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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Rebellious Slave” by Michelangelo

"Rebellious Slave" by Michelangelo

“Rebellious Slave” by Michelangelo

“Rebellious Slave” by Michelangelo is a marble sculpture created for the second version of the tomb of Pope Julius II which was commissioned by the Pope’s heirs in 1513. Although the initial plans by the Pope for a gigantic mausoleum were set aside, the work was still monumental, with a corridor which was to be richly decorated with sculpture. Michelangelo was commissioned for this project and among the first pieces completed were the two “Prigioni” renamed the “slaves” in the nineteenth century.

The slaves were intended for the lower part of the monument, next to the pilasters which framed the niches. Their poses were determined by this architectural setting, so the frontal view had all the detailed work and effort, but the side views received less care than usual. All the Prigioni produced in Michelangelo’s studio were eliminated from the final version of the monument which was completed in 1542. Two of the works found their way to Paris and eventually the Louvre.

Tomb of Pope Julius II

The Tomb of Pope Julius II was a sculptural and architectural ensemble to be created by Michelangelo, and his assistants initially commissioned in 1505 but not completed until 1545 on a much-diminished scale. The final version of the tomb was installed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli on the Esquiline in Rome after the pope’s death.

In the first version of the tomb of Julius II had a series of prisoners or “Prigioni” in Italian, planned for the lowest level of the mausoleum. It was to be a series of more-than-life-size statues of chained figures in various poses, leaning on the pilasters which framed a set of niches.

As initially conceived, the tomb would have been an enormous structure. This project became one of the great disappointments of Michelangelo’s life when the pope, interrupted the commission, and the funds were diverted to other projects. The original plan called for a freestanding, three-level structure with some 40 statues. After the pope’s death in 1513, the scale of the project was reduced to a simple wall tomb with fewer than one-third of the figures initially planned.

Michelangelo’s Prigioni

The two statues in the Louvre of the “Dying Slave” and the “Rebellious Slave” were finished but not included in the monument in its last and reduced design and can now be seen in the Louvre. Another figure intended for Pope Julius’ tomb is “The Genius of Victory”, now in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The other sculptures for the tomb the “Young Slave“, the “Atlas Slave”, the “Bearded Slave” and the “Awakening Slave” are displayed at Gallery of the Academy of Florence.

"Rebellious Slave" by Michelangelo
The Dying and Rebellious Slaves by Michelangelo in the Louvre

Michelangelo

Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the Renaissance who was born in Florence, and who had a monumental influence on the development of Western art. He is one of the greatest artists of all time, and he is often considered as a contender for the title of the leading representative of Renaissance man, along with his rival, Leonardo da Vinci.

Reflections

  • “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” –  Michelangelo

Rebellious Slave

  • Title:              Rebellious Slave
  • Artist:             Michelangelo
  • Year:              1513
  • Materials:       Marble
  • Dimensions:   263 cm (104 in)
  • Type:              215 cm (85 in)
  • Museum:        Musée du Louvre

Michelangelo

Michelangelo Quotes

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“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”

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“My soul can find no staircase to Heaven unless it is through Earth’s loveliness.”

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“An artist must have his measuring tools not in the hand, but the eye.”

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“A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.”

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“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”

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“I am still learning.”

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“A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it. ”

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“I live and love in God’s peculiar light. ”

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Explore the Louvre

Insights to “Rebellious Slave” by Michelangelo

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“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
– Michelangelo

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Photo Credit: I, Sailko [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]; 2) 林高志 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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