A group of Michelangelo’s sketches and drawings is coming to the United States for the very first time for a double exhibit that will be a true insight into the mind of this Renaissance master.

A rough sketch os six figures cowering in fear, red on paper
Most of these sketches, which have rarely travelled outside of Europe, come from the collection of Christina, who was Queen of Sweden in the 1600s © Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Michelangelo: Mind of the Master is a joint exhibition by the Cleveland Museum of Arts and the Getty Museum of Los Angeles, an exhibition that has brought to the US a group of Michelangelo’s works that has rarely travelled outside of Europe. There are around fifty of them, a number that can really be appreciated knowing that Michelangelo usually burnt his sketches, and so there aren’t really many left.

A preparatory sketch of a nude male figure meant for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, red on paper
Some of the exhibition's highlights include the preparatory sketches for the Sistine Chapel, including this male figure, one of Michelangelo's most dynamic ones © Teylers Museum, Haarlem

The most striking of these works are the sketches Michelangelo did as he was preparing to paint the Sistine Chapel in Rome, around the beginning of the 1500s. These drawings represent some of the figures now painted in the Sistine Chapel, like one of the naked male figures that can be found on the ceiling of the Chapel and Saint Lawrence, who can instead be seen on the altar wall within the composition of the Last Judgement.

An architectural sketch of the dome of Saint Peter's basilica, black on paper
Michelangelo also worked on the final design of Saint Peter's basilica, and the exhibit has some sketches of his ideas for the dome and the lantern © Teylers Museum, Haarlem

“Michelangelo is widely acknowledged as one of the most talented and influential artists in the history of Western art,” said William Griswold, the director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “He was an exceptional draftsman, and the up-close study of Michelangelo’s drawings is an unparalleled experience, one that we are delighted to bring to visitors in Cleveland”. The exhibition will be arranged in thematic sections following the various stages of Michelangelo’s life, from his work in Florence for the Medici family to the masterpieces he realised for the Popes.

A series of studies for arms and backs, black on paper
The variety of the sketches allows visitors to truly see the range of Michelangelo's work, and how carefully he studied every aspect of human anatomy © Teylers Museum, Haarlem

The Michelangelo: Mind of the Master exhibition is currently on display at the Cleveland Museum of Arts and will remain there until 5 January 2020 before moving onto the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Tickets in Cleveland start at $15 (£12), and you can find all the information you need on the museum’s official website here.

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