The Met’s exhibit Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer opened to so much fanfare in New York this past fall that you would have been excused for thinking that the artist himself had been awakened from the dead for a trip to the Big Apple. The exhibition got more ink than Hanukkah and Christmas (that is, perhaps, an exaggeration) and deservedly so. Carmen C. Bambach, curator of Italian and Spanish drawings at the Met, gives us an exhibition of a lifetime. It is just as it has been said, “dazzling” “epic,” or as I say it, and you can quote me on this, “gorgeousness filling my eyeballs with beauty and intelligence.”
It certainly would have been fab if Michelangelo Buonarroti had swept up onto the shores of New York. Technically, he could have hitched a ride with Giovanni da Verrazzano, a fellow countryman 10 years his junior who sailed over in 1524. Il Divino, as Michelangelo was nicknamed, would have been squarely mid-life then. He would have been 49.
Would Michelangelo have enjoyed the rustic landscape of salt marches, burbling streams and beaches? Would he have run from the wolves of Manhattan? What a different world it would have been from cosmopolitan Rome where about a decade earlier he would have painted the Sistine Chapel.
But Michelangelo seems just the type of spirit for adventure across the pond. He wanted to know the earth. He did so by studying it. By really seeing it.
As curator Jennifer Tonkovich tells me, “Michelangelo’s drawings of the human body are not only extraordinarily beautiful objects, but they also reflect the beauty he realized in the world around him.” The Eugene and Clare Thaw curator at The Morgan Library & Museum continues, “I find [his works] deeply moving on so many levels.”
Il Divino has influenced the work of thousands of artists. But any man and woman can learn from him; you don't need to be an artist. Yes, his execution was beautiful but his ability to see was extraordinary. We could all take a cue from that.
The exhibit ends February 12, 2018. Go see it. Really, really see it.