Michelangelo, Lazarus, a red chalk drawing

Florence, Italy
About 1516

This drawing by Michelangelo relates to a gigantic altarpiece created by the Venetian Sebastiano del Piombo. The Raising of Lazarus was executed for Narbonne cathedral about 1517-19. Michelangelo first collaborated with Sebastiano in 1513 and their relationship endured for twenty years.

Both artists hoped to undermine their rival Raphael, who had come to dominate the Roman artistic scene. Michelangelo was eager to help Sebastiano with the altarpiece design because Raphael was painting a Transfiguration, now in the Vatican Museum, for the same church. Lazarus is shown as a gaunter figure here than in a previous drawing: his angular pose suggests that his limbs still retain something of the stiffness of death.

In the painting itself Lazarus's pose is little changed, although the group of figures unwrapping his shroud is different. Sebastiano reported to Michelangelo in a letter of 15 December 1519 that the painting was well received by the patron, Cardinal Giulio de'Medici:

I want to let you know that I've finished the panel painting and taken it to the Palace where it was more quickly liked than disliked, other than by the priests who don't know what they're talking about. For me it is enough that the most reverend Monsignor said he is more pleased with it than he'd expected to be. I believe that my panel is better designed than the tapestries that have arrived from Flanders.

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More information

Bibliography

H. Chapman, Michelangelo drawings: closer (London, British Museum Press, 2005)

Dimensions

Height: 25.100 cm
Width: 14.500 cm

Museum number

PD 1860-7-14-1

PD08160

Location

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