Virgin of the Staircase, Michelangelo

Virgin of the Staircase, Michelangelo
Virgin of the Staircase, Michelangelo

When we study the history of art in its different stages and styles, we pay great attention to the works and their creators, as the undisputed protagonists of art, however we often overlook a figure that has always –but very especially since the Renaissance period - has had great special relevance, the figure of the principal. In this sense, and moving to Renaissance Italy, there was a family known to all, who carried out their work as patrons of artists better than any other, the Medici. Under the protection of such a powerful family, painters, sculptors and writers made their creations and achieved worldwide fame; In this context, the work that we are analyzing here today was born under the protection of the Médicis, the fruit of the hands of a young sculptor who was only sixteen years old, but whose style and technical ability could already be intuited that he would revolutionize the traditional sculptural and pictorial conception, The Virgin of the Staircase by Michelangelo Buonarroti.

We find ourselves before a small relief that is only fifty-five centimeters high and just over forty centimeters wide, it was made of marble and dates from the end of the fifteenth century, specifically from the year 1491, when the humanist was so only sixteen years old, so it would be one of his first sculptural works (the previous year he had already made the Combat of theLapitas, which is considered his first sculpture).


According to the documentary sources found in this regard, Michelangelo was under the protection of the Medici at that time, going to the Garden of San Marcos that they had created and where young artists could study works by already established masters. The young sculptor must have created this piece as a token of gratitude to Cosimo I de' Medici who would later return it to the author's family and where it is currently exhibited at the Casa Buonarroti in Florence.

The piece is a bas-relief showing the influence of Donatello following the stiacciato technique, a very shallow bas-relief that serves to draw the background and provide to the composition of greater detail. The Virgin appears in profile, sitting on a kind of bucket or ladder while she breastfeeds the Child of whom we only see the back but which makes us see that it is a stocky and muscular Child, very typical of the Michelangelo style.

It seems that the artist's work could refer to Saint Augustine's metaphor that identifies the Virgin Mary as a ladder that Jesus uses to connect heaven and earth, the intercessor between God and men.

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