Vol. 3 (2014): Letter Writing in Early Modern Culture, 1500-1750
Part Two - Case Studies

Michelangelo, a Tireless Letter Writer

Adelin Fiorato
BSFM: Laboratorio editoriale OA (Responsabile)
Published March 10, 2014
Keywords
  • Art,
  • <em>Carteggio</em>,
  • Familiar Letters,
  • Michelangelo
How to Cite
Fiorato, A. (2014). Michelangelo, a Tireless Letter Writer. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 3, 219-230. https://doi.org/10.13128/JEMS-2279-7149-14172

Abstract

A titan of artistic creation, the sculptor-painter-architect Michelangelo was also a tireless letter writer. Five hundred and eighteen of his letters have reached us, stretching from his youth to the eve of his death, but we know that many others have been lost. Written in a kind of familiar Florentine and in a style of minimalist ‘realism’ – which does not prevent the presence of either impetuous polemical flights or pages of literary indulgence – these letters deal mainly with everyday subjects: day-by-day relationships, either endearing or resentful, with his relatives, financial or property matters and, above all, the marriage problems which concerned his nephew Leonardo, the sole heir of the family. But one also discovers in them the artist’s warm feelings of friendship and love, his poetic and aesthetic exchanges, his relationships, often conflictual, with his fellow-artists and patrons as well as his reflections on old age and death. All in all, these letters represent a documentary chronicle of a Florentine bourgeois family and the technical hassle of an entrepreneur’s activity. If, on the one hand, the Carteggio does not shed light either on Michelangelo’s conception of art or the way in which he realized his works, on the other it illustrates certain latent aspects of his projects, as well as of his personality, which was at the same time melancholy and aggressive, surprisingly whole and manifold. This luxuriant correspondence presents, so to speak, a ‘genetic’ interest, since it reveals the hidden face of the brilliant conceiver and creator, of the artist and entrepreneur struggling with the obstacles whose overcoming makes creation possible.