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Visualizing the Invisible in Michelangelo's Drawings at Casa Buonarroti

Copy after Giotto / Profiles of figures

Copies by the young Michelangelo from masters of the past such as Giotto and Masaccio are well known. Perhaps it is more unexpected to find a text citation in black chalk from the Giottesque fresco with the Vision of Brother Augustine in the Bardi Chapel in Santa Croce, dated much later but in any case prior to the reuse of this sheet AB,IV,33 as a letter to his brother Buonarroto dated 22 August 1527. It remains an open question whether the drawing was done from memory, demonstrating Michelangelo's extraordinary capacity for visualization, or on site and therefore it would form part of a substantial corpus of drawings produced in travel notebooks of which there is no longer any trace.
The case represented by sheet AB,IX,33 is different. Here we have a letter sent by Michele di Piero to Michelangelo on 14 January 1519. Therefore these drawings in red chalk, seemingly scribbles, necessarily have to follow the writings. The reconstructions of the traces on the two sides of the paper show, by their exceptional nature, how Michelangelo knew how and wished to construct the detail of the human figure starting with a very fast sketch of the outline, over which he then proceeded to define the volumes with real excavation work achieved through the effect of chiaroscuro and shadows. The comparison with two similar but much more finished figures demonstrates Michelangelo's ability to visualize from the outset the whole figure in terms of its most intrinsic and characteristic movement with profiles that to us appear rather difficult to understand and read.


Buonarroti Archive, IV, 33, recto, Letter by Michelangelo to Buonarroto above a sketch of a friar after Giotto, August 1527; black chalk (204 x 218 mm); visible light.

Buonarroti Archive, IV, 33, recto, sketch of a frair after Giotto, before 1527; rendering of just the black chalk drawing.

Buonarroti Archive, IV, 33, recto, sketch of a frair after Giotto; rendering of just the black chalk drawing, rotated with respect to the previous one.

Buonarroti Archive, IV, 33, recto, sketch of a frair after Giotto; highlighted rendering of just the black chalk drawing.

Comparison between the Sketch of a friar after Giotto and the corresponding detail from the Vision of Brother Augustine by Giotto (Bardi Chapel in Santa Croce, Florence)

Giotto, Vision of Frair Augustine, detail, Bardi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence.

Buonarroti Archive, IX, 533 recto, Letter from Michele di Pietro to Michelangelo with profiles of a figure, post 14 January 1519; pen and ink, red chalk (204 x 218 mm); flash light.

Buonarroti Archive, IX, 533 recto; rendering of just the red chalk drawing.

Buonarroti Archive, IX, 533 verso, Letter from Michele di Pietro to Michelangelo with profiles of a figure, post 14 January 1519; pen and ink, red chalk (204 x 218 mm); visible light.

Buonarroti Archive, IX, 533 verso; rendering of just the red chalk drawing.

Comparison of two profiles (left) and two similar figures (right, top: detail of Christ the Redeemer, New York, private collection, location unknown, 1518-19; right, bottom: detail of male figure in the resurrection, circa 1540, London, British Museum, inv. 1886-5-13-5, Wilde cat. no. 63).

Buonarroti Archive, IX, 533 recto; backlit.




© KHI in Florence | 18.09.2019 00:41:54