Michelangelo Sculptures

11th Sep 2010Posted in: Michelangelo Sculptures Comments Off on Bust of Giuliano De’ Medici

Bust of Giuliano De’ Medici

Bust of Giuliano De’ Medici (1519; height 25 ½ inches)

In 1519, Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Leo X and his cousin, Cardinal Giulio de Medici (later Pope Clement VII), to create the marble portraits of Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici for the family’s Chapel San Lorenzo in Florence. This New Sacristy was the symmetrical counterpart to the Old Sacristy, constructed by Brunelleschi a hundred years earlier. It has been assumed that construction had begun prior to Michelangelo’s involvement, so that when he took over supervision the building was already fixed in its proportions.

Michelangelo’s perched his full-size seated figures of the dukes, Lorenzo and Giuliano, in niches over their respective tombs, across the chapel from each other. He avoided giving either duke their actual features. In fact, according to a 1544 letter from Niccolo Martelli, he deliberately refused to produce their portrait likenesses, commenting that in a thousand years no one would know what the dukes actually looked like. Instead, he chose to depict them in classical armor, and he directed their gaze towards the Medici Madonna. The stature and expressions of these busts are different. The seated pose of Giuliano is filled with movement. His herculean stature only adds to the impression of the heroic ideal, which is made especially apparent in his muscular neck and the armor, which fits his torso like a skin. In contrast to the extroverted Giuliano, Lorenzo appears contemplative and introverted. Michelangelo further emphasized the feeling of introspection and melancholy by partially obscuring his face with his left hand and with the shadow cast by his helmet. This figure is deserving of its nickname, Il Pensieroso, “The Thoughtful One.”

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