Michelangelo’s Drawings: Study for the Madonna

Sunday, April 28th, 2013
Michelangelo Casa Buonarroti 1508 http://www.uffizi.org/artworks/doni-tondo-by-michelangelo/

Michelangelo, Study for the Head of the Madonna for the Doni Tondo, 1508,Casa Buonarroti, Florence. Photo Source: mfa.org

This past Tuesday, the Museum of Fine Arts opened an exhibit of 26 drawings by Michelangelo, borrowed from the Casa Buonarroti in Florence. I had to wait five whole days before I could get over there to see the exhibit. It’s an extremely rare treat to see works by Michelangelo in the United States, not to mention in my own neighborhood.

Thank you to the MFA for exhibiting Michelangelo’s Drawings and giving me the chance to notice an interesting connection between two unrelated works.

When I saw the drawing on the right at the MFA, my first thought was of the figure of Jonah on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. When I read the label, I realized my mistake. It’s a study for the Doni Tondo, Michelangelo’s painting of the Holy Family for the Doni family. But was I wrong?

According to the Uffizi’s website, Michelangelo painted the Doni Tondo in 1506-08, and according to Casa Buonarroti’s website, the drawing is dated 1508. So it’s quite likely (and who am I to argue with the scholars) that this drawing is a study for the figure of the Madonna for the Doni Tondo.

But Michelangelo also started painting the Sistine Chapel Ceiling in 1508, so it’s also possible that this drawing is mislabeled, and it’s actually a study for the figure of Jonah in the Sistine Chapel.

Unfortunately, my theory falls apart when you consider that Michelangelo frescoed the ceiling from one end to the other, and that he started on the other end (the “Noah” end). In 1508, he was still a few years away from painting Jonah.

But … take a close look at the open mouth of the figure in the drawing (above), then take a look at the closed mouth of the Madonna in the Doni Tondo (below left), and the open mouth of Jonah from the Sistine Chapel Ceiling (below right).

You decide.

Michelangelo's Doni Tondo Michelangelo's Jonah from the Sistine Chapel Ceiling
Doni Tondo, 1506-1508,
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Photo source: Wikipedia
The Prophet Jonah, 1508-1512,
The Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Vatican City.
Photo source: The Web Gallery of Art


Shameless self-promotion: 
In 2006, I created an interactive exploration of the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, identifying each figure in each panel. Please click here to visit my Sistine Chapel Project, and to see where Jonah is on the ceiling.

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