Michelangelo’s First Sketch of Sistine Ceiling Discovered?

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Mar 6, 2014--Adriano Marinazzo, scholar-in-residence at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary ( www.wm.edu/muscarelle ), has discovered what he believes to be Michelangelo’s first sketch of the Sistine Chapel.

After conducting research of Michelangelo’s sketches on archival papers stored in the Buonarroti Archives in Florence, Italy – hometown of the famous Renaissance painter and sculpture – Marinazzo’s article detailing his discovery was published in Commentari d’arte, an Italian art journal.

In the November 2013 article, Marinazzo argued that the geometric drawings of triangles and crescents on the archival papers are actually the architectural structure of the vault of the Sistine Chapel, and that Michelangelo executed it during the preparatory stages of his fresco work, before the scaffolding had even been set up.

The mysterious sketch has stumped art scholars for years, and now Marinazzo’s research has the art world taking another look at the drawings and chapel ceiling.

Even the Vatican has commended his work. Several years ago, Antonio Paolucci, currently director of the Vatican Museums, noted the significance of Marinazzo’s work by stating that “thanks to his versatile training as an artist, architect, and art historian, Adriano is the right person to continue the best traditions of Italian art, like Italian artists and scholars of the Renaissance have done.” More recently, Paolucci has offered his congratulations on the Sistine research.

Marinazzo believes the sketch, presumably dating from no earlier than the spring of 1508, may have served as a reminder and jotting for the artist when he was studying the surfaces to be painted and how to arrange the scaffolding. It’s a rare and precious document, said Marinazzo, quite possibly the oldest one of its kind.

“No other rendition of the architectural layout of the vault survives among Michelangelo’s preliminary drawings,” said Marinazzo. “It is almost impossible to find new documents on Michelangelo and especially on the Sistine Chapel.”

Before Marinazzo moved to the U.S., he worked as an architectural researcher at the University of Florence. He has published on the architecture of the Italian Renaissance, especially Michelangelo’s architecture.

Currently Marinazzo is developing an artistic multimedia project on the painted architecture of the Sistine Ceiling and is doing research for a three-dimensional reconstruction project on the architectural history of the William & Mary campus.

CONTACT: Muscarelle Museum of Art

Media Contacts:

Betsy Moss, 804-355-1557



W&M University Relations

Megan Shearin, 757-221-2623




SOURCE: Muscarelle Museum of Art

Copyright Business Wire 2014

PUB: 03/06/2014 11:32 AM/DISC: 03/06/2014 11:32 AM


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