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Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti opens in Virginia
A drawing by Renaissance artist Michelangelo of Madonna and Child that is on display at the museum in Williamsburg, Va. The image is on of Twenty-five drawings by Michelangelo begin a two-city U.S. exhibition in Virginia on Saturday, including some works never before seen in the United States and many that offer a glimpse into the mind of the master and the tumultuous times in which he lived. Photo: Muscarelle Museum of Art.

WILLIAMSBURG, VA.- The Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary opened the major international exhibition, Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti. The landmark exhibition is being organized in honor of the thirtieth anniversary of the foundation of the Muscarelle Museum of Art in 1983.

Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti, follows on the success of the 2010 exhibition at the Muscarelle, Michelangelo: Anatomy as Architecture, Drawings by the Master. As before, the purpose of the new exhibition with its unprecedented theme, ‘Sacred and Profane’, is to investigate the artist’s innermost philosophy as revealed in his original, often astonishingly beautiful, drawings.

Throughout his career, Michelangelo (1475-1564) alternated between interpretations of the divine and the worldly, or profane. The master’s powers to evoke the sacred are fully displayed in the large drawing of the Virgin and Child, which is one of Michelangelo’s most admired images. The statuesque figures of the Child is contrasted to the expressive freedom of the Madonna’s face, which appears to see the future with foreboding.

Many of Michelangelo’s most renowned drawings are showcased in this rich and varied selection of twenty-six drawings..

The imaginary portrait of Cleopatra is considered one of the Renaissance genius’s most poetic conceptions, which he made as a gift for his friend, Tommaso Cavalieri. The serene refinement of the ancient seductress on the front side of the drawing is surprisingly contrasted on the reverse by an expressionistic rendering of the same woman in a state of anguish. The conflicting faces of Cleopatra suggested the theme of this exhibition, Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, curated by Muscarelle Assistant Director and Michelangelo scholar, Dr. John T. Spike.

A renowned sculptor and painter, Michelangelo’s legacy as an architect was no less monumental. The Casa Buonarroti holds by far the most extensive and important collection of Michelangelo architectural drawings in the world, from which a selection of highlights has been chosen. The twenty-six drawings selected for Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane are divided between studies for paintings and designs and plans for churches and military fortifications, including several major sheets never previously exhibited in the USA.

Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo was also called upon to invent fortifications: he responded with fantastic drawings of walls and portals equipped with pincers and shells like giant crabs. These visionary drawings gain impact from their notable dimensions, which range in height and width from twelve to fifteen inches, and a few are even larger. The important ecclesiastical designs chosen for display in Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane include several plans too ambitious and costly to be realized: the facade of the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, the ground plan of the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Rome, and a new balustrade for the dome of the cathedral in Florence.

Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane will be on view at the Muscarelle through April 14, 2013, and will travel to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where it opens on April 21 and closes on June 30, 2013.

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February 11, 2013

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