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“Bearded Slave” by Michelangelo

'Bearded Slave' by Michelangelo

“Bearded Slave” by Michelangelo

“Bearded Slave” by Michelangelo is a marble sculpture from about 1525–1530 and forms part of the series of “unfinished” Prigioni intended for the Tomb of Pope Julius II.

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.

The Bearded Slave is one of the more finished of the Rigoni that was carved in Florance and got his name from his thick, curly beard.

The way his muscular torso twists demonstrates Michelangelo’s in-depth knowledge of anatomy. The figure’s legs, slightly bent and separated, are covered by a band of fabric.

His right arm is raised to hold some heavyweight, while his left-hand remains unfinished, but seems to catch the band of cloth. 

The surface of the sculpture retains many traces of the various chisels and scrapers used on the marble.

Its unfinished state creates immense energy with the figure attempting to free itself from the stone.

Art historians have proposed that the symbolic character of the sculpture is connected to the artist’s struggles in his life.

Tomb of Pope Julius II

The Tomb of Pope Julius II is a sculptural and architectural ensemble by Michelangelo, and his assistants initially commissioned in 1505 but not completed until 1545 on a much-reduced scale.

The tomb was installed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli on the Esquiline in Rome after the pope’s death.

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 statues 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


Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the Renaissance who was born in Florence, and who had a significant 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.

Bearded Slave

  • Title:               Bearded Slave
  • Italian:            Schiavo barbuto
  • Artist:             Michelangelo
  • Year:               1525–1530
  • Materials:       Marble
  • Dimensions:   263 cm (104 in)
  • Type:               Marble sculpture
  • Museum:        Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, Italy


Michelangelo, The Slaves

Explore the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze

Art is a Process: Michelangelo’s Slave Sculptures

Michelangelo’s Sculpture at Florence’s Accademia: The Giants

Michelangelo’s Slaves Series

Michelangelo Quotes


“Death and love are the two wings that bear the good man to heaven.”


“Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”


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


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


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


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


“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”


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


“I am still learning.”


“Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.”


‘Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”


” The sculptor’s hand can only break the spell, to free the figures slumbering in the stone.”


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


“It is necessary to keep one’s compass in one’s eyes and not in the hand, for the hands execute, but the eye judges.”


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


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


Photo Credit: Jörg Bittner Unna [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

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