Michelangelo's Atlantean

Michelangelo's Atlantean
Michelangelo's Atlantean
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This marble sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti is in the Gallery of the Academy of Florence.

It was a work he worked on between 1513 and 1520, and like other unfinished works such as the Dying Slave in the Louvre Museum or the Slave Who Awakens in the same Gallery of the Florentine Academy, were to be part of his great project for the pharaonic tomb of Pope Julius II.

Michelangelo's Atlas

Michelangelo's Atlantean

As in those other works, it is perfectly seen in the way of working of this great sculptor of the Renaissance. He used the so-called "relief method". For him it was very simple, but only for him who was gifted in all the arts.

he simply drew on one face of the marble block the figure he wanted to carve, since he considered that it was already inside and hidden in the stone. That's why I just had to take it out. Hence, from that drawing he began to devastate the marble and go deeper until he reached the point where he believed he was.

As the different elements of the body appeared, he chiseled and finished them. He always worked from only one side of the block. This method is very clear when seeing the works that he did not finish, but also his contemporary,Giorgio Vasari, a painter and biographer of artists, described it and captured it with a very simple image. It's about somethingsimilar to a body submerged in a bathtub, which appears as the water goes down.

Miguel Ángel Before starting his carving work, he already had everything very clear, even in the quarry, where he went to select the most suitable blocks, since when he saw them there, raw, I already knew the figures I was going to get out of them.

Also he didn't always start with the main face. For example, here he started his work from one of the sides. His method guaranteed the perfect anatomical coordination of his figures, something very important considering the forced postures in which he presents them to us.

Altogether, for theTomb of Julius IIhe conceived six slaves. Two are at Louvre and four are at Florence: this one Atlante, the aforementioned Awakening Slave, as well as Bearded Slave and Young Slave. They were works that he never used for the final tomb, and that remained in his workshop until his grandson inherited them, who donated them in 1564 to Cosimo I along with his work theVictory. They were all placed in the Grotto of Bountalenti in the Boboli Gardens, and remained there until 1908.

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