As a kid who wanted to learn to draw well, and who studied a bit of anatomy (from afar, and bloodlessly), I naturally admired the drawings of Michelangelo Buonarroti. That guy was a genius, I’ll go out on a limb and say it. I read his poetry, which I admired for its dark invention– he once compared his life’s work to being a swimmer who crosses the sea, only to drown in his own snot. The fucker could draw, too. His drawing was sculptural, which is a sensible way for a sculptor to draw. He famously signed his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, disgusted by having been mercilessly drafted for the endless project by some bullying Pope with a sword, “Michelangelo, sculptor.”
He painted a wonderful self portrait, that I copied in gouache, when I was about twenty, and sent to my grandmother. She went into raptures over it, framed it and finally got her Aunt Shifra, the mother of internationally famous modern sculptor George Segal, of the ghostly plaster cast constructions, to admit that her grandson was a genius too. Shifra, it should be pointed out, was very old and probably no match for my strong-willed grandmother Yetta at that point.
In Michelangelo’s self-portrait, and in my crude copy, his flattened nose stands out prominently in his thoughtful, slightly grim face. I’d read about that broken nose, he got it as a kid. The story I knew was that Michelangelo, who could always draw, was mocking the drawing of an older classmate in Lorenzo de Medici’s stable of talented youths. The other guy retorted by busting the arrogant young genius’s nose.
There are other versions of the story, as I later learned, one being that Michelangelo was a fucking saint and the older classmate, Pietro Torrigiano, by name, was a jealous hot head. Indeed, no less an authority than Wikipedia supports the hot head theory, noting of Torrigiano “his career was adversely affected by his violent temperament.” I should read a bit more of that entry.
But then I saw this sculpture by the jealous hot head Torrigiano and immediately thought “fuck me blind….”
Actually, just read the rest of the short, ambiguous entry on Pietro Torrigiano and all I can say is “what the fuck?” Talk about swimming across the ocean only to drown in your own snot…