Michelangelo, the sculptor. Part II.

During his stay in Florence, between 1499-1505, Michelangelo worked in several commissions. Between them are the Madonna and Child (1501-1504), a private commission for a Flemish merchant named Alexander Mouscron and that was shipped to Bruges in 1506; the statues of Sts. Paul, Peter, Pius and Gregory (between 1501 and 1504) for the Piccolomini Altarpiece in the Cathedral of Siena; the Pitti Tondo (1503-1505); the Taddei Tondo (1504-1505) and the unfinished St. Matthew (1505-1506) for the choir niches of the Florence Cathedral. 

Madonna and Child (also known as Madonna of Bruges), marble, by Michelangelo, 1501-1504, height 128 cm (including base) (Church of Our Lady, Bruges, Belgium).
This statue was commissioned by a Flemish cloth merchant named Alexander Mouscron and shipped to Bruges in 1506. In this sculpture, Michelangelo strikingly juxtaposed a cool and hieratic figure of the Virgin with an animated Christ Child whose subtly twisting body she encloses and protects between her legs. The Child almost appears to be about to step away from his mother. Meanwhile, Mary doesn’t cling to her son or even look at him, but gazes down and away. This group of the Madonna and Child shares some similarities with Michelangelo’s Pietà (1498-1499), mainly, the chiaroscuro effect and movement of the drapery, as well as the long, oval face of Mary. This is the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime.
Sculptures for the Piccolomini Altarpiece, marble, by Michelangelo, 1501-1504 (Siena Cathedral, Siena). The Piccolomini Altarpiece was commissioned by cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini who wanted it for his tomb. However, he was later elected Pope Pius III and buried in the Vatican. The Altarpiece was built between 1481 and 1485 by Andrea Bregno, with additions in the following decades. On June 19th, 1501, young Michelangelo was commissioned with the sculptures for the niches of the Altarpiece. He began working in this commission slowly and occasionally. Top left: St. Paul. Top right: St. Peter, this is Michelangelo’s most individual contribution for this Altarpiece, the intensity of Peter’s look and the way he clasps his garment can be seen as a study anticipating the Moses for Julius II’s tomb (see pictures below). Bottom left: St. Pius, this sculpture was originally carved as St. Augustine, this sculpture and that of St. Gregory were carved in collaboration with Baccio da Montelupo. Bottom right: St. Gregory.
Madonna (Pitti Tondo), marble, by Michelangelo, 1503-1505, 85,8 x 82 cm (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence). This tondo was made for Bartolomeo Pitti, hence its alternate name. In this tondo Michelangelo placed, next to the stern Madonna with an open book on her knees, a Child whose pose recalls that of ancient funeral genii. Thus the overall effect, despite the apparently playful attitude of the Child, is deeply serious, and the Madonna has an almost prophetic force because of her size, which bursts out from the frame of the relief. She also sits on a cube block, like Michelangelo’s Madonna of the Stairs. The cherub upon Mary’s forehead symbolizes her knowledge of the prophecies. In the background is barely visible a young Saint John the Baptist. The sides of the work are not polished, giving an unfinished character to the work, and accentuating this effect. This work was sculpted in the same year in which Michelangelo sculpted his David, having found the time to dedicate to some other paid private commissions. In this work, Michelangelo seems to have been influenced by the lost cartoon of Saint Anne by Leonardo da Vinci, which was exhibited at the Santissima Annunziata church in those years.
Madonna and Child with the Infant Baptist (Taddei Tondo), marble, by Michelangelo, 1504-1505, 82,5 cm diameter (The Royal Academy of Arts, London). This tondo is unfinished, but it is precisely its unfinished state which wonderfully reveals Michelangelo’s mastery in the sculptural details on marble. The motif is a mysterious one, apparently using antique putti as models: Jesus runs away from the little bird held out by the infant St. John the Baptist, with his attribute of a baptismal bowl at his waist, into Mary’s arms, hardly fitting in with the characteristic image of the dignified redeemer of the world. Mary is conceived of in an equally unusual way. Her turban and her top-garment which covers only one shoulder are less in accordance with the iconography of the Mother of God than with classical female figures. This work was also carved while Michelangelo was working on his David and was commissioned by Taddeo Taddei. Michelangelo produced three works in the tondo form: his painting of the Tondo Doni, the Pitti tondo (see picture before) and this Taddei tondo. He never returned to work in this form.
St. Matthew, marble, by Michelangelo, 1505-1506, 271 cm height (Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence). This work was commissioned to Michelangelo by the Arte della Lana (the wool guild) in 1503. Michelangelo was supposed to produce a total of 12 figures depicting the Apostles, destined for the niches of the choir of Florence cathedral. However, he only worked in the incomplete figure of Matthew before the commission was cancelled when Michelangelo left for Rome in 1505. Michelangelo placed this figure of St. Matthew torqued around its central axis.

Cardinal Giuliano Della Rovere, who was elected Pope with the name of Julius II, invited Michelangelo back to Rome in 1505 and commissioned him with his funerary monument, a commission that would become the great sculptor’s torment for the rest of his life, “la tragedia del sepolcro” (‘the tragedy of the tomb’), as Condivi called it. Julius II, violent and extreme in every one of his endeavors, wanted for himself a gigantic tomb, so for some time it was thought to place it at the very center of St. Peter’s Basilica, then being projected by Bramante, in the very place occupied by the tomb of Saint Peter. Later, the Pope accepted a less ambitious project, according to which his tomb would be a kind of rectangular monument attached to the wall, and thus projecting only three facades. Condivi gave the dimensions and details of this first project of the tomb by Michelangelo. The monument was to include 40 statues and be finished in five years. The projecting body of the tomb would have a front façade, the shorter one will include the door to enter the burial chamber. In the lateral facades, of double-length than the frontal one, there would be niches with statues of virtues and prisoners, of which Michelangelo only executed two, which are currently kept in the Louvre. At the top of the funerary monument, in the center, two angels would be placed holding a mock funeral, as well as four prophets seated at the corners. One of them is the famous Moses, the only statue totally completed by Michelangelo that was to adorn the final grave of Julius II.


Study for the Tomb of Julius II (project of 1505), drawing (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence). This drawing is a study for Michelangelo’s proposed reconstruction drawing of the project for the tomb of Lulius II in 1505.
Left: Rebellious Slave, marble, by Michelangelo, ca. 1513, 229 cm height (Musée du Louvre, Paris). Following the Pope Julius II’s death in February 1513, Michelangelo signed a second contract with his executors for a reduced version of the tomb. This still massive undertaking was for a three-sided structure attached to the wall. For this design Michelangelo began the Moses as well as the figures known as the Rebellious Slave and the Dying Slave (both in the Louvre). These last figures were intended for the tomb’s niches as elements in a large sequence, a theme similar to that provided by the ignudi on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. In the figure known as the Rebellious Slave, the figure struggles against the bands that restrain his torso and arms. He seems anguished, and his forms have lost the resiliency of youth. The face, unfinished, held less interest for the artist than the body. With its backward twist and rolling eyes, the figure suggests the ancient sculpture of the Laocoön, but the mouth is closed. Even though the final design of the tomb changed drastically, in 1542 Michelangelo still intended to place these figures of “slaves” in the two corners which are now occupied by Leah and Rachel in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli. However, in 1544 Michelangelo gifted the statues to a Florentine, Robert Strozzi for his generous hospitality in his Roman house during Michelangelo’s periods of sickness in July 1544 and June 1546, he later was living in exile in Lyon and in turn gave them to the French king, François I. Right: Dying Slave, marble, by Michelangelo, ca. 1513, 229 cm height (Musée du Louvre, Paris). This sculpture reveals a moving sensuousness unusual in the conception of the male nude in Western sculpture at the time. Contrary to what its title suggests, this figure doesn’t represent a dying man, but a sleeping one. Like the Rebellious Slave, this slave also has chains on his arm, which have been loosed. Therefore he is no longer the prisoner of his body, if one wants to consider the slaves as being souls imprisoned in their bodies. Behind him, the roughly sketched outlines of a monkey can be seen, which has caused some researchers to believe this slave to be the incarnation of painting and the rebellious slave to symbolize architecture.
Of all the so-called “slaves” (originally known as “Prigioni” or Prisoners) which were intended to adorn the third version of Julius II’s tomb, Michelangelo also begun working on other four unfinished marble sculptures, today known as (from left to right) the Young Slave, the Atlas Slave, the Awakening Slave and the Bearded Slave, all produced between 1525 and 1530 and now kept in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. Seemingly growing from the rock, these figures served as witty representations of the transformation of nature into artifice. The Young Slave (height 235 cm) has slightly bent knees, his left arm is raised to cover his face and his right arm is behind his back, held by a chain which is not visible. The Atlas Slave (height 208 cm) was devised as a corner figure for the tomb of Julius II. The Awakening Slave (height 267 cm), shown partly emerging from the rough-hewn marble block, is still one with the material from which the artist gradually frees it, and thus, caught at this stage of its creation, this work illustrates the dramatic effort of the sculptor to embody an idea. The Bearded Slave (height 248 cm) is the most finished of the Florentine Prigioni and gets his name from his thick, curly beard; his muscular torso twists, his legs slightly bent and separated, are covered by a band of fabric, his right arm is raised to hold his bent head, while his left hand remains unfinished, but seems to hold the band of fabric.
Genius of Victory, marble, by Michelangelo, 1532-1534, 261 cm height (Salone dei Cinquecento, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence). Apparently planned as part of the tomb of Julius II, the strong manneristic features of the sculpture (exaggerated contortions and complex movements) link this figure to the Slaves (see pictures above), executed for the version of the tomb designed in 1532. The figure of the conquered barbarian fighter is unfinished. The youth kneeling on the body of the bearded old man wears a wreath of oak leaves, and this detail strongly suggests that it is another abandoned work for the tomb of Julius (whose family coat of arms included oaks). The surfaces are treated expressively to enhance the contrast between the two figures: the young polished to perfection, the old rough and incomplete, still retaining the compressed boulder-like solidity of the heavy stone from which it was made. Combining helical motion with a pyramidal construction, the group has been regarded as the epitome of the figura serpentinata. It is thought to have been intended for one of the lower niches of one of the last projects for the tomb, perhaps that of 1532 for which the so-called Captives or “Prigioni” may have also been made. According to some scholars, the inspiration for the titular figure was Tommaso dei Cavalieri, a young Roman nobleman known to Michelangelo in Rome in 1532, to whom he dedicated love poems, and the older figure alludes to Michelangelo himself.

Soon the papal bureaucracy had to disappoint Michelangelo’s sincere, somewhat primitive soul. Back in Rome, the numerous marble blocks destined for the Pope’s funerary monument, were waiting for Michelangelo in Rome’s pier. At once, Michelangelo immediately wanted to fulfill his commitments and pay the freight, eager to begin the works on the monument, but difficulties begun to arise. Later the payments became more and more difficult, until, finally, having appeared several times to collect what was promised, the artist was denied entry into the pontifical chamber. Furious and disappointed, he decided to leave Rome, taking the post to go faster, fearing the Pope would send emissaries to stop him. Michelangelo didn’t stop until reaching Poggibonsi, already on Florentine land. Although Michelangelo worked on the tomb for 40 years, it was never finished to his satisfaction.

Tomb of Julius II, marble, by Michelangelo, completed in 1545 (Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome). After several further changes and simplifications the final design of the tomb of Pope Julius II was finally completed and set up in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (‘St. Peter in Chains’) in Rome in 1545. Julius II, however, is buried next to his uncle Sixtus IV in St. Peter’s Basilica, so the final structure does not actually function as a tomb, but more as a funerary monument. This sculptural and architectural ensemble, completed by Michelangelo’s assistants, includes three sculptures by the maestro: the famous Moses (see pictures below), and the figures of Rachel and Leah flanking the seated figure of the prophet.

In November of the same year (1506), the Pope and the sculptor were reconciled in Bologna, but Julius II, with his own commissions, was the first to delay the works of his funerary monument. First, he commissioned Michelangelo a bronze statue for Bologna, in which the artist lost two years, because very soon the Bolognese destroyed it. Later, also by imposition of Julius II, Michelangelo undertook the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in which he spent four years, and thus the execution of the tomb kept delayed.

The Popes who succeeded Julius II, especially the two Medici, Leo X and Clement VII, who were also fond to commission projects for new personal works, didn’t take great interest in the execution of their predecessor’s tomb, and occupied Michelangelo with other numerous commissions.

On their part, the testamentary executors of Julius II pestered Michelangelo to fulfill his commitments for the completion of the funerary monument. They were influential figures, and the sculptor was committed to them by formal contracts. Under Leo X it seems that Michelangelo had some respite years, and during this time he completed the Moses (ca. 1513-1515). Later, as the new commissions didn’t allow him time to work on the tomb of Julius II, the Popes gradually forced the executors of the deceased pontiff to content themselves with an increasingly reduced project. Finally, after 30 years, in 1542, the final plan for the monument was set: the tomb, instead of being a monument projected outside the wall, filled with statues and allegories, would be a simple wall decorated with three statues made by Michelangelo: the Moses and the figures of Lea and Rachel.

Moses, marble, by Michelangelo, ca. 1513-1515, 235 cm height (Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome). In the initial designs by Michelangelo for the colossal tomb of Julius II, Moses was to be one of the six colossal figures that crowned the tomb. The Moses was executed for the second project for the tomb. Inspired perhaps by the medieval conception of man as microcosm, the figure of Moses brought together the elements in allegorical guise: the flowing beard suggests water, the wildly twisting hair fire, the heavy drape earth. In an ideal sense, the Moses represents also both the artist and the Pope, two personalities who had in common what is known as “terribilità“. As the statue was conceived to be placed on the second tier of the tomb on a corner, it was meant to be seen from below and not as it is displayed today at eye-level. Michelangelo felt that Moses was his most lifelike creation. Legend has it that upon its completion he struck the right knee commanding, “now speak!” as he felt that life was the only thing left inside the marble. There is a scar on the knee thought to be the mark of Michelangelo’s hammer.
Moses (detail), marble, by Michelangelo, ca. 1513-1515 (Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome). From the 12th century, Moses was occasionally shown with horns (e.g. Claus Sluter, Well of Moses). These are explained by a mistranslation in the Latin Vulgate (not followed in the Authorized Version of the Bible). In the Book of Exodus (34:29-35), it is written that Moses’ face shone brightly after witnessing God’s Glory on Mount Sinai and returning with the second Tables of Law (that Michelangelo’s Moses is carrying under his right arm). St. Jerome translated the Hebrew verb for shine, similar to the word ‘geren‘ (horn), by ‘cornatus‘, horned: “Videbant faciem Moysi esse cornatum” (‘They saw that Moses’ face was horned’).

In 1513, the successor of Julius II, Pope Leo X commissioned Michelangelo to reconstruct the façade of San Lorenzo and to adorn it with sculptures, a church built by Brunelleschi in Florence. Michelangelo designed the models for the façade, but this project also ended badly, since it was never started, and the efforts Michelangelo went through to gather the Carrara marbles were useless; the building is still devoid of a façade today. He spent three years creating drawings and models for the façade, as well as attempting to open a new marble quarry at Pietrasanta specifically for the project. Michelangelo, in one of his letters, describes the dangers of bringing the great blocks of marble from down the top of the mountain, an operation that he personally supervised. Instead, the project of the second Medici Pope had a better ending: the common burial for his ancestors located in a sacristy of San Lorenzo itself.

View of the Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy) of the Medici Chapels at the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. The Medici Chapels (Cappelle medicee) are two structures built as extensions to Brunelleschi’s 15th-century church, with the purpose of celebrating the Medici family, patrons of the church and Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The Sagrestia Nuova was designed by Michelangelo, and was intended by Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici and his cousin Pope Leo X as a mausoleum or mortuary chapel for members of the Medici family. This Sacristy was the first essay in architecture (1519–1524) of Michelangelo, who also designed its monuments dedicated to certain members of the Medici family. The two magnificent existing tombs are those of comparatively insignificant Medici, as Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano de’ Medici were already buried beneath the altar at the entrance wall. The tombs correspond to those of Lorenzo di Piero, Duke of Urbino and Giuliano di Lorenzo, Duke of Nemours. On an unfinished wall, Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child are flanked by the Medici patron saints Cosmas and Damian, executed by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli and Raffaello da Montelupo respectively, following Michelangelo’s models, and are placed over their plain rectangular tomb.

In 1520 the Medici commissioned Michelangelo with another grand project, a family funerary chapel in the same Basilica of San Lorenzo. This project occupied Michelangelo for much of the 1520s and 1530s, and even if he didn’t get to finish it with his proposed plan, he did sculpt two of the tombs and a Virgin. Altogether, they total seven completed statues, perhaps the most perfect work by the great sculptor. The Pope wanted four tombs, one on each of the walls of the square chapel; the Virgin, now placed on a wall, between Saints Cosme and Damien, should have occupied the center, on an altar.

Madonna and Child (Medici Madonna), marble, by Michelangelo, 1521-1531, 226 cm height (Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence). This statue is located in the Medici Chapel above the simple tomb of Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici. In the figures of the Madonna and Child there is but little human contact, despite their physical closeness. The eyes of Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici statues (see pictures below), at either side of the Sacristy, are turned towards her. The Madonna is suckling her child, who clings to her strongly, forming two dynamic interlocking spirals. This composition is somewhat similar to that of the Madonna of the Stairs (see picture before), with the Virgin sitting on a cubic block and breastfeeding the Child.

The old Cosimo and his sons have been already honorably buried in a tomb executed by Verrocchio. The other members of the Medici clan that Clement VII wanted to glorify with a funerary monument were Lorenzo the Magnificent, father of Leo X, and Giuliano, Lorenzo’s brother and father of Pope Clement himself. These two belonged to the generation that we could call ‘heroic’ or ‘glorious’ of the Medici, and for them Michelangelo would surely have executed their tombs gladly, for he could not forget the hospitality he received from them as a child and the lessons and affection of Lorenzo the Magnificent, his first protector. But the Pope also wanted two additional graves for two other Medici, also called Lorenzo and Giuliano, although unworthy successors of the first two, and these were the ones that Michelangelo had to execute then, precisely when the Medici were fighting against Florence.

Tomb of Lorenzo de’ Medici, marble, by Michelangelo, 1524-1531, 630 x 420 cm (Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence). Michelangelo received the commission for the Medici Chapel in 1520 from the Medici Pope Leo X (1513-1523). The Pope wanted to combine the tombs of his younger brother Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, and his nephew Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, with those of the “Magnifici“, Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano; their tombs were then in the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo by Brunelleschi. Each of the Dukes’ tombs (see also picture below) is divided into two vertical zones, and the border is well marked by a projecting cornice. In the lower part are the sarcophagi intended for the mortal remains of the Dukes, on which lie Dusk and Dawn (for the monument of Lorenzo), and Night and Day (for the monument of Giuliano), they were intended to be symbols of the vanity of things. Above this temporal area, the nobility of the figures of the Dukes and the subtlety of the richly decorated architecture which surrounds them represent a higher sphere: the abode of the free and redeemed spirit. The statues of the four times of day were to influence sculptural figures reclining on architraves for many generations to come.
Tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici, marble, by Michelangelo, 1526-1533, 630 x 420 cm (Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence).

Vasari pompously described, given his position as court artist, these two Medici tombs: “The one, the pensive (il pensieroso) Duke Lorenzo, with a face of wisdom, meditates, crossed his legs admirably; the other, Duke Giuliano, raises his fierce head, with eyes and profile divine”. Beneath each of these portraits are the sarcophagi, with a curved lid, on which the allegories of Day and Night, Dawn and Sunset are leaning, as if to give an idea of ​​the passing of time which drags us into eternity. The Night seems to sleep like a tired giantess who rests. “On this stone,” wrote Carlo Strozzi, “life sleeps; touch it, if you doubt it, and it will begin to speak to you.” Michelangelo, as if summarizing his sadness before that corrupted century, spoke through the mouth of the Night in some famous verses from one of his sonnets dedicated to the statue: “Dear to me is sleep, and dearer to be of stone while wrongdoing and shame prevail; not to see, not to hear, is a great blessing: so do not awaken me; speak softly.” The figure of the Day raises its halfway-finished head over its shoulder, like the sun’s halo, whose contour the eyes can’t distinguish with clarity.

Lorenzo de’ Medici, marble, by Michelangelo, 1524-1531 (Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence). Lorenzo looks at the group of the Madonna and Child and Sts. Cosmas and Damian (Medici Madonna, see picture before) located in the adjacent right wall. In doing so, he turns to his patron saint, who is to intercede with the Mother of God on his behalf. This is by no means a faithful depiction of the era in which Lorenzo lived: Michelangelo presents us here an army leader from Antiquity contemplating the embodiment of Contemplative Life.

Dusk, marble, by Michelangelo, 1524-1531, 195 cm length (Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence). In the spirit of an allegory of Time, Michelangelo coupled the deceased with figures representing the times of the day whose gender was determined by Italian grammar. In The thoughtful figures of Dusk and Dawn for the tomb of Lorenzo, the maestro endowed them with soft outlines as they gracefully adorn the edge of the sarcophagus. Like the other statues in the series of the allegories of Night and Day, Dusk is represented stretched out and nude. He lies, featureless, with unfinished feet, hands and head. The principal inspiration for these reclining figures came from the river gods of Antiquity. The sculpture was probably modelled after the mountain and river gods at the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome. Opposite its pair, Dusk is falling asleep as Dawn (see picture below) is in the act of awaking. Dusk lies down with one leg crossing the other and one arm resting on his thigh to hold back a falling cloth. The other arm is bent to support the figure. The statue’s face is bearded, with a thoughtful, downward gaze.
Dawn, marble, by Michelangelo, 1524-1531, 203 cm length (Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence). The New Sacristy contains Michelangelo’s only two sculptured female nudes: Dawn and Night (see picture below). Unlike comparable figures by other artists, they have been conceived without a trace of eroticism, and it is the absence of obvious sexuality that gives these works their uneasy power. Appropriately, the skin of Dawn is sleek and unmarked while the figure of Night has a more aged body, marked by greater experience. A similar, less marked contrast is apparent in the two male figures (Dusk and Day). In the figure of Dawn, a youthfully smooth, yet powerful body turns towards the observer. Her features are by no means serene: the dark eyes are deep set in their shadowy sockets. She wears a turban and a band around her chest in the style of slaves’ garments. Along with the figure of Night, Michelangelo was inspired from the ancient ‘Sleeping Ariadne’ for his sculpture’s pose.
Giuliano de’ Medici, marble, by Michelangelo, 1526-1533 (Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence). Michelangelo’s aim for the statues of both, Lorenzo and Giuliano, seems to have been to express great power in the most relaxed and elegant form. The figures have small heads on massive torsos, muscular, tapering thighs and slender ankles, an ideal most clearly articulated in the figure of Giuliano de’ Medici. The alert figure of Giuliano is associated with the positive and negative poles of Night and Day, its accompanying sculptures in the monument, Lorenzo (on the contrary) is accompanied by the shadowy allegories of twilight (see pictures before). Michelangelo stated that de’ Medici figures were not portraits but idealized representations, endowed with the dignity and power that the men should have had. The contrast between the ‘melancholic’ Lorenzo and the ‘sanguine’ Giuliano has long been remarked. The sculpture of Giuliano remains one of the most original statues of the 16th century. Unlike the thoughtful Lorenzo, Giuliano de’ Medici stretches his neck out to the group around the Madonna and Child (see picture above) in a manner suggestive of his eagerness for action. The command staff in his hands indicates that he was nominated the ‘generalissimo‘ of the church by his brother, Pope Leo X, in 1516, the year he became Pope.
Night, marble, by Michelangelo, 1526-1533, 194 cm length (Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence). Michelangelo’s representation of Night, along with Dawn (see picture before) has her less at rest on her sloping plinth than actually pushing herself against the incline. In so doing, he takes every opportunity to endow the sculpture with straining muscles which are a sign of age in Michelangelo’s work. Features which were probably borrowed from a ‘Leda‘ motif, appear alongside her. Night was said to be a fertile inspiration to the arts. The position of her right arm allows the face to be shown in shadow, which leaves the figure shrouded in mystery. Night wears a diadem with a crescent moon and a star on her forehead, which, along with a veil, holds still her parted hair ending with a heavy braid on her breast. Close to her left arm is a mask representing deceitful dreams, while a nocturnal bird of prey, an owl, looks out from the space under her leg, and a bundle of poppy capsules alluding to sleep is below her foot. The other three statues of the Sacristy representing allegories don’t include this type of symbols.
Day, marble, by Michelangelo, 1526-1533, 185 cm length (Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence). The lower torso of Day, whose face and right hand are only sculpted roughly, assumes a similar position to Dusk (see picture before). However, its upper body is caught in a violent movement, which Michelangelo has frozen at an almost painful moment. Its left arm is bent behind its back, while its right reaches beyond its left leg.

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