Height: 42.100 cm
Width: 28.700 cm
Prints and Drawings
Michelangelo, A seated male nude twisting around, a pen and brown ink drawing with brown and grey wash and lead white
Michelangelo (1475-1564) made this drawing for a scene called Bathers. It was designed as the centrepiece for a never-executed fresco of the Battle of Cascina for the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The drawing relates to the pivotal seated figure at the centre of the work. A combination of pen and lead white describe the model's glistening limbs in a highly effective way.
The figure is of crucial importance in the larger scene because his turning body directs attention to the bodies behind. Close inspection of the figure reveals that, despite the remarkably realistic three-dimensional rendering, his pose is unnatural. This is particularly true of the upper body, which has been twisted to impossible limits.
The work was commissioned by Piero Soderini, a leader of the Florentine republic. He realised that talented native artists would promote the republic's legitimacy. The Battle of Cascina was a famous fourteenth-century victory over Pisa. Michelangelo's Bathers depicted the Florentine army hurriedly preparing for battle after a dip in the river.
The Bathers cartoon caused a sensation because of the novelty of its representation of over-life size figures in violent motion. Although the cartoon only survived a decade or so, it was copied by many artists. An engraving after a section of it was used as a source for the maiolica dish shown here, which also bears the arms of the Venetian churchman and poet, Cardinal Pietro Bembo.
H. Chapman, Michelangelo drawings: closer (London, British Museum Press, 2005)