Artibus et Historiae no. 63 (XXXII)

2011, ISSN 0391-9064

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WILLIAM E. WALLACE - La bella mano: Michelangelo the Craftsman

At various times in his life, Michelangelo Buonarroti purposefully displayed his craftsman’s skill to astonish contemporaries, as he did in carving the Rome Pietà and David. The author draws attention to details which, because they were exceptionally difficult to carve (difficultà), demanded superior craftsmanship, such as the extended arm and separated, curling fingers of the Virgin’s left hand in the Pietà. Author further argues that Michelangelo took up the Medici Chapel commission with energy and something to prove following a long fallow period of little marble carving. The four allegories were a purposeful demonstration of his prodigious skill, most notably in the entirely unnecessary but astonishing cutting through of blocks to free dangerously extended and barely supported limbs. Many other details of the tombs are purposeful demonstrations of the artist’s invention and skill, emphatic assertions of originality, and a form of artistic signature, all serving to reaffirm his reputation as a creator of marvels.

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