Visualizing the Invisible in Michelangelo's Drawings at Casa Buonarroti

Plan drawing: Rome

On this sheet of very heavy and excellent quality paper, hidden by a series of anatomical details of horses drawn in black chalk, there is a previous trace of red chalk which until now has remained mysterious. The reconstruction, presented here for the first time, highlights a rare type of Renaissance sketch: those on a territorial scale. In this case it is a plan drawing of a large area of the city of Rome, between Trastervere and the Vatican, around Via della Lungara. It is easy to imagine that Michelangelo produced this sketch around 1542 at a time when, as reported by Vasari, there was the most conflict with Antonio da Sangallo the Younger over the design of the fortification of the Vatican Borgo and the bastions at Porta Santo Spirito. The sheet clearly shows Michelangelo's interest in the defensibility of the Vatican from the dominant positions of the Janiculum at Porta San Pancrazio, and in this sense it is possible to see a similar arrangement in the defences Michelangelo prepared in Florence around 1529 to defend the hill of San Miniato. As is often observed in the original sheets, we can see some rethinking in correspondence with Castel Sant’Angelo, which was redrawn the same together with its bridge a bit further to the left.

Casa Buonarroti, inv. 22 F recto, Anatomical studies of horses and plan drawing of Rome, circa 1540; black chalk and red chalk (403 x 257 mm); visible light.

Casa Buonarroti, inv. 22 F recto, Plan drawing of Rome; rendering of the red chalk marks.

Casa Buonarroti, inv. 22 F recto, Plan drawing of Rome; highlighted rendering of the red chalk marks.

Comparison between the Plan drawing of Rome (rotated 180°) and the corresponding area of the New Topography of Rome by Giovan Battista Nolli, 1748.

Casa Buonarroti, inv. 22 F recto; backlit.

Casa Buonarroti, inv. 22 F verso; visible light.

© KHI in Florence | 16.10.2021 13:37:33