The Met’s landmark new exhibition, Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer considers the broad output of the Italian master (Caprese 1475–Rome 1564), presenting over 100 drawings, sketches, architectural designs, anatomical studies, poems, and more by the hand of one of history’s greatest creative minds.
The extraordinary show brings to life the concept of disegno, the combination of drawing, design, and innovation that every Renaissance artist strove to achieve—and at which Michelangelo excelled. In the 15th and 16th centuries, artists used drawings not only to record ideas and sketch subjects, but as blueprints and even stencils with which to prepare larger works in plaster, wood, and marble. Works on paper were training documents, used to guide pupils in workshops. And they could serve as precious gifts, as well, bestowed as mementos to friends and patrons. As exhibition curator Carmen C. Bambach writes in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, this practice served as a “uniquely personal language of communication; it offered great potential for thinking with the hand” (p. 18).
Sheets drawn from over 50 lending institutions around the world trace Michelangelo’s long career, from his early apprenticeship in the workshop of Ghirlandaio in Florence to his career-capping triumphs in Rome. From red-chalk drawings that indicate exactly where he applied pressure to paper to express a body’s musculature or an intense facial expression, to schematic plans that show how he conceived of space and its perception in his three-dimensional commissions, the works in this exhibition offer illuminating examples of such “thinking with the hand.”
Michelangelo’s reputation has never been less than towering, including during his lifetime; he is considered now, as he was then, the epitome of Renaissance artistic accomplishment. His temperament, too, set him apart, especially the quality of terribilità often cited by his contemporaries. Literally meaning “awesomeness,” this alluring term conveys the ambition of his artistic vision, the monumental scope of his projects, and the emotional stakes evident in every work he produced. Visit The Met before February 12 to experience Michelangelo’s terribilità in breathtakingly vivid fashion.
Taking inspiration from Michelangelo’s mastery of disegno, The Met Store is proud to offer a collection of prints, jewelry, scarves, and other items that extend the master’s lines to the everyday.