Major Exhibition of Michelangelo Drawings Opens Feb. 9


    Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti in Florence

    The Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary proudly announces the opening of Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti on February 9, 2013. The landmark exhibition is being organized in honor of the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Muscarelle Museum of Art in 1983. Dr Pina Ragionieri, director of the Casa Buonarroti museum in Florence, is also being honored and will attend the opening ceremonies.

    Many of Michelangelo’s most renowned drawings are featured in this rich and varied selection of 25 drawings from the master’s collection that was preserved by his descendants in the family home, the Casa Buonarroti in Florence. The exhibition will include studies for paintings as well as designs and plans for churches and military fortifications. Several of the works have never been seen in the United States.
    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, John T. Spike.

    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 Madonna and Child, which is one of Michelangelo’s most admired images. The statuesque figures of the Virgin and Child are rendered in a fascinating mixture of techniques ranging from the underdrawing in black chalk to the powdered red chalk for the flesh tones in the Child’s arm.

    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-five 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 United States.

    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. Founded in 1870, the Boston MFA is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world with a collection comprising more than 450,000 works of art. The MFA welcomes more than one million visitors each year to experience art ranging from ancient Egyptian to contemporary, special exhibitions, and innovative educational programs. The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated, hardcover catalogue produced by the Muscarelle Museum of Art.
    The Muscarelle Museum of Art at The College of William & Mary is located on the grounds of the second oldest college in the U.S., a highly ranked liberal arts and research university. The Muscarelle is celebrating 30 years since its founding under Director Glenn Lowry, currently the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This 30th anniversary exhibition is the second Michelangelo drawings show showcased at the Muscarelle, following three years after the groundbreaking Michelangelo: Anatomy as Architecture, Drawings by the Master in 2010.

    Alongside this Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, the Muscarelle has organized its first-ever show featuring major Italian Baroque paintings. Mattia Preti was a master painter very close to Caravaggio and is the artist showcased in Mattia Preti (1613-1699) Paintings from North American Collections in Honor of the Fourth Centennial of his Birth. Lenders to this exhibition include the National Gallery of Art, the Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum, Toledo Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and other institutions.

    General Information
    The Muscarelle Museum of Art is located on Jamestown Road on the campus of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. For more information about this exhibit or the Museum in general, please call (757)-221-2700 or visit

    The Museum is open from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 12:00 noon until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Museum is closed on Mondays. Docent tours are available at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sundays, and other times as announced.

    During this exhibition, there is an admission fee of $15.00. Admission is free for Museum members, The College of William & Mary faculty, staff, and students, as well as children under twelve.

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