by Sara Lee Burd

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Michelangelo Buonarroti. Madonna and Child (detail), ca. 1524. Black chalk, red chalk, red wash, white heightening and ink. Casa Buonarroti, Florence, inv. 71F

Adding to the impressive line-up of international exhibitions on display right now at the Frist Center, the Ingram Gallery features 26 drawings by one of the most accomplished Italian artists in the history of art. Michelangelo Sacred and Profane: Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti presents the artist in one of his most intimate mediums. A quintessential “Renaissance man,” Michelangelo created some of the most renowned masterpieces of the 16th century in a variety of media: the frescoes adorning the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the dome atop St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican in Rome, as well as the marble sculpture David at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence.


Michelangelo Buonarroti, Study for the Head of Leda, ca. 1529, Red chalk – courtesy of Casa Buonarroti, Florence

The works on paper at the Frist provide a glimpse into Michelangelo’s mind—how he fundamentally conceived of the world.  Less concerned with naturalistic depictions, Michelangelo imbued his architectural facades, ground plans, and figure drawings with notes of Italian humanism, beautifully balancing reverence of mankind and adoration of God. Each mark made indicates an idea, a decision, a thought process vaulted from the artist’s imagination.

Michelangelo’s works on paper are some of his most important because they reveal a moment of inspiration for projects that may or may not have been realized. During his lifetime he guarded his creativity closely and burned most sketches to preserve his ideas. This exhibit provides an amazing opportunity to view a collection of delicate 500-year-old works on paper, which have survived time and temperament.

Michelangelo Sacred and Profane: Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti is on exhibit at the Frist Center through January 6. For more information visit

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