Michelangelo And The Hidden Chamber

May 8, 2017 By Nupur V, Young Editor
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You may have heard of the world famous Italian painter, sculptor, architect, and poet- Michelangelo. He is considered one of the most prominent icons of the Renaissance period that swept across Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries..

Many of Michelangelo's incredible artworks are on display in Accademia Gallery, in Florence, Italy. However, some are hidden!

In 1975, the director of the Medici Chapel Museum in Florence discovered a Renaissance treasure. He had been exploring the museum to find new exits for tourists, when he came across a trap door that was hidden under a wardrobe. It had been designed to keep the ornate tombs of the Medici rulers. Below this trapdoor, there were step stones that led to a room, with walls filled with art work. These were chalk and charcoal drawings made by none other than Michelangelo!

But what was Michelangelo doing in a secret room? How did he end up there?

The Medici Family Connection

Born in Italy in 1475, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was the second of five sons. At that time, his family was in Caprese, but they soon moved to Florence, which was one of the largest hubs for creative arts in that period.

As a young boy, Michelangelo had no interest in studying. He was intrigued by art and poetry, and spent hours in the company of prominent painters and in sketching. When he was thirteen years old, he became the apprentice to the famous painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, who ran one of the largest workshops in Florence. An apprentice is a person who learns trade from and works for a skilled employer, in return for low wages.

In 1489, the ruler of Florence- Lorenzo de' Medici wanted to know who Ghirlandaio’s best pupils were, and the artist sent Michelangelo and Francesco Granacci. This is how Michelangelo's relationship with the Medicis began. The Medicis were an Italian noble family of prominence between the 14th to 18th centuries, and were a great patron of the arts. Michelangelo’s interactions with other painters, sculptors, poets, scholars and other learned men molded his unique style of workmanship which marked his entire career.

Why Hide?

During the early 1500s, the political situation in Florence was tense. 

In 1527, a revolt had sent the Medici rulers into exile. Despite the support provided by the Medicis for his art work, Michelangelo sided with fellow Florentines who wanted a more democratic form of government. A few years later, the Medici family was back in power, with the Pope himself leading forces against those who had revolted. Fearing for his life, Michelangelo went into hiding inside the secret chamber in the Medici Chapel.

In 1530, the Pope pardoned Michelangelo, and asked him to return to complete work on the Chapel and tombs of patrons. The work found in the chamber represent the artwork he intended to complete after!