Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

California Italian Studies

California Italian Studies banner

Michelangelo's Medici Chapel and its Aftermath: Scattered Bodies and Florentine Identities under the Duchy


The Medici Chapel was not fully completed in the state that it presently exists until nearly thirty years after Michelangelo’s departure from Florence in 1534. This gave artists, intellectuals, and patrons the extraordinary opportunity to study the sculptures close up and from different points of view, a habit that continued well after their installation through reductions and casts. Any study of the influence of Michelangelo’s chapel sculptures on Florentine artists and patrons must take into account how they were viewed, experienced, and studied. In portraits of young Florentine patricians, Bronzino and Salviati drew on the practice of copying the statues from different angles and detailed scrutiny of body parts to assemble these views and parts in images of their patrons that made overt reference to Michelangelo as well as displayed their own distinctive style. While these portraits were made for private palaces to convey both Florentine erudition and its artistic tradition, Duke Cosimo adapted the Medici Chapel sculptures for portrayals of himself in public settings, including Vasari’s tondo in the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi corridor façade together with Vincenzo Danti’s reclining nude figures, these coinciding with his association with Michelangelo in the founding of the Accademia del Disegno. The reassembled body parts in engravings of the completed tombs by Cornelis Cort in 1570 represented Florence to a wide public, but no longer functioned to signify a distinct Florentine artistic tradition and cultural identity.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View