Awakening Slave

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Data sheet

  • Author: Michelangelo Buonarroti
  • Date: 1530
  • Collection: SCULPTURE
  • Technique: Marble
  • Dimensions: h. 267 cm
  • Inventory: Inv. Scult. n. 1078

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Awakening Slave

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 figure of this Prisoner just barely emerges from the block of marble: the powerful musculature
and torsion of the chest and head express the figure’s effort to free himself from the weight of the
material and push beyond his own limits, a central theme in Michelangelo’s poetics.
The traces left by the sculptor’s chisels and rasps lend a pictorial aspect to the marble surface and
accentuate the plays of light.

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