The prisoners of Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s slaves, between spirit and form

The Michelangelo’s slaves are a group of four statue conserved at the Accademia Gallery in Florence, in the corridor leading the visitor to the Tribune built in the 19th century especially for the David. Represent a major step towards understanding the path by Michelangelo and his research between the highest anatomic definition of each detail and the "unfinished".

The Michelangelo’s slaves had to be part of the funeral monument to Pope Julius II, complex then made in a smaller version than the beginning project. The singular representation is that of a slave or, perhaps, the human condition, the continuous tension between matter and soul; he is struggling to free himself (from stone). There are no explanations by Michelangelo about these sculptures, left unfinished probably involuntarily, at the same time of the closure of the commission.

We can notice that the artist was actually working on the technique of "unfinished" to express different emotions. It is evidenced by subsequent masterpieces, among all, the allegory of the Day, inside of the Medici chapels. Two other prisons, now preserved at the Louvre, are completely finished.

However, the Michelangelo’s slaves are not completed works, an emblematic proof of how this master usually carved and worked the marble. We can understand how Buonarroti conceived the sculpture: "art of the subtract”, releasing the subject of art in the locks. The sculptor is the one who successfully remove from monolith the superfluous, making free the prisoners.

You can visit the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence for free on the first Sunday of every month.