“Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti”
October 30, 2015–January 6, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (September 16, 2015)—Marking the first time works by Michelangelo have ever been exhibited in Nashville, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts proudly presents Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti, on view from October 30, 2015, through January 6, 2016. The Casa Buonarroti, the artist’s family home in Florence, possesses the largest and most important collection of the artist’s drawings in the world, and many of its greatest works will be on view at the Frist Center.

The exhibition offers an intimate view into the mind of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), one of the giants in the history of Western art. The rich and varied selection of twenty-six drawings—ranging from rapid sketches to presentation drawings—attests to the High Renaissance master’s accomplishments as a sculptor, painter, architect and military engineer. The works span almost six decades, from around 1504, when Michelangelo was a mature artist of nearly thirty, until a few years before his death. They show the incredible diversity of his projects and the dynamics of a career spent largely working for ambitious popes in Rome and Florence.

“These drawings illuminate how Michelangelo worked and thought, his extraordinary range and technical brilliance, as well as his playful attitude toward ancient architecture,” says Frist Center Curator and Renaissance scholar Trinita Kennedy. “During his long career, he used pen and ink and red and black chalk on paper to generate ideas and communicate them to his patrons, friends and assistants. He deliberately destroyed many of the drawings, including the large-scale cartoons for the Sistine Chapel frescoes, so the remaining sheets are exceedingly rare and valuable. ”

Michelangelo’s powers to evoke the sacred are fully displayed in the large and deeply moving drawing Madonna and Child (ca. 1524), which is one of Michelangelo’s most admired images. The sculptural figures are rendered in a fascinating mixture of techniques that includes underdrawing in black chalk and flesh tones in the child’s arm in red chalk.

Michelangelo’s Study for the Head of Leda (ca. 1529), a mythological subject, is equally beautiful. He made it in preparation for the panel painting Leda and the Swan (destroyed in the seventeenth century) commissioned by Duke Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara in 1529 and completed in 1530. Red chalk proved to be the ideal medium for conveying Leda’s delicate features and allure.

Michelangelo’s legacy as an architect was no less monumental than his stature as a sculptor and painter. The Casa Buonarroti, from which highlights have been chosen, holds the most extensive and significant collection of Michelangelo’s architectural drawings. The important ecclesiastical designs chosen for display include several plans too ambitious and costly to be realized: the San Lorenzo façade, the rare book room of the Laurentian Library, and the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Rome. Like his older contemporary Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo was called upon to invent fortifications. He responded with fantastic drawings of bastions equipped with pincers 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. Impressive in their own right, the works provide dynamic links to a better understanding of Michelangelo’s interdisciplinary virtuosity. “Our knowledge of Michelangelo’s life, career and working methods is infinitely richer thanks to these sheets that have survived the past five centuries,” says Ms. Kennedy.

Exhibition Credit

This exhibition was organized by the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary in Virginia in partnership with Fondazione Casa Buonarroti and Associazione Culturale Metamorfosi.

Exhibition Catalogue

This exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Aaron H. De Groft, Adriano Marinazzo, Pina Ragionieri and John T. Spike.

Sponsor Acknowledgment

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts gratefully acknowledges the Friends of Italian Art.

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Public Programs

Friday, October 30
Lecture: “Michelangelo and the Intrigue of Drawing” Presented by Julian Brooks, curator, Department of Drawings, J. Paul Getty Museum

Frist Center Auditorium
Gallery admission required;Members free
First come, first seated

Dr. Brooks studies the arc of drawing across Michelangelo’s long career, with particular regard to his distinctive choices of black chalk, red chalk, and pen and ink, and his mixed use of them. Setting the works in Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti in context, the talk will delve into the mind of one of the Italian Renaissance’s great creative voices.

Tuesdays, October 27,
Art History Course “The Art, Life, and Myth of Michelangelo” Presented by Tamara Smithers, associate professor, Department of Art and Design, Austin Peay State University
November 3, and November 10
6:00–7:30 p.m.

Frist Center Rechter Room
$30 members/$40 not-yet-members (for all three sessions)
Space is limited. Advance registration is required by Friday, October 9; call 615.744.3355 or visit fristcenter.org/arthistory. Participants must be 18 or older.

This three-part class introduces the major artworks and life of the great Italian Renaissance master. Explore the artist’s sculptures, drawings, paintings, and architecture—and the cultural context in which they were created—from his early career in Florence to his final years in Rome.

Dr. Smithers will discuss Michelangelo’s major works in sculpture, drawing, painting, and architecture as well as his working process. Attendees will also learn how to read the meaning of Michelangelo’s artwork within the cultural, historical, political and social context of Italy during the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Buddy Kite: 615.744.3351, ”
Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311, ”
High-Resolution Images Available

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About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Center offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Information on accessibility may be found at fristcenter.org/accessibility. Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and to members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, Café, and Gift Shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling 615.244.3340 or by visiting fristcenter.org.

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