimo I de' Medici and did not return to Florence. However, to satisfy - at least partly -  the sovereign, he made some sketches for the Florentine Nation church in Rome. In this painting, made by Domenico Passignano for Casa Buonarroti, Michelangelo, now elderly, shows the model of Saint Peter to Pope Pio IV.

106A Project of Porta Pia (1561) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

Pio IV also commissioned Michelangelo the projects for Porta Pia, a monumental gate meant to protect the new street built between the Quirinal and the Aurelian Wall by order of the pope.

Michelangelo on his deathbed (1628) by Francesco FuriniCasa Buonarroti

Michelangelo on his deathbed

On the 18th February 1564 Michelangelo died, almost ninety years-old, in his roman house of Macel de' Corvi. This monochrome painting by Francesco Furini, placed above one of the Gallery doors at Casa Buonarroti, portrays the artist on his deathbed. He is pointing at three crawling female figures, the three theological virtues, who are attending to him. It is a well-known fact that Michelangelo died in the presence of his most reliable friends, including Daniele da Volterra and Tommaso de' Cavalieri. Daniele was in charge of taking the cast of the deceased’s face, later used for commemorative portraits of the great artist.

AB IV, 182 Letter to the nephew Leonardo (14 Febbraio 1564) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

Michelangelo, two months before his death, addressed this short letter to his beloved nephew Leonardo. The nephew couldn't meet his uncle before his death in February 1564.

Crucifix (1562 circa) by Michelangelo BuonarrotiCasa Buonarroti

According to some letters dated 1562, Michelangelo asked his nephew to send him some tools for working wood. This little crucifix, perhaps a gift for Leonardo, was probably made in 1562.

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