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Michelangelo, the last decades at The British Museum

  • June 19, 2024
  • 2 min read
Michelangelo, the last decades at The British Museum

In 1534, Michelangelo left Florence for Rome, never to see his native city again. He was 59, which many contemporaries regarded as old, but for Michelangelo this move marked the beginning of a dramatic new chapter which would fundamentally shape his experiences as an artist and as a man.

This exhibition at The British Museum looks at the last 30 years of Michelangelo’s remarkable life, when his return to Rome – having been summoned by Pope Clement VII to paint a fresco of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel – brought him new commissions and reunited him with some of his closest friends.

Having secured his reputation with works including his famous statue of David, Michelangelo, was already the most celebrated artist in Europe. However, rather than resting on his laurels, his Christian faith, intellectual engagement and hope for salvation propelled him to produce some of the most striking works of his career. Forceful preparatory drawings for the Last Judgment as well as the recently conserved Epifania – one of only two surviving cartoons by Michelangelo – show his renewed energy and desire to challenge himself.

These works are displayed alongside studies for Michelangelo’s grand architectural projects as well as drawings, poems and intimate letters that reveal his personal passions and anxieties. Rather than showing an artist in decline, this exhibition shows the astonishing dynamism that Michelangelo brought to his work in the final decades of his life as he explored salvation and confronted his mortality.

The exhibition is on until, 23rd July.

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