Michelangelo´s Tomb Projects and Inspiration

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The two tomb projects are; The Julius Tomb and The Medici Tombs.

The Julius Tomb was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1505, from drawings made by Michelangelo Pope Julius selected a huge three level monument with over 40 statues. The project was to be completed in five years and Michelangelo was to be paid 10,000 ducats. The Tomb was to be placed in the unfinished Quattrocento choir of St. Peter’s. However Julius decided to build a new church and lost interest in the Tomb project, perhaps because of lack of money.

In May, 1513 after the death of Julius his heirs made a new contract with Michelangelo to continue the project. Now the project was not freestanding, with vast antique connotations, but a wall tomb like many done during the Renaissance. Michelangelo began by creating two slaves (dying slave, rebellious slave c. 1514) which are now in the Louvre in France. Not rigid like the David (1504) and other early works, these figures show movement throughout the body. Like the Ignudi in the Sistine Chapel these slaves represent a change in Michelangelo’s style, maybe less static, with more fluid movement and harmony. Also begun around 1515, Moses is seen by many as his most life-like creation. Work again stopped on this project in 1515 or 1516 as the Pope decided he had other work for Michelangelo in Florence.

After many years of indecision and numerous contracts (beginning in 1532) a final contract for the Julius Tomb was completed in 1542, the Pope insisting on a minimum of three statues by Michelangelo. The massive structure was unveiled in San Pietro in Vincoli in 1547. While many are critical of the final monument, there is little doubt that the Moses, is one of Michelangelo’s best sculptures and that the Moses, along with...

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... in Michelangelo’s presentation of the male nude.

In the Medici Chapel, commissioned by Pope Leo X and Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici around 1520, Michelangelo sculptured four nudes, two around the tomb of Lorenzo and two over the tomb of Giuliano, although two of the nudes were female, Night and Dawn, it is believed that male models were used and their bodies are strong and athletic looking. The figure Day over the tomb of Giuliano, is a most unusual pose: left arm under the body, right arm crossing to show a muscular back, legs crossed in the opposite way, and a partially blocked out head. This figure provides another testament to the evolution of the artist’s style, talent and uniqueness.

It is certainly true that Michelangelo was fascinated by the male anatomy, and as shown above the inspiration for some of his greatest works was provided by the male nude.
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