The room is 10 meters long and 3 meters wide, with a vault with a maximum height of 2 and a half meters. It is accessed from the New Sacristy of the museum, which is part of the Bargello Museums group, and was discovered in 1975, when the then director of the Medici Chapels Paolo Dal Poggetto commissioned the cleaning of an area below the apse.
The small chamber had been used as a charcoal store until the 1950s, when it was abandoned, hidden behind a trap door in a room where various pieces of furniture had been heaped up. The wall drawings, of varied sizes and occasionally overlapping each other, emerged from behind two layers of plaster during the cleaning process.
On the walls of the room there are studies of whole figures, but also more or less summary sketches of anatomical parts, profiles of faces and human figures in various poses; they were made with charcoal and sanguine, a red ocher used to make pastels for drawing, widely used since the Renaissance. Following analyzes and research, which are still being worked on by art historians, the majority of them have been attributed to Michelangelo.
According to Francesca de Luca, art historian and director of the Medici Chapels, not all of the sketches exhibit “the same sustained qualitative tension of the painter’s graphics.” In any case, de Luca described the space as “a true unicum for its exceptional evocative potential,” noting that the figure sketches included therein are frequently in mammoth proportions and “traced by signs that attest to great design clarity.”
Dal Poggetto speculated that Michelangelo hid in the apartment between the end of June and the end of October 1530 to avoid possible persecution by Pope Clement VII, a member of the Florentine Medici family. Michelangelo had really studied the construction of the city’s fortifications on behalf of the republican government during the brief period in which the Medici were banished from Florence (from 1527 to 1530). According to Dal Poggetto’s reconstructions, Michelangelo became free after being forgiven by the Medici family and continued working in Florence until returning to Rome in 1534.
According to Dal Poggetto’s reconstructions, the sketches were created during Michelangelo’s “self-imprisonment” era. Michelangelo would have utilized the room’s walls to examine some of his paintings and sculptures, or to draw inspiration from pre-existing works of art, such as the head of the Laocoön, which is part of the famous sculptural group preserved at the Vatican Museums.
The general director of the Museums to the Ministry of Culture, Massimo Osanna, announced the reopening of the room on September 26th, and on Tuesday, the ways in which it will be possible to visit it on an experimental basis were outlined.
The chamber will be open for visitation by reservation only from November 15th to March 30th, 2024. Due to the limited space and to conserve the works, groups of up to four individuals will be able to enter at a time, accompanied by museum officials, for a total of up to 100 persons per week. You have a maximum of 15 minutes in the room.
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