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Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra


Daniele da Volterra’s Portrait of Michelangelo (1544) and Portrait Bust of Michelangelo (1562-64), highlight the artist’s excellence. Daniele da Volterra’s Portrait of Michelangelo (1544) is an oil on canvas painting currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Initially, this work was considered as a self portrait by the artist, which is a claim that persisted well into the 20th century despite others such as Knapp (1912), Garnault (1913) and Gaetano Milanesi (1882) suggesting that it was developed by Francesco Salviati (1510-1563). Andrea Donati provides strong evidence that the painting is a work by Daniele da Volterra in 1544. Daniele worked as an apprentice to Michelangelo and emerged as a close friend. He was later hired by Pope Paul IV to paint over nude images in the renowned fresco “The Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. Donati claims that the work was included in the inventory of the artist in the year 1566 (Treves 38)

Daniele da Volterra’s Portrait of Michelangelo (1544) is considered as a prototype for numerous images, given that it was left incomplete and other portraits seem to attempt to develop the unpainted torso. His works are denoted by the excellent composition, vigorous truth and distinctive and curious opposition of lighting and shade. He utilizes mannerism and an exaggerated beauty in his work. The works is an excellent example of pejorative and over-elaborate distortion, imbalance and neurosis that are initially evident in other followers of Michelangelo such as Daniele da Volterra and others (Steen 42).

A number of works by Daniele da Volterra also illustrate the dominance of mannerist styles in developing artwork such as Portrait of Michelangelo (1544) and Portrait Bust of Michelangelo (1562-64), which feature an elongated human form and a distinctive and disturbing psychological tension. Essentially, the negative view of the term “mannerism” was later developed by John Shearman the late 20th century where he juxtaposed an alternative name, maniera or style in English that is borrowed from maniere in French courtly literature referring to manners, should be substituted with capacity to overcome difficulty and skill. The style evolved across the courts of the elite in Italian society and developed on renaissance naturalism which deceives and distorts with the aim of delighting the overly educated and intellectual audience (Steen 28).

The Bust of Michelangelo (1564-66) is a Bronze sculpture with a black patina, on black marble plinth, with a height of 35 cm, which is currently housed at Musée du Louvre, Paris. It is claimed that towards the end of the artist’s creative life, the artist Daniele da Volterra turned away from painting and delved into developing sculptures. Upon the artist’s death, a number of artworks were discovered in his premises in Rome, a house in which Michelangelo once habited. The work has been likened to a marble bust sculpture by Battista Lorenzi, which is likely based on a similar model by Daniele da Volterra ((Steen 39).

It is evident from the two works that Daniele da Volterra was largely influenced by other artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo, given that these two works feature Michelangelo as the subject. These works were subject to negative criticism by other parties who considered this mannerism movement to be a distortion and a destruction of the beauty that denoted the high renaissance. The high renaissance emphasized classical ideals of beauty, proportionality, harmony and peace. On the other hand, the mannerist style was considered as overly emotional, artificial, effetely elegant and applied vivid colors. The Portrait of Michelangelo (1544) utilizes vivid colors, elegant and has a deep emotional context as evident by the use of contrasting colors. These works are evidence of the different contexts of beauty and elegance from high renaissance art, which is displayed through the vivid construction of the subject.

The two works can be easily considered has inherent with Daniele da Volterra’s artistic style of expression, which makes them distinctive from other high renaissance works. The artist is effective in demonstrating the different possibilities of using the human form in artistic expressions. In addition, the two works are developed within spaces defined by vivid colors, making them relatively unique from each other. The works feature arrangements into contorted positions, artificially elongated and muscled. In addition, it is also evident that the positions seek to immortalize the main subject of these works, Michelangelo (Steen 47). The deviation by the mannerist artists from traditional conventions and standards of high renaissance, enables Daniele Da Volterra and other followers of Raphael and Michelangelo to achieve excellence and an opportunity for individual expression of artistic interest and capacity.


Works Cited

Steen, Hansen M. In Michelangelo’s Mirror: Perino Del Vaga, Daniele Da Volterra, Pellegrino Tibaldi. University Park, Pa: The Pensylvannia State University Press, 2013. Print.

Treves, Letizia. “Daniele Da Volterra and Michelangelo: A Collaborative Relationship.” Apollo. (2001): 36-45. Print.


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