Michelangelo's earliest known drawing has been discovered, revealing that he has been able to show his art as a child's play from an early age.
Few would have realized that his depiction of a seated man was the work of a child of only 12 or 13 years old.
But his artistic potential arose long before he created masterpieces such as the sculpture by David and the frescoes at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
It is also remarkable that the sketch survived completely. Michelangelo had a lifelong obsession with destroying drawings that he was no longer using – and burned a large number of them shortly before he died, to prevent anyone from seeing the ways in which he tested his genius & # 39; .
The seated man has been identified by Sir Timothy Clifford, a prominent Italian Renaissance scholar, as & # 39; the earliest drawing effort of a young person who would ever emerge as one of the most remarkable artists who has ever lived & # 39 ;.
This sketch of the seated man is said to be the earliest known Michelangelo, made when he was 12 years old. Drawn in pen and two shades of brown ink, it measures 220 by 153 mm. The figure is wearing a gown and appears to be sitting on a throne, while holding a scepter
The survival of the sketch is remarkable since Michelangelo had a lifelong obsession with destroying drawings that he no longer used. Shortly before his death, he burned a large number of them to prevent anyone from seeing & # 39; the ways he tested his genius & # 39 ;. (Above, a portrait of Michelangelo, in a work claimed by Sebastiano del Piombo around 1520)
He said: & # 39; It is Michelangelo's earliest known drawing with a year, maybe two, than everything else we know. So it is very fascinating. & # 39;
As soon as he got to see the drawing, he felt that & # 39; very likely & # 39; was by Michelangelo.
Regarding Michelangelo & # 39; s tendency to destroy many of his drawings, Vasari, the 16th-century biographer, tells us: & # 39; Just before his death, [Michelangelo] burned a large number of his own drawings, sketches and cartoons to prevent anyone from seeing the efforts he had sustained or the ways in which he tested his genius, for fear that he would seem less than perfect. & # 39;
At the age of 12, Michelangelo learned his trade as a student in the studio of Domenico Ghirlandaio, then one of the most prominent Italian masters.
Vasari also wrote about his early genius: & # 39; The way Michelangelo & # 39; s developed talents and character surprised Domenico, who saw him see things that were very common for boys his age and not only surpassed his many other students , but also often achieved the performance of the master himself. & # 39;
Michelangelo & # 39; s artistic potential was created long before he would make masterpieces, such as the frescoes at the Sistine Chapel (pictured) in the Vatican.
The seated man drawing, in pen and two shades of brown ink, measures 220 by 153 mm. The figure is wearing a gown and appears to be sitting on a throne, while holding a scepter.
The young artist was inspired by a colossal Roman marble fragment that originally formed the lower half of a statue of the Enthroned Jupiter. Although now in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, it belonged to a well-known collector in Rome in the time of Michelangelo.
Sir Timothy said that Michelangelo & # 39; s richly descriptive shading, shaded by precise lines, is distinctive: & He uses two different types of brown ink.
He has an idiosyncratic way of drawing, with rounded chins and a very hard line under the nose, which also appears in a slightly later drawing. No other Ghirlandaio student signs like this. It is an extremely interesting object because Michelangelo is indeed very young. & # 39;
He dates it partly through comparisons with two other slightly later Michelangelo drawings, one after Giotto and the other after Masaccio.
He said that although the seated man & # 39; a piece of juvenilia & # 39; is, the drawing is so advanced enough to compare with the work of Florentine draftsmen from that period: & # 39; But there is something that the game simply gives away. It is a fascinating object. & # 39;
Sir Timothy, former Director General of the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh, has made countless discoveries. They include Michelangelo's chalk drawing of a candelabrum he found in 2002 in a box of light fixtures at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York.
The drawing of the seated man is in the hands of an anonymous British collector, who bought it at a French auction in 1989. The artist was not identified.
He contacted Sir Timothy following a first suggestion from Michelangelo & # 39; s hand made to him by art historian Miles Chappell.
Among the later works of Michelangelo was this masterpiece – a marble statue of David (above, at the dome of the Galleria dell & # 39; Accademia in Florence, Italy)
The owner remembered: & # 39; When I first saw it, it gave me the excitement that it was an important drawing from the early Renaissance. It is all the more satisfying to find out that it is a Michelangelo. & # 39;
He has now lent it for the first time to a large exhibition of Michelangelo drawings entitled & # 39; Triumph of the Body & # 39; until June 30 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.
In a scientific essay about the drawing in the catalog of the exhibition, Sir Timothy writes: & When the 12-year-old Michelangelo joined the Ghirlandaio workshop, he would have followed the usual mechanical practices of grinding colors, preparing lime for paint the plaster surface of the fresco, independently of learning to paint in tempera, oil and fresco.
& # 39; He would also have learned to draw in the manner of his master. Michelangelo's earliest panel paintings and frescoes confirm the sound training he had gained in the practical application of his vehicle. & # 39;
The discovery was endorsed by, among others, Professor Paul Joannides, the leading Michelangelo scientist, who writes in the Budapest catalog: & Could this chance of survival be created at the start of his internship? Or even earlier? & # 39;
Zoltán Kárpáti, the curator of the exhibition, adds: "Considering that student's study drawings were only rarely preserved, in combination with Michelangelo & # 39; s lifelong obsession with destroying drawings for which he no longer had use, [Seated Man] sketch deserves a prominent place in the master's oeuvre. & # 39;