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Prints, Drawings, and MiniaturesSculptureApplied ArtPainting

Crouching Boy c.1530-1534

Michelangelo (Michelangelo Buonarroti) 1475-1564

Marble; h 54 cm

This figure is the only work by Michelangelo in the Hermitage. It was probably designed for the Medici Chapel in Florence. The pose of the boy repeats the cubic form of the marble block it was made from and seems constrained. But the massive protubing muscles of the bent body are emphasized by the play of light on the rough marble surface covered with chisel marks, and the tension of the pose creates the impression of enormous energy and force. The artist's concept has not yet been explained, although some scholars see here an allegory for the unborn soul, while others see the figure as a wounded soldier or a spirit of mourning. However, the figure would appear to have a wider significance than any of these particular interpretations: it represents a defeated individual, suffering not so much physically as emotionally, reflecting the tragedy of the Renaissance decline.


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