Artibus et Historiae no. 22 (XI)

1990, ISSN 0391-9064

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JAMES BECK - Cardinal Alidosi, Michelangelo, and the Sistine Ceiling

The article seeks to establish a close relationship between Michelangelo and Cardinal Francesco Alidosi, papal legate and governor of Bologna under Julius II, who was an important intermediary between the artist and the pope. Alidosi, Julius's most trusted advisor, was murdered by none other than the pope's nephew, Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. According to most contemporary reports, Alidosi was a thoroughly despicable character and his murder was met with relief by many.

Whatever weaknesses he exhibited in private life, Alidosi as a patron kept abreast of the newest directions in art. Michelangelo sought his intervention in the famous disagreement with Julius during which the artist left Rome in a huff, and there seems to have been a regular correspondence between the two men. Their most remarkable-and hitherto unnoticed-contact revolved around the commissioning of the Sistine Chapel ceiling decoration. By Michelangelo's testimony, Alidosi actually wrote out the contract (now lost) in his own hand. This article proposes that Alidosi prepared the first comprehensive program for the ceiling, or at least collaborated on it with Michelangelo.

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