|Dimensions||21 × 27 cm|
72 in colour and b/w
Il mito di GanimedeBooks, Catalogues
prima e dopo Michelangelo
edited by M. Marongiu
exhibition catalogue: Florence, Casa Buonarroti, 18 June-30 September 2002
“I have hope, lest fortune should not wish to torment me further, that in a few days I will be back on my feet and able to pay you visit. Meanwhile I will set aside at least two hours every day to take pleasure in the contemplation of your two drawings – the more I look at them, the more I like them…”: thus wrote Tommaso de’ Cavalieri to Michelangelo in a letter dated 1st January 1533.
The artist and the young Roman nobleman had met just a few days earlier and, as a token of the friendship that had immediately blossomed between them, Michelangelo had presented Tommaso with the drawings lovingly mentioned in the letter, which scholars have identified with near-certainty with The Rape of Ganymede and The Punishment of Tityus. These masterpieces were made available for this exhibition by the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass., and the Royal Library of Windsor Castle.
The drawings for Tommaso belong to a category that is well-known to art historians, the so-called ‘presentation drawings’ – drawings, that is, executed not as projects or studies, but to be presented as gifts. The drawings of this kind by Michelangelo stand out for the complexity of their subjects, which are often profane and not at all easy to interpret. This kind of gift was always a sign of great affection on the part of the artist – recipients range from Gherardo Perini to Vittoria Colonna. It is therefore safe to say that these drawings developed in a strictly private context, and can be deciphered only in relation to the author’s biography. And yet these inventions were an instant success: reproduced ad infinitum by countless artists and engravers employing different techniques, they became immensely popular throughout Europe.
Michelangelo’s treatment of the subjects chosen for his ‘presentation drawings’ is invariably highly innovative. The myth of Ganymede is paradigmatic in this respect. The representation of this character and his story, extremely popular in classical antiquity but relatively neglected during the Middle Ages, enjoyed unprecedented success in the early 1530s thanks to Michelangelo’s invention. During these years, the likes of Correggio, Parmigianino and Giulio Romano tackled the subject, offering their own visual interpretation of the myth.
(from the Preface by Luciano Berti and Pina Ragionieri)
This new Casa Buonarroti exhibition (18 June-30 September 2002) details the iconographic tradition of the myth from its classical origins through to Michelangelo’s time, then surveying the numerous reinterpretions of the great artist’s masterpiece. At the end, a singular ‘fake’ is on display – a fresco by Anton Raphael Mengs which was believed to be authentic by Winckelmann, and was hailed by him as the most beautiful painting of antiquity.
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