For the first time, the nine bronze busts of Michelangelo attributed to Daniele da Volterra are side by side for scientific study in Florence. Opening today and running until June 19, the Galleria dell’Accademia hosts The Bronze Effigy of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra, a new exhibition curated by museum director Cecilie Hollberg.
Daniele Ricciarelli, better known as da Volterra (1509-66), was a pupil and close friend of Michelangelo. Not only that, he was present when the master died on February 18, 1564, in his Roman home in Macel de’ Corvi. Leonardo Buonarroti, Michelangelo’s nephew, commissioned two bronze portraits of his uncle from him soon afterwards, and this commission was followed by a third request from his friend, Diomede Leoni. However, Da Volterra died in 1566 without having completed their requests, although an inventory dated the day after his death reported three busts of Michelangelo found in Macel de’ Corvi.
The problem of the chronology and casting of the bronze effigies has long remained a point to be clarified in art history studies. Over the centuries, various attempts were made to identify the origins of the many existing heads, but to this day there is no convincing answer. The exhibition therefore presents nine busts that compete for primacy on the basis of disparate and contradictory theories formulated by generations of scholars.
For the exhibition, each head has been digitized and 3D printed in resin on a scale of 1:1 thanks to the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation. The busts were digitally “mapped” at key points and correspondences, overlaid and compared in a unique research project.
“The idea for this exhibition stems from the need to make a scientific contribution to the complex relationship between originals and derivations,” says Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Galleria dell’Accademia and curator of the show. “We therefore take this opportunity to offer for the first time a direct comparison of the nine busts bearing Michelangelo’s features…Almost five centuries later, it’s time to find some answers.”
Together with the three works already kept in Florence at the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Museo Nazionale del Bargello and Casa Buonarroti, the show also features important loans from various international and Italian museums, including the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Museo della Città “Luigi Tonini” in Rimini.