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Michelangelo (1475) (1475 - 1564)



December 11, 2006
New York, NY, US

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Autograph document with integral signature ("io Michelagniolo schultore"), 1 page ( 11 1/2 x 8 3/8 in.; 290 x 213 mm), in Italian, [Florence], 26 October 1521, being a memorandum recording a payment made that very day for two sculptors who worked with Michelangelo on his statue of the Risen Christ at Santa Maria sopra Minerva; skillful repair to top of vertical fold, repair to minute paper loss at intersecting folds (not affecting text) Together with two documents by his great patrons: Clement VII. Document signed, 1 page (11 1/4 x 8 3/8 in.; 282 x 215 mm), in Latin, Rome, 2 May 1531 being a petition by Bernardus de Cepparellis of Florence referring to a court in which a lawsuit is to be heard between heirs of Francisco della Fonte and Pietro de Ceparellis; some discoloration, more pronounced at margins, some losses at left margin affecting text; and Julius III. Document signed twice with autograph annotations ("Fiat ut petit" and "Fiat"), Rome, St. Peter's, 6 July 1552, authorizing the alteration of a will; contemporary endorsement on verso; all three documents bound together in a red morocco gilt album by Riviere & Son


Alfred Bovet Collection, Paris, 1887

The Property of Messrs. J. Pearson and Co., Sotheby's, London, December 8-12, 1924


V. Marchese, C. Pini, and F. Milanesi, Le vite di pia eccelenti pittori, scultori e architetti di Giorgio Vasari, Florence, 1856, vol. XII, p.360

G. Milanesi, Le lettere di Michelangelo Buonnaroti, Florence, 1875, p. 583

G. Milanesi, Le opere di Giorgio Vasari, Florence, 1881, vol. VII, p. 363

E. Charavay, Lettres autographes composa; la coll. de M. Alfred Bovet, Paris, II, 1887, p. 686

H. Thode, Michelangelo und das Ende der Renaissance, Berlin, 1902-13, vol. I, p. 383

K. Frey, Drei Kunstlerbriefe handschriftlich nachgebildet mit Umschreibungen und Anmert kungen versehen, Berlin, 1906, p.1

E. Steinmann and R. Wittkower, Michelangelo Bibliografie 1510-1926, Leipzig, 1927, pp. 85, 138, 282

W. Maurencrucher, Die Aufzeichnungen des Michelangelo Buonarotti im Britischen Museum in London und in Vermachtnis Ernst Steinmann in Rom, Leipzig, 1938, pp.274 passim

R. Buscaroli, Michelangelo. La vita. Le teorica sull'arte. Le opere, Bologna, 1959, p. 137

G. Vasari, La Vita di Michelangelo nelle redazioni del 1550 e del 1568, P. Barocchi ed., Milan/Naples, 1962, vol. III, p. 807

L. Bardeschi Cliulich & P. Barocchi, eds. I ricordi di Michelangelo, Florence, Sansoni, 1970, catalogue CVIII, pp. 108-9


An extraordinary letter relating to final payments for Michelangelo's statue of the Risen Christ, the great treasure of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. Commissioned by Metello Vari and Pietro Castellani, Michelangelo's sculpture of the Risen Christ was executed in Rome and Florence during the years 1514--1520. Vari then requested Michelangelo to finish the decorative accoutrements intended for the statue, and Frederigo Frizzi was commissioned to build a tabernacle for the sculpture. The statue arrived in Rome from Florence in the summer of 1521. Pietro Urbano of Pistoia, Michelangelo's assistant, completed the final touches in situ.

The present document records the final payments to be made in connection with the sculpture. Michelangelo confirms that through the bank of Giovanni de' Servihe has paid seven crowns and four "grossoni" to Leonardo [Sellaio, his agent], making a total of seven gold ducats, of which four are to be sent to Frederigo, known as Frizzi, the Florentine sculptor, for a marble statue of Christ which he has completed in Rome for Metello Vari and erected in the Minerva: "E décti secti ducati d'oro décti a decto Lionardo perché e' ne ma[n]dassi quatro a Federigo decto Frizzi, schultore fiorentino a rRoma per chonto d'una figura du cristo che e' m' à finita a rRoma di marmo, di messer Metello Varii, e messa inopera nella Minerva . . . ." The letter continues and gives the remaining three ducats to Pierto Urbano of Pistoia.

The project proceeded without any major delays or misfortunes until the summer of 1516. The sculptor, always considered to have been lucky in his uncanny ability to choose excellent marbles for his works (a facility which had been most astoundingly proven by the great David which he had made from a massive block all others had considered too unwieldy to work), was soon forced to abandon his first attempt, almost fully blocked out, as it became apparent that there was a long black imperfection in the marble in the face of the figure. With this disappointment and his removal from Rome to Florence in the same summer on the orders of the Pope, the sculptor left the project fallow, and only after letters from Vari pleading for him to resume work, was Michelangelo badgered into finishing the Christ. A new block was ordered and the sculptor worked on the figure of the Risen Christ in 1519/20, dispatching it to Rome in 1521.

As was customary at the time, the marble was to be brought to its finish in situ, and Michelangelo's assistant, Pietro Urbano of Pistoia was charged with this task; he was succeeded in this task by the sculptor Federico Frizzi, after it was felt that Urbano had mishandled his part of the project. Although his patron Vari was pleased and the Risen Christ was widely admired, Michelangelo himself was unsatisfied with the situation, and decided to make some gesture to Vari. Although he rejected the idea that another sculpture be undertaken, Vari did ask for the unfinished first block, and he placed it in place of honor in the courtyard of his house, where it remained until 1607 after which trace of the sculpture was lost . (The sculpture, although in largely reworked form, has recently been rediscovered in the church of San Vincenzo Martire, Bassano di Sutri, north of Rome, by Irene Baldriga and Silvia Danesi Squarzina; see their articles in Burlington Magazine, vol. CXLII, no. 1173, December 2000, pp.740--745 and pp. 746--751 respectively).

Whatever Michelangelo's own misgivings about it, the Risen Christ was an immediate success amongst his contemporaries. The biographer Vasari, writing only a few decades after the sculpture was delivered, called it a figura mirabilissima; it was copied and admired into the next century (Taddeo Landini, for example, made a copy in the 1580's for the Ricci Chapel in the church of Santo Spirito, Florence, and Guido Reni based his Christ with the Cross, circa 1620 on the sculpture). Certainly it was a revolutionary interpretation of the theme, and had less to do with Rome's Christian past than its pagan one. First and foremost, the image of a beautiful and dynamic Christ, entirely nude (the perizoma covering the statue's genitalia was a later addition) must have been somewhat shocking to the general church-going public. It is, however, part of the logical progression of heroic male nudes exemplified by the David.

Manuscripts by Michelangelo are of the utmost rarity

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