Michelangelo and the Economy of Revision
This chapter explores Michelangelo’s fantasy of patrician ancestry, which illustrates his revisionary sense of his professional worth. In particular it examines the mythological drawings and erotic poems sent to Tommaso de’ Cavalieri—a handsome young Roman nobleman—and crucifixion drawings and penitential poems sent to Vittoria Colonna, a learned and talented Roman noblewoman. Expressing personal intimacy with these recipients, the artist’s presentations suggest that his economic standing, if not exactly on a par with that of his benefactors, at least matches theirs in some reciprocal way and cancels his need for direct support from them. Inscribing this distance through an economy of authorial revision in successive drafts, Michelangelo’s poems to both Cavalieri and Colonna register the artist’s psychological turmoil as well as his self-discipline, and they locate the basis of his art in craftsmanship and technique rather than intuition or inspiration.
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