Sunday 17 August 2014

Graffiti by Michelangelo in Florence

A story that might interest many tourists visiting this part of Italy alludes to graffiti by Michelangelo in Florence, specifically a simple caricature known as "l’importuno di Michelangelo". The profile of a man's face is carved into a stone on the right wall of the main entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, just behind the "Ercole e Caco" of Baccio Bandinelli.

Graffiti by Michelangelo in Florence
Location of graffiti by Michelangelo in Florence
One story has it that Michelangelo, always in a hurry to get back to work on his sculpture, was usually stopped by an acquaintance when crossing the square. This individual always kept him talking about his trifling problems and other matters of little consequence. One day, Michelangelo, once again importuned by his troubled acquaintance and unable to be rid of him, seized the opportunity to portray him. Leaning against the wall and looking him in the eyes with his hands behind his back, he wielded the his hammer and chisel to engrave a profile of the "l’importuno di Michelangelo". Trying to picture this ridiculous scene occurring in reality is rather difficult, unless the importuno was not only deaf but with very poor eyesight as well - or maybe he really did have consuming problems that blinded him to everything else as he poured them out to Michelangelo? Oh, and to perform this feat, Michelangelo would have had to have been 12 feet tall.

The profile of  man carved in a wall of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence by Michelangelo.
The profile of  man carved in a wall of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence by Michelangelo.
Another version of this story has it that the carving portrays a man condemned to the pillory and Michelangelo, passing by from the Piazza della Signoria, recognized him as his own debtor. To immortalise this state of infamy, Michelangelo decided to chisel a bas-relief profile of the offender directly into the ashlar of the Palazzo Vecchio.

Judging by the broken nose of the profile portrayed, I prefer to imagine that it's a portrait of Michelangelo himself - whether it's a self-portrait or not, who can say?

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