Five centuries after his birth, Michelangelo is still making headlines. The Renaissance painter, sculptor and architect enjoyed near-mythical status during his lifetime, and the passing of time has only served to increase the fame of the man his peers simply referred to as the Divine One. That is why, whenever a new item is added to Michelangelo’s illustrious legacy, the story becomes worldwide news. Last month, two bronze statues were attributed to the Renaissance genius and earlier this month the Vatican acknowledged it had received a ransom for the return of a stolen letter written by Michelangelo. But perhaps nothing is of greater interest to those planning to take a tour of Rome in the future than the discovery of a statue of the great man himself, in the very heart of Rome.
The lost sculpture portraying Michelangelo was recently ‘rediscovered’ after being neglected for years by art historians. The relief sculpture was found in the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles, a Franciscan monastery located within walking distance from The Trevi Fountain, by a British art historian. Like other breakthrough discoveries before it, this too was made with a hand from Lady Luck or – if we’re to call her by her real name – Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune. Maria Loh, a scholar of the Renaissance at University College London, stumbled upon the statue, which was previously thought to be that of a doctor, while doing research for a catalogue commissioned by the Princeton University.
What tipped off the scholar was a mention of Michelangelo’s name in an old publication in connection with an engraving made by Giacomo Del Duca, a sculptor and architect who had served as his assistant. The engraving pays tribute to Michelangelo, whose grave was housed for a short time in the Church of the Twelve Apostles, before being transferred to the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, the city he grew up in and loved. The Renaissance master, born Michelangelo Buonarroti on 6 March 1475 in Caprese, in the Republic of Florence, left his mark on Rome, where he created some of his most celebrated masterpieces, statue of Moses, located in the Church of S. Pietro in Vicoli, The Pietà, housed by St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But throughout his life Michelangelo kept his fondness of Florence intact and wished to buried there, in the city he gifted one of the most iconic sculptures in human history, that of David.
In fact, an episode that took place during Michelangelo’s youth in Florence has given additional help to researchers seeking to identify the man portrayed in the relief statue. While living and studying in the home of Lorenzo de’ Medici, one of the most important art patrons in all of Europe at the time, Michelangelo drew not only admiration for his superior talent, but also the envy of his fellow pupils. One young rival, identified as Pietro Torrigiano, lost his judgment for a moment and punched Michelangelo very hard, so that the latter would forever bear a mark reminding him of the now forgotten challenger:
“I gave him such a blow on the nose that I felt bone and cartilage go down like biscuit beneath my knuckles—the perpetrator later bragged—and this mark of mine he will carry with him to the grave.”
And, in fact, Michelangelo did so, as can be seen from the statue, which features the artist’s characteristic broken nose.
The cenotaph of Michelangelo Buonarroti can be visited by the general public. The Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles is located at Piazza dei Santi Apostoli no. 51, in the vicinity of Piazza Venezia and the Trevi Fountain.
Roma Experience offers several walking tours of Rome that feature The Trevi Fountain among its highlights and will bring you within walking distance of the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles. The Heart of Rome Tour, available both as small group and private tour, is unsurprisingly one of Roma Experience’s most popular walking tours of Rome.
For those interested in the work of the Renaissance master, there is no better choice than our Tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica, during which our guides will provide you with in-depth background information and insights regarding Michelangelo’s chief works.With the discovery of Michelangelo’s statue, those wishing to complement their Tour of the Vatican can do so by seeing up close one of the few statues portraying the Renaissance master in existence. Is there a more fitting tribute to the genius of Michelangelo?