iStock/Anna_Pakutina
iStock/Anna_Pakutina

Michelangelo's legends in Rome

4 minutes to read
An expert is one who knows his work so well that he can afford the luxury of doing it wrong (Michelangelo)

A complex personality like Michelangelo would manage to survive vividly in our minds till nowadays. Not only for his magnificent works of art in Rome, but also for a circle of legends that surround him. Let's get to learn together about some of the many of Michelangelo’s legends related to Rome, the Eternal city.

Michelangelo's first trip to Rome

Michelangelo came into contact with the Roman high society thanks to his involvement in a scam. One of his first sculptures, (now lost), was sold by an intermediary as an original, at an exorbitant price. But when the client, Cardinal Raffaele Riario, unmasked the deception, he first wanted his money back, and then he wanted to meet Michelangelo in person. Once they met, a collaboration that lasted over time was born between the two.

The Moses of San Pietro in Vincoli

It is known that the head of the Moses in San Pietro in Vincoli Church is too small in proportion to the body. The legend says that Michelangelo, while sculpting the marble, pressed the chisel too much and so he was forced to make the head smaller and out of proportion to the body. But, the statue was so beautiful and looked so alive that the artist decided to complete it. It was so realistic that he often found himself talking to the statue. One day, receiving no reply, he became angry and shouted at it "Why don't you talk?", throwing a hammer at the statue's marble knee. Even today, we see on Moses's right knee a sign that could be a consequence of that hammer blow.

Furthermore, there are two other curious facts related to this statue: in the beard, we can see a portrait of Pope Julius II and a portrait of a woman. Both can be seen in Mose's right side.

© iStock/MarcPo
© iStock/MarcPo
San Pietro in Vincoli Church, Rome
San Pietro in Vincoli Church, Rome
Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4, 00184 Roma RM, Italia

Villa Farnesina

A legend tells that Raffaello during the period he frescoed Villa Farnesina was so jealous of his work that he had forbidden anyone to enter the hall. At that time Michelangelo also lived in Rome, and the two artists were very jealous of each other. Michelangelo absolutely wanted to see the work of his rival.

So, to evade the vigilance, he dressed like a merchant and headed for the Villa with all his merchandise. There he sat on the ground waiting for buyers. When no one paid attention, Michelangelo entered the building, while Raffaello was not there. Michelangelo was thus able to observe the work of his rival without hurry, took a piece of coal and drew a beautiful woman's head on the wall.

When Raffaello returned, immediately saw the head, which looked so alive and perfect. He recognized the author of that marvel. But, because of its beauty, he decided that the design had to remain- it is still visible in Villa Farnesina. It is a charcoal drawing in a lunette in Galatea's room.

© Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
© Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
Villa Farnesina Rome
Villa Farnesina Rome
Via della Lungara, 230, 00165 Roma RM, Italia

Michelangelo's cypresses

In the courtyard of the "Museo delle Terme di Diocleziano" there are ancient cypresses, some of which were planted by Michelangelo. At the time of the artist, there was a cloister where he loved to rest, during the construction of the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Two of these cypresses were torn down by a storm in 1888, others resisted and can still be admired today in all their beauty.

Terme di Diocleziano - Museo Nazionale Romano
Terme di Diocleziano - Museo Nazionale Romano
Via Enrico de Nicola 79, 00185 Rome, Italy

The only signed work

Michelangelo's best-known work, "La Pietà," is located in the Basilica of San Pietro in the Vatican. It is the only sculpture that contains the author's signature. It is on the ribbon that diagonally crosses the bust of the Virgin Mary.

© iStock/JSSIII
© iStock/JSSIII
Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano
Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano
Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican

The sacristy of San Silvestro al Quirinale

What is now a small garden, located between the Church of San Silvestro al Quirinale and the ancient sacristy, was once a very large space. It was used as a meeting place for the "cultural personalities" of the time. Frequent guests of this garden were Michelangelo and the beautiful poet Vittoria Colonna, who put a considerable influence on him, especially in the last years of his life.

A marble relief illustrates a Pietà with the inscription "You all, who pass by the way, see if there is pain equal to mine." The draft is attributed to Michelangelo. It is said that Michelangelo gave this work to the owner of the place as a present, for the many pleasant hours he spent there.

© Fondo Ambiente Italiano
© Fondo Ambiente Italiano

After this journey, you will discover an almost unknown and alternative Rome. You will love Rome and Michelangelo's legends even more. Legends narrate the past of places and they are, of course, a mix of history and mystery. Enjoy Rome, the Eternal City !!!


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The author

Mara Noveni

Mara Noveni

My name is Mara, I am Italian, born in Rome and raised in the wonderful Tuscany. Always in love with reading and writing, I completed this way of expressing myself through photography, especially street and travel photography. Thanks to my many and long travel experiences, I have enriched my mind and my inner life.

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