Michelangelo’s Ingenious Rosette

The old Romans and Greeks, if they had the money, turned their floors into mosaic pictures or designs. Archaeologists are happy to uncover those old floors but unless they are real pictures they no longer impress us much. They remind you of an old bathroom or gym shower-room floor. Nothing special about a geometrical design—a star, a flower, some pattern you make with a compass.

But architects who were real artists sometimes made beautiful or curious designs for their buildings. Here is a Roman mosaic floor from the first century.

Roman mosaic floor

Giotto, looking for a good idea for the floor of his Baptistery in Florence (1225), must have seen Roman mosaics like the one above and made his own version.

Giotto’s floor

Along came Michelangelo and tried his hand. This is what he came up with for the floor of the Laurenziana Library (1524).

Michelangelo Medici Library floor

And this is his ingenious rosette for the pavement of the Capitoline Hill Square, with the statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center (1546). It seems to lift the statue right up in the air and put it on top of a globe.

Michelangelo Capitoline pavement

These photos are taken from Ludwig Goldscheider’s unsurpassable book on Michelangelo by Phaidon Press.


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10 Responses to Michelangelo’s Ingenious Rosette

  1. erikatakacs says:

    As a design, my favourite is the Roman one. In real life, another one might look better. Wish I could check them all out. :)

  2. kimiam says:

    Beautiful. They make me a bit dizzy with movement in them.

    First image gives the illusion of depth. I am afraid I might fall in if I venture too close to the center.

    The capiltoline hill design ..I do see the globe you mention, but for me what stands out more is it has the effect of footlights that go off as your eye progresses down the center, illuminating the relationship of the central figure to everything in it’s wake. He pulls off the illusion the horse is cantering through the square.

  3. Aryul says:

    So in other words, Michelangelo was also a graphic designer!

  4. cantueso says:

    Yes, Kimiam, I would rather not have them on my kitchen floor, especially if it is true what the swallows say, that “it seems to lift the statue right up in the air”. Depending on the day’s menu, that would not be helpful, for I would then try to walk on the edges.

  5. wrjones says:

    Design of buildings for beauty seems to have gone the route of the passenger pigeon. No one has the time or money for such grand stuctures anymore.

  6. iondanu says:

    It seems that Vasarely and his op-art didn’t invented that much…

    And Michelangelo’s roseta also reminds me the oriental lotus representations… at leas from a distance…

  7. It was interesting seeing these varied pictures and examples.

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas

  8. 100swallows says:

    Bill: Here in Spain the rich still compete with their chalets. You see the wildest things. Of course utility wins over beauty. And splendor is the real priority–unlike, I suppose, in America.

  9. Man of Roma says:

    My favourite is also the Roman one (of course lol) and I agree that apparently optical art didn’t invent much.

    Dizziness etc. might be due to vision overwhelmed by information, which also misleads our brain into creating wrong assumptions, like the globe mentioned by 100swallows, or James Fraser’s famous spiral, both represented by our brain but actually non existing.

    There is a school here in Rome (Liceo Cavour) who did an interesting research on math formulas underlying Michelangelo’s rosetta, in connection with the Deutches Museum of Munich. Unfortunately math is not my forte.

  10. beto cabrera says:

    Hi! I think Giotto was not the designer of Florence’s Baptisery (second image from the top). Can anyone confirm me this please?

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