On view at the Museo delle Cappelle Medicee, Florence, an exhibition celebrating the first Medici pope, Leo X, on the 500th anniversary of his election. The show explores his pre-papal life as Giovanni di Lorenzo il Magnifico de'Medici, from his birth in Florence in 1475 up to 11 March 1513 when he was elected to the papacy, to his brief triumphal return home in 1515, and death in Rome in 1521. On view until 6 October 2013.
Michelangelo, New Sacristy (Medici Chapel, Church of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy), 1519-34
The Medici regained power in Florence in 1512 and Leo X succeeded Julius in 1513; Michelangelo became chief architect for the Medici family projects at the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy. A design for an unfinished tomb for the young Medici relatives was placed on the opposite side of the so-called New Sacristy. In this space, each of the two monuments consist of an idealized portrait of the deceased, who turn to face the family’s unfinished tomb. The men dress in an interpretation of classical armor and seated in niches above the sarcophagi. Balanced atop are male and female figures representing the times of day. Looking from the altar, on the left is the tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici with Giuliano seated in the niche. He represents the Active Life and his sarcophagus figures are allegories of Night and Day. Night is accompanied by her symbols: a star and crescent moon, poppies that induce sleep and an owl under the arch of her leg. The mask at her back may allude to Death. The tomb of Lorenzo represents the Contemplative Life and supported by Dusk and Dawn. Facing the altar is the unfinished tomb of Lorenzo the Magnificent with the Medici Madonna at the center and the Medici patron saints. The niches are empty as the sculptures to fit inside were never carved (Marilyn Stokstad, Art History, Volume Two. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008, 675-6).
“Sleep is dear to me, but moreso to be of stone
So long that the agony, and the shame last;
Not to see, nor to sense, is most fortunate;
Thus do not wake me from it, speak softly.”
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni – in response to Giovan Battista Strozzi’s epigram for la Notte “The Night” statue in the Medici Chapel – my own translation from the original old Italian with the assistance of various scholarly and lay sources