Museum  November 1, 2019  Megan D Robinson

Michelangelo: Mind of the Master

© Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Daniele da Volterra (Italian, c. 1509–1566), Portrait of Michelangelo, c. 1550–51. Leadpoint and black chalk, traces of white heightening, outlines pricked for transfer. Teylers Museum, Haarlem, purchased in 1790.

Now at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), Michelangelo: Mind of the Master provides an unprecedented opportunity to view a group of drawings by renowned Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) that have never been seen in the US before. The exhibition contains 51 drawings, including a group of drawings once owned by Queen Christina of Sweden (1626–1689), now on loan from the oldest museum in the Netherlands.

© TeylersMuseum, Haarlem

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian,1475–1564), Head of a child with a cloth around its head (recto), mid-1520s. Black chalk. Teylers Museum, Haarlem, purchased in 1790.

Established in 1784, the Teylers Museum has had this collection of Michelangelo drawings since 1790. Many have never been shown outside Europe. This is the first time the drawings have left the Teylers Museum as a group in almost 15 years.

“Michelangelo is widely acknowledged as one of the most talented and influential artists in the history of Western art,” says William Griswold, Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “He was an exceptional draftsman, and the up-close study of Michelangelo’s drawings is an unparalleled experience, one that we are delighted to bring to visitors in Cleveland.”

© Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475–1564), Study of the back and left arm of a male nude (recto), 1523–24. Black chalk. Teylers Museum, Haarlem, purchased in 1790.

Michelangelo had a remarkable ability to convey the expressiveness of the human form. Born outside of Florence, the center of the Renaissance, at 13, Michelangelo was living in the city and learning drawing techniques as an apprentice. By 1490 he was involved with the circle of scholars, poets and artists patronized by the rich and influential Medici family. His study of ancient Greek and Roman statues and human cadavers at a local hospital had a lifelong impact on his art. Michelangelo’s dynamic portrayal of the nude in an active pose, highlighted with red or black chalk, revolutionized the rendering of the human form.

The J.Paul Getty Museum

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475–1564), Study of a mourning woman (recto), c. 1500–1505. Pen and brown ink, heightened with white lead opaque watercolor. The J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

“This group of drawings encapsulates the various ways Michelangelo drew throughout his long career,” says Emily Peters, CMA Curator of Prints and Drawings. “The Teylers group of Michelangelo drawings is among the best preserved in the world, and . . . retain a vibrancy and freshness that allow visitors to really appreciate the immediacy and power of Michelangelo’s thinking on paper.”

Michelangelo destroyed many of his drawings and studies, so this exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view his surviving work and admire the evolution of his ideas. It features drawings from throughout his career, including studies for his Battle of Cascina fresco (1502–04), the New Sacristy, or Medici tombs, at the Basilica of San Lorenzo (1519–34) in Florence, and the monumental sculptural tomb of Pope Julius II, completed and installed in Rome in 1545.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475–1564), The Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist (recto), 1525–early 1530s. Leadpoint, black chalk, red chalk, pen and iron gall ink. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Michelangelo traveled often to Rome for commissions and died in the city at age 88. The exhibition features drawings for Michelangelo’s major Roman projects, including a group of four double-sided drawings for the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508–12); a key architectural drawing for the new Saint Peter’s Basilica dome (begun in 1547) and a drawing for his Last Judgment fresco.

Michelangelo: Mind of the Master is on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art until January 5, 2020, then travels to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

About the Author

Megan D Robinson

Megan D Robinson writes for Art & Object and the Iowa Source.

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