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Jun 7 - Jun 7 2024

Michelangelo and the Medici Popes: Friendship, Patronage, and Betrayal

Host: Smithsonian Associates
Date: June 7th
Michelangelo stands as one of history's preeminent artists and sculptors, renowned globally for his contributions. Lesser known, however, is his proficiency as a master architect. Being largely self-taught, his architectural style diverged from the norm, incorporating techniques reminiscent of artistic composition. In the latter part of his career, Michelangelo undertook remarkable architectural ventures, predominantly commissioned by the Medici popes. It was during this phase that his reputation and technical expertise peaked, enabling him to seamlessly integrate his sculptural finesse with his architectural vision.
Following the completion of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling, Michelangelo embarked on projects for his childhood friends, Pope Leo X and Pope Clement VII. These commissions included significant undertakings in Florence, such as the façade of San Lorenzo, the New Sacristy, and the Laurentian Library. However, Michelangelo's relationship with the Medici turned sour when Michelangelo joined Florentine forces attempting to throw off the yoke of the family.
The Medici were banished into exile in 1527 by a popular revolt. During their absence, Michelangelo assumed the role of supervisor for the city's fortifications under the short-lived anti-Medicean republican government. Clement VII was furious with the artist's betrayal and ordered his death.
When the rulers returned to Florence, it is widely believed that Michelangelo sought refuge to hide from his former patrons. Beneath the New Sacristy designed by Michelangelo, in the Museum of Medici Chapels, sits a tiny mysterious room, known as “the secret room of Michelangelo,” where he is said to have hidden for a few weeks to escape the wrath of the Medici.
Art historian Elaine Ruffolo takes a close look at Michelangelo's projects for the Medici popes and the tumultuous events that unfolded along the way.
  • Jun 7 - Jun 7 2024




Michelangelo and the Medici Popes: Friendship, Patronage, and Betrayal