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Work Male Nude, Seen from the Front

Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century

Homme nu, debout

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Author(s):
Goarin Véronique, Scheck Catherine

The male nude is a favourite motif in Michelangelo's work, whether in his drawings, paintings, or sculpture. It allows him, in multiple variations, to glorify the beauty of the human body in movement. These drawings, exquisitely executed and striking in their expressive force, are nevertheless based on an extraordinary knowledge of anatomical science.

A master of anatomy

The regular practice of dissecting bodies at the Santo Spirito hospital in Florence explains the artist's expert knowledge of anatomy. His science is particularly noticeable in the present study, in which Michelangelo's perfect craftsmanship is amply illustrated. Through the skillful use of pen hatching, he models the nude in light and imbues it with a monumental plasticity.

Connections with other works

This drawing cannot be connected to any known project of Michelangelo's. However, the style and technique are characteristic of the years 1505-06. Some historians have tried to establish a link between the present work and The Entombment of Christ, a painting which hangs in the National Gallery in London; others have linked it to studies done for the marble David in Florence, or to sculptures planned for the tomb of Pope Julius II (Florence, Medici Chapel). Because of stylistic features which allow us to date the drawing to around 1505-06, Paul Johannides suggests a link with a figure depicted in the Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand. Michelangelo, some time around 1502-06, had planned to execute a composition portraying the persecution of the early Christians on Mount Ararat. This rare subject was also treated by Durer in a wood engraving in the late fifteenth century, and subsequently by Carpaccio in a famous painting in 1515 (Venice, Galleria dell'Accademia).

Bibliography

Bacou R. et Viatte F., Michel-Ange au Louvre, les dessins, exposition du Cabinet des dessins, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1975, n IV.
de Tolnay Ch., Corpus dei disegni di Michelangelo, 4 vol., Novara, 1975-1980, T. I, 1975, n 23.
Hirst M., Michel-Ange dessinateur, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1989, supplément, n I.
Joannides P., Michel-Ange, élèves et copistes, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2003, coll. "Inventaire des dessins italiens du musée du Louvre", n 12.

Technical description

  • Fra Filippo LIPPI (Florence, c. 1406 - Spoleto, 1469)

    Virgin and Child with Saints Frediano and Augustine, known as the Barbadori Altarpiece

    1437

  • Pen and brown ink, partly over traces of stylus with traces of black chalk, reworked in darker ink over the two legs and around the waist.

    H. 2.08 m; W. 2.44 m

  • Entered the Louvre in 1814

    39689

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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