A battle-scene; two figures by Michelangelo, a pen and brown ink drawing

Michelangelo, A battle-scene

Width: 18.600 cm
Height: 18.300 cm

PD 1895-9-15-496

This sheet of paper, which bears sketches relating to two separate projects, reflects the complexity of Michelangelo's career after his return to Florence from Rome in 1501. He shifted between workshops in the city, his mind turning from one commission to another in rapid succession.

The battle scene is probably a preliminary idea for the background of the proposed Battle of Cascina fresco. This was designed for the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence but never actually executed. It was commissioned by Piero Soderini, who was sworn in as the lifetime head of the Florentine republic in 1502. Soderini also commissioned a work by Leonardo da Vinci for the same wall.

Michelangelo later turned the paper to draw two studies of a pensive figure on either side of the battle scene. These relate to an unfulfilled project to carve twelve Apostles for Florence cathedral, which were commissioned in 1503. The only one of the figures which Michelangelo actually began sculpting, the unfinished St Matthew, is very different in pose from the figure in the drawing. Michelangelo was not unusual in accepting but never completing artistic commissions.