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Michelangelo’s Mythologies

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Chapter Summary

Between late December 1532 and September 1533, Michelangelo sent a series of drawings to Tommaso deCavalieri, the young Roman nobleman who had captured his affection. In the Rape of Ganymede the Punishment of Tityus, and the Fall of Phaeton, Michelangelo used the imagery of ancient myth to communicate complex messages of love, desire, and the consequences of human hubris. The gift drawings for Cavalieri represent one of the artists few forays into mythological subject matter. Encouraged by the intellectual and artistic climate of late fifteenth-century Florence, Michelangelos earliest works demonstrate a persistent interest in ancient art and subjects. His efforts and ambitions culminated in the Bacchus, a life-size marble sculpture that seems to embody the reintegration of classical form and subject matter that Erwin Panofsky identified as the signal achievement of the Italian Renaissance.

Keywords: Erwin Panofsky; Italian Renaissance; Michelangelo; mythological subject matter; Tommaso deCavalieri



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