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Michelangelo Sculptures


Tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici Sculpture by Michelangelo

Michelangelo worked on the tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino, between 1520 and 1534 at the same time he worked on the tomb of Giuliano de' Medici.

Michelangelo's Tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici
The tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino, is
20 feet 8 inches x 13 feet 9 inches and was one of the
tombs Michelangelo built for the Medici Chapel of
San Lorenzo in Florence.

The two tombs, while similar in overall composition, present subtle contrasts and in many ways comment on the public persona of each man. While Giuliano is posed in an extroverted manner, Michelangelo portrays Lorenzo receding into the shadows, his body closed, his legs crossed, and his mind deep in thought. It is a figure deserving of his nickname Il Pensieroso, "The Thoughtful One."

Lorenzo Detail from Michelangelo's Tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici
Lorenzo detail from Michelangelo's tomb of
Lorenzo de' Medici.

In the central figure of the tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici, Michelangelo gives us an image of a mysteriously introspective man. The light, interrupted by the figure's helmet and hindered by his left hand, fails to reach any part of his face. His left elbow rests forbiddingly on a closed money box decorated with a fierce mask.

Both this figure and that of Giuliano lack the fire and energy of earlier sculptures. One explanation for this change in the artist's work is his physical and mental exhaustion. Though only in his forties at the time, Michelangelo was feeling his age under the crushing weight of his many commissions and commented that if he worked for one day he had to rest for four.

Dawn detail, from Michelangelo's Tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici
Dawn (6 feet 8 inches in length), as portrayed on the
tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici.

In lifting her veil from her head, the figure of Dawn suggests the emergence of light from the cloak of darkness. She is portrayed as a young woman with firm, high breasts and a voluptuous body but with a face contorted by grief.

Dawn Detail from Michelangelo's Tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici
Detail of Dawn on the tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici.

Michelangelo took care to complete the faces of the two female figures in this series, giving the virgin Dawn a tragic and burdened countenance, which contrasts with the slumberlike serenity of Night.

Dusk Detail, from Michelangelo's Tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici
Dusk (6 feet 4-3/4 inches in length), as portrayed on
the tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici.

The male figure of Dusk faces the Virgin Mother, giver of life, as does his male counterpart, Day. While his face is unfinished, it is possible to identify in his ill-shapen features a slight resemblance to Michelangelo himself.

Also standing in the Medici Chapel with the tombs of Giuliano and Lorenzo is the Medici Madonna. Learn about this sculpture in the next section of this article.

To learn more about Michelangelo, art history, and other famous artists, see: