National Gallery: Manchester Madonna, c.1497
This is an unfinished painting by the young Michelangelo. Its medium is tempera on wood. In 1857, the Madonna was exhibited for the first time in the temporary exhibition: Art Treasures of the United Kingdom in Manchester; before this, the painting was in the Borghese collection in Rome. This work is usually attributed to the master’s debuts at the time of his first trip to Rome, when the banker Jacopo Galli commissioned him some works. The portrait portrays the return of the divine family from Egypt. The painting represents Mary, in the act of reading a prophetic book that reveals the fate of her son. Behind we see the young John the Baptist with his signature camel fur. On the sides we can find two pairs of symmetrical angels reading from a scroll. Only the one on the right is complete, whereas the other is illuminated only with green pigment, which is the base colour for flesh tone.
British Museum: Portrait of Andrea Quartesi, c.1530
This work is a representation of the head and shoulders of a young friend of Michelangelo called Andrea Quartesi. It is executed with black chalk and pencil on paper circa 1530. Quartesi was a nobleman living in Florence from 1512 to 1585. There are some letters that inform us that this young man took drawing lessons from Michelangelo. It was usually against the will of the subjects and after much insistence that Michelangelo would be able to draw his portraits. In the portrait, Andrea Quartesi looks straight into the eye of the viewer. Michelangelo’s meticulous precision and detail in drawing the man’s attire is very striking.
Royal Academy of Arts: Taddei Tondo, 1504-1505
Tondo Taddei is a marmoreal bass relief by Michelangelo made between 1504 and 1505. This piece in particular was completed for Taddeo Taddei, and was displayed for private devotion in his palace in via de’ Ginori. The marble was previously in the Wicar Collection in Rome, where Sir George Beaumont purchased it in 1823; this resulted in the piece being brought to London. The scene depicts the Virgin, the Child and St John, with St John holding out a goldfinch to the baby Jesus. The scene is inspired by everyday life, and creates a dynamic ensemble.
The Courtauld Gallery: The Dream, 1533
This is one of the most beautiful drawings of the Renaissance, completed in 1533 when Michelangelo was at the peak of his career. It testifies his incomparable ability in drawing and his extraordinary power as an creator of artistic dreams. This piece was made for a noble Roman, Cavalier Tommaso. The poetic imagery of the dream and the transcendence and the struggle between the flesh and the spiritual world allows us to comprehend the significance and the function of the Dream. The drawing taught his contemporaries the ideas of neoplatonism. The composition presents a young nude idealised and lying on a globe. Masks fill the base where he is sitting. The swirling mass of the figures that surrounds the young man represent the seven deadly sins. A winged spirit, probably a personification of beauty and of chaste love, symbolises the awakening from illusions and deceit of the terrestrial world towards a new spiritual life.
Victoria & Albert Museum : David, 1501-1504
David is one of the most famous sculptures made in marble by Michelangelo between 1501 and the start of 1504. It is considered one of the masterpieces of world sculpture, and is one of the emblems of Renaissance and a symbol of Florence and Italy abroad. David represents the biblical hero in the moment in which he is about to face Goliath. Originally, the statue was placed in Piazza della Signoria as a symbol of the Florentine Republic, vigilant and victorious against enemies. David has always been considered as the ideal of male perfection and beauty in art. On 16th August Michelangelo was commissioned with a statue of King David, to stand in one of the external sections of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It was said that the huge piece of marble Michelangelo was given already had some anthropomorphous forms.
By Diletta Moricca Fenicia