Michelangelo’s Last Drawing

This is Michelangelo’s last drawing. It was made six or eight years before he died.

Soon he gave up drawing because his hand shook too much.

In the very last years of his life, he was occupied with architecture, not sculpture or painting. Vasari, his biographer, says: “For his architectural work, since his old age meant that he could no longer draw clear lines, Michelangelo made use of Tiberio Calcagni, who was a modest and well-mannered young man [the same who reconstructed the Pietà Michelangelo had broken to pieces].”
Calcagni helped him make his wooden model of St. Peter’s and the designs of the Porta Pía and the San Giovanni and Santa Maria degli Angeli churches.

About the time he made this drawing Michelangelo sent a letter to Vasari, along with various religious sonnets, “saying that he was at the end of his life, that he must take care where he directed his thoughts, that by reading what he wrote Vasari would see he was at his last hour and that the image of death was engraved on his every thought….’God wishes it, Vasari, that I should continue to live in misery for some years.’”

He was suffering not only from weakness but from harassment for his delay in the design of St. Peter’s. Some architects who wanted the job “were going about every day saying that he was in his second childhood,” says Vasari. “Angered by all this, Michelangelo would willingly have returned to Florence….. but he had grown so old and feeble that despite his resolve…his flesh betrayed his spirit.”


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5 Responses to Michelangelo’s Last Drawing

  1. ion danu says:

    It usually works like that, eh? the flesh betraying the spirit…

  2. Aryul says:

    The man never took a break. I couldn’t imagine the type of pain he went through when he knew he couldn’t draw or sculpt anymore.

  3. 100swallows says:

    Yes, Aryul, and it wasn’t for just a while but for years. Great suffering. Reminds me of John Ruskin, who went mad and just sat in a chair and stared the last ten years of his life. His motto had been: work while there’s light.

  4. rich says:

    I like this drawing! It vibrates – that was my first impression. Then I remarked a hint of some genital hair, rather unusual for those times, and thirdly there is such a tenderness and loving embrace here.
    Looks like a happy child.

  5. 100swallows says:

    rich: the kid does look happy, doesn’t he? Michelangelo was probably not very happy as a child. He was farmed out to a nurse–a wet-nurse–in a mountain village and when he came home his mother had died. His father didn’t want him to become an artist and tried to discourage his drawing.
    I doubt that the wavy lines were intended to make the Virgin appear to move or vibrate.
    That hint of pubic hair is more than a hint–it IS surprising. In fact it is strangely designed–I can’t tell what shape. Maybe he left himself the option of cloth.

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