BROKEN INTO PIECES AND ITS HEAD THROWN INTO THE SQUARE" THE NUMEROUS FAILURES OF MICHELANGELO'S BRONZE STATUE OF POPE JULIUS II

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Few failures were more dramatic and painful in Michelangelo's long career than his monumental bronze statue of Pope Julius II for the facade of Bolognas San Petronio basilica (1507/08). Not only did the casting of the bronze initially fail, threatening Michelangelo's reputation (as recorded in his letters to his brother back in Florence), but also the Bolognese public seemed to have had mixed feelings about how the pontiff was represented. The culmination of the bad reception of this statue was its destruction. Shortly after the work was inaugurated, it was violently dismantled and destroyed by the Bentivoglio supporters once they regained control of the city in 1511. The bronze figure was then cast again into a celebrated cannon (called ironically "La Giulia", after the pope) adding insult to injury upon both the pope and the artist. Nevertheless, this painful and violent episode was eloquently transformed into a critical success by Michelangelo with the help of Condivi, Vasari, and Varchi. This paper reconsiders Michelangelo's Bologna affair as a contribution to understanding early modern artistic failures, their modi operandi, and their influence on artistic historiography. The examination of a series of hostile reactions to the work in different moments offers a more nuanced picture of the different stages of its bad reception by the contemporary public.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-125
Number of pages11
JournalMitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz
Volume63
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

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