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Michelangelo’s Tombs

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Introduction

Michelangelo's Tombs The career of Michelangelo spanned almost 75 years. Within which his artistic genius touched all aspects of the arts ranging from architecture to poetry. Yet despite his renowned fame, Michelangelo was not a free spirit, privileged to work when and where he wanted. Often because of high demand, his work was made to suffer under the ever-shifting political powers who commissioned his genius. The Tomb of Pope Julius II occupied more than half of Michelangelo's working career, it is this great time span which allows for a closer look into the pressures and influences which precipitated the numerous transformations of the tomb. Development of the tomb occurred over 40 years in various stages from the original contract of 1505 to the finished product of 1545. Around the pontification of Pope Julius II, Rome was the artistic center of Italy, witnessing the rebirth of the "classical style". The Pope was a great patron of the arts and in 1505 he commissioned Michelangelo to Rome to design his tomb1. As there are no existing drawings for the first tomb design, information is primarily based on reconstructions from the secondary sources of Vasari and Michelangelo's biographer Condivi. The first tomb design referred to as a "symphony of marble"2, combined architectural and sculptural elements which differ from those of previous centuries. Unlike previous mausoleums, the 1505 project was designed as a freestanding structure, which represented a first in regards to papal tombs.3 Essential to the importance of the Pope's tomb was its surroundings. ...read more.

Middle

Behind the sarcophagus was a 25-foot cappelletta (an elongated na�ve), which housed an image of the Virgin and Child. Regarding the upper tier, the number of figures increased from 4 to 6 and with the addition of the cappelletta and it's 5 new figures, the total number increased to 11. With the 1513 design emerges the statue of Moses, who is a reflection of Michelangelo's sculptural developments on muscular movements achieved while working on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling11. Initially Moses was intended for the upper story, and is therefore sculpted on a large scale with the intention of being viewed from a distance.12 However as time will tell, Moses eventually comes to occupy the central position of the lower story. Unfortunately, the 1513 project came to an abrupt end in 1515 when political differences terminated the good relations between Leo X and the Duke of Urbino. The Duke's refusal to support the Pope in his campaign against the French in Lombardy resulted in his exile and drastically effected the development of "the monument of glory of the enemy family.13" Once again, Michelangelo is forced to alter the monument to appease rising exterior pressures. Structurally speaking, the third tomb suffered reductions in scale, but for the most part the lower story remained the same. The main changes of the 1516 project occurred in the upper tier with the replacement of the cappelletta by a completely new structure. ...read more.

Conclusion

Raffaelo da Montelupo completed the Virgin, the Sibyl and the Profit, which were subsequently placed in the upper story. Thus the tomb no longer reflects the initial divisions of "upper" and "lower" realms. No longer does it represent the Pope's dominance over the earthly world, but is more suggestive of a house of contemplative peace, in the heavenly world of the divine. The final monument primarily represents a work which is just as much a product of its patrons as it is its great master. It is a true reflection of the effects political power struggles can have when fought along artistic lines. What becomes evident is that despite strangling subjugation to varying individuals, Michelangelo, through his artistic genius, and with some "help", still produces a grand funerary monument worthy of a great Pope. 1 Herbert Von Einem, Michelangelo (London: W & J Mackay Ltd, 1973),75 2 Von Einem, 76 3 Charles de Tolnay, The Tomb of Julius II (NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), 20 4 De Tolnay, 20 5 Tolnay, 21 6 Frederick Hartt, History of Italian Renaissance Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1987), 491 7 Von Einem, 41 8 Von Einem, 42 9 David Summers, Michelangelo and the Language of Art ( NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981), 406 10 De Tolnay, 32 11 Summers, 401 12 Einem, 81 13 De Tolnay, 45 14 De Tolnay, 59 15 De Tolnay, 61 16 Einem, 124 17 De Tolnay, 65 18 Einem, 173 19 Hartt,482 ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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