Data sheet

  • Author: Michelangelo Buonarroti
  • Date: 1525 - 1530
  • Collection: SCULPTURE
  • Technique: Marble
  • Dimensions: h. 277 cm
  • Inventory: Inv. Scult. n. 1080


The four “unfinished” sculptures of Prisoners (commonly referred to as “slaves” in English), which date between 1519 and 1534, were originally commissioned to decorate the grand mausoleum designed for the Della Rovere pope Julius II. When the grandiose project was scaled back, they remained in Michelangelo’s studio and, when he died, they were given to the grand duke Cosimo I de’ Medici.

The grand duke installed them in the Grotta del Buontalenti in the Boboli Gardens, where they remained until 1909, when they were moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia and displayed in the main corridor that leads to the Tribune.The Prisoner known as Atlas takes its name from its pose, which recalls that used in antiquity for statues of the Titan Atlas, who was also a prisoner, forced by Zeus to support the heavens on his back.

The works, which were left unfinished, bear traces of the tools used by Michelangelo: various kinds of chisel, the rasp and the bow drill; traces of the latter in particular can be seen in this work along the upper edge of the back. The rough-hewn, powerfully muscular figure seems to be trapped in the marble block, the squared sides of which are still clear. All that can be seen of the head in the upper corner is the barely roughed-out face.

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