The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Human face of a master sculptor

Rome, Dec. 28: Michelangelo was beset by disillusionment and lack of self-confidence despite his brilliant career, according to a study of his writings.

Graziella Magherini, an Italian psychoanalyst, drew on a wealth of letters by the Renaissance genius, and his diary entries, poetry, and drawings, for her study.

She concluded that the failure of two major commissions transformed him from a confident and sanguine man to one overcome by an “increasing sense of worthlessness”.

The projects in question were Pope Julius II’s tomb in Rome, commissioned in 1505, and the facade for the Medici family church of San Lorenzo in Florence.

The first was never completed, although the artist worked on it for 40 years. The second project never saw the light of day.

Michelangelo’s first setback over the tomb occurred when, after spending eight months in Carrara searching for the perfect marble, he returned to Rome to find the Pope’s interest, and finances, had waned.

For years after Julius’s death in 1513, Michelangelo was torn between pressure from the Pontiff’s heirs to complete the tomb, and from successive Popes to drop the commission.

The facade of San Lorenzo was commissioned by Giovanni de’ Medici when he became Pope Leo X. Michelangelo spent years preparing what he had assured his patron would be “the finest work in all Italy”. In the end Leo X scrapped it. In a lengthy tirade, Michelangelo described the decision as an “enormous insult”.

Magherini explained: “Following these experiences, Michelangelo transformed his heroic self-image into a tragic one. His writings reveal a profound change in his self-perception, from someone able to deal with Julius, into an increasing sense of worthlessness.”

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