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  • Date Submitted: 03/16/2012 07:30 AM
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Michelangelo (1475-1564)
The British Museum has almost ninety drawings by Michelangelo, one of the towering figures of the Italian renaissance whose artistic activities encompassed sculpture, painting, and architecture. Underlying his achievements in all these fields was a dedication to drawing: the perfection of the finished work achieved only after an exhaustive preparation of every aspect of the finished composition on paper. This manner of working, a constant in his seventyyear career, was central to the Florentine artistic tradition that Michelangelo learnt in the workshop of the painters Domenico and Davide Ghirlandaio. Michelangelo in turn passed this precept down to his pupils, as is shown by the exhortation directed to his pupil Antonio Mini written on one of the Museum's drawings: 'Draw, Antonio, draw, and don't waste time'.
Left: Michelangelo Buonarroti, Portrait of Andrea Quaratesi, black chalk, around 1532

The Museum's collection of his drawings is unusually complete in its coverage of his stylistic development, with works from every decade from 1500 until the 1560s, and in having studies related to a number of his most important commissions: including the unfulfilled Battle of Cascina fresco (1504-7); the Sistine chapel ceiling (1508-12) and Last Judgement frescoes (153641); and the Medici chapel in San Lorenzo, Florence (1520-34). It also includes highly finished presentation drawings in chalk intended as gifts for friends, such as the handsome Roman nobleman Tommaso de' Cavalieri or Michelangelo's confidante and fellow poet Vittoria Colonna; a portrait in black chalk of the youthful Andrea Quaratesi (the only surviving portrait by the artist); a design for silverware; a full-size cartoon of the Holy Family (on permanent display in Gallery 90) for a painting by his biographer Ascanio Condivi now in the Casa Buonarroti, Florence; and two of his intensely moving Crucifixion studies made right at the end of his life, probably for his own private...


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