The Portland Vase, £5.00
Height: 28.800 cm
Width: 21.700 cm
Prints and Drawings
Michelangelo, Studies after the Codex Coner and Studies after the Codex Coner and for the façade of San Lorenzo, red chalk drawings
After a period of living in Rome, the artist Michelangelo (1475-1564) returned to Florence, his native city, in 1516. He was forty-one years old, and remained there for the next twenty years. During this time, Florence became the focus of papal patronage because of the election of two popes from the Florentine Medici dynasty: Leo X in 1513 and his cousin Clement VII in 1523.
Pope Leo X commissioned Michelangelo to help design a marble façade for the church of San Lorenzo in 1516. The artist's ambition to take sole control of this project required him to boost his architectural knowledge swiftly. To this end, he made simplified copies (six of which survive) from a recently finished book of details from antique and contemporary Roman buildings. This album, made by the little known Florentine architect Bernardo della Volpaia, is known as the Codex Coner.
Michelangelo's copies of the Codex Coner are pared down to the essential. They reveal his remarkable ability to visualise Volpaia's drawings in three dimensions, effortlessly transforming sectional studies into profile ones. His readiness to put his knowledge to practical use is shown by the jutting architrave in his sectional elevation for the church of San Lorenzo on the right. This feature is inspired by the classical column and architrave copied from the Codex on the left of the sheet.
H. Chapman, Michelangelo drawings: closer (London, British Museum Press, 2005)