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Monumetal Grotesque. Michelangelism and Ornament in 16th-century Florence Through the Case Studies of Niccolò Tribolo and Silvio Cosini

Farinelli, Stefano (2022) Monumetal Grotesque. Michelangelism and Ornament in 16th-century Florence Through the Case Studies of Niccolò Tribolo and Silvio Cosini. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.95805) (KAR id:95805)

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In the celebratory biography of Michelangelo, Giorgio Vasari emphatically stated that the remarkable originality of the Medici Chapel ornament had persuaded many artists to resort to licenses of grotesque kind. In reality, the Medici Chapel ornament was part of a hyperdecorative trend that Michelangelo rather opposed. This research therefore wants to investigate the conflicted relationship between Michelangelo, ornament and Michelangelism, so as to delineate with greater clarity the origins of the peculiar sixteenth-century phenomenon of dimensional and iconographic growth of ornament, which here we call 'monumentalisation of the grotesque.' A new iconographic analysis shows that the design of the Medici Chapel ornament was entrusted to Andrea Ferrucci, a close collaborator of Michelangelo. Admittedly, a broader analysis of the relationship between Michelangelo and ornament proves that he opposed excessively decorative practices, and that his main interest was rather directed to the human figure. See in particular the Sistine Ceiling, where Michelangelo replaced the traditional grotesque with the Ignudi, unwittingly initiating a process of anthropomorphisation of the ornament. To understand the relationship between Michelangelo's fame and the ensuing Michelangelism, the figure of Niccolò Tribolo is of the utmost importance. He was the first to address Michelangelo's unfinished works, when he had to complete the Medici Chapel and the Laurentian Library in 1542. Tribolo conceived a hybrid language, simultaneously Michelangelesque and grotesque, which still conditions our historical evaluation of Michelangelo's works. He conceived this synthesis thanks to his mimetic eclecticism: just as in the Goddess Nature (1529) he acquired the decorativism of Tyrrhenian sculpture, similarly he assimilated Michelangelo's anatomies in the statues of Heaven and Earth for the Medici Chapel (1533) – today lost but which we have traced in a drawing by Jacopo Tintoretto. He also initiated a fundamental reflection on the ‘unfinished,’ which in the 1540s culminated in the execution of Fiesole for the Castello garden, and in the assembly of the unfinished Phases of Day in the Medici Chapel. However, it is in Silvio Cosini’s work that the synthesis between Michelangelism and ornament originates. Michelangelo entrusted Cosini, a pupil of Ferrucci, with the execution of the grotesque ornament of the Medici Chapel in 1524. By that date, Cosini was already a mature sculptor, devoted to a lively experimentalism. A new philological examination of the sources shows that his collaboration with Michelangelo was limited to only 1524, and that V therefore the Trophies were also made in that year. They then served as a paradigm to Michelangelo for the execution of the grotesque armour of the infamous Dukes (1526-34). Becoming aware of our excessively celebratory bias towards Michelangelo allows us to give due credit to the artistic contribution of his most talented collaborators. Similarly, in order to more clearly identify the altering power of Michelangelo's fame, it is necessary to distinguish his original intentions from those of Michelangelism. This research pursues these aims by deliberately adopting a lateral perspective, that of grotesque ornament, whose relationship with Michelangelo has been scarcely analysed by scholarship.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Thomas, Benjamin
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.95805
Uncontrolled keywords: Michelangelo, Medici Chapel, Michelangelism, Niccolò Tribolo, Silvio Cosini, Grotesque, Ornament, Sculpture
Subjects: N Visual Arts
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2022 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2022 14:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Farinelli, Stefano.

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