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Study of a man's right shoulder, breast and upper arm
Michelangelo (Michelangelo Buonarroti)
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Michelangelo (Michelangelo Buonarroti)

Caprese, Arezzo, Tuscany, 1475 - Rome, 1564

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Study of a man's right shoulder, breast and upper arm

1536 - 1541. Pencil on yellow paper

This is a study for one of the demons in the group at the lower right of the Last Judgement, which he painted between 1536 and 1541 on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. In the fresco the devil descends through the air carrying a nude woman upside down by the legs, her buttocks showing prominently. He seems about to dump her on the writhing pile of lost souls being transported in Charon’s barque to inferno. In the drawing, the line of the woman’s lower left leg, seen from behind, intersects with the devil’s forearm. Although the study amounts to no more than a few hasty lines, the way in which the interlocking forms set up a forceful rhythm across the sheet reveals Michelangelo’s authorship, as does the devil’s exaggeratedly sinewy musculature, indicated with the greatest economy.

Pope Clement VII (Giulio de Medici) commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Last Judgement, probably in 1533. Michelangelo’s fresco was intended as an act of expiation on the part of the Roman Church for the Sack of Rome in 1527, widely seen at the time as God’s punishment of papal corruption. The 1530s marked a crisis in Michelangelo’s life and art, and the Last Judgement seems to embody his sense of foreboding. In the catalogue accompanying the 1975 exhibition at the British Museum, London, of Michelangelo’s drawings from British collections, John Gere summed up the artist’s disturbed mood: In the Last Judgement the pictorial subtlety and grace of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling decoration and the humanist Neoplatonic emphasis on the ordered structure of the universe have been, as it were, burnt away, and the human figure is now used as a vehicle for a direct and highly personal expression of mystical emotion.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, when this drawing was owned by the Martelli family of Florence, the rather disfiguring N:o 28 was written on the paper in purplish-red ink. This inventory number is one of different sequences of such numbers written on drawings from the Martelli collection. Collectors being collectors and dealers being dealers, it is not surprising that on occasion such anatomical drawings by Michelangelo were cut into pieces: more could be made from the sale of three or four individual small-sized sketches than from one large with half a dozen anatomical studies grouped together.

Turner, Nicholas, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Chicago, Art Services International, 2008, p.314,54

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Related artworks

Study of a Man’s Right Arm
Pencil on yellow paper, Second quarter of the XVI century
Inventory number
D001732
Author
Michelangelo (Michelangelo Buonarroti)
Title
Study of a man's right shoulder, breast and upper arm
Date
1536 - 1541
Technique
Pencil
Support
Yellow paper
Dimension
Height: 150 mm.; Width: 115 mm.
Provenance
Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

Turner, Nicholas y Joannides, Paul, Some drawings by Michelangelo and his circle in the Prado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXI, 2003, pp. 8-10.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de dibujos, V, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 54, 314.

Turner, Nicholas, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Art Services International, Chicago, 2008, pp. 314,54.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Museo del Prado: la colección de escultura, artes decorativas y dibujos, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009.

Turner, N., Michelangelo 'Study of a man's right shoulder, breast and upper arm' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 46.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 2515.

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
Melbourne
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

De Miguel Ángel a Annibale Carracci. Un siglo de Dibujos Italianos en el Museo del Prado
25.10.2008 - 26.07.2009

Un siglo de dibujos italianos en el Museo del Prado. De Miguel Ángel a Annibale Carracci
Madrid
23.11.2004 - 13.02.2005

Update date: 02-05-2019 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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