Michelangelo Drawings

Michelangelo Drawings

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni or simply, Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance sculptor, painter, and architect who greatly influenced the development of Western art.

Before becoming a Renaissance master he developed his drawing techniques that served as the blueprints for his other works.

Michelangelo embraced the concept of "disegno," which refers to the conceptualization of art through drawings.


His drawings contain the underlying basis of his art which he then transferred onto marbles, walls, structures, and canvases.

By drawing, the artist was able to innovate and build the foundation for creating his art in various forms.

It was believed that Michelangelo produced over ten thousand drawings during his lifetime which helped him in preparing and perfecting his artworks, especially his most substantial creations.

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Top Drawings by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Of over ten thousand drawings produced by Michelangelo, only more than 600 sheets have survived which is just a fragment of what was supposed to be a massive collection that should have been accumulated over the years.

Let's take a look at Michelangelo's creative process through one of his most extraordinary drawings that exist today.

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Seated Male Nude and a Separate Study of His Right Arm (1511)

Seated Male Nude and a Separate Study of His Right Arm

This sheet is one of the best-preserved of all the "ignudi" that Michelangelo has drawn for the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

In the drawing, the model was sitting down on something that was covered with drapery with his weight pressing down on his toe.

The artist made use of red chalk to emphasize the figure but then heightened the image of the drawing using white.

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Three Draped Figures with Clasped Hands (1496-1503)

Three Draped Figures with Clasped Hands

In this drawing, Michelangelo used a pen as a medium and two shades of brown ink over traces of black chalk.

With a little examination, one can see how he does the outline of the figures and then shades the areas with parallel as well as multiple small lines.

By doing this, he was able to demonstrate an artistic technique that creates tonal or shading effects with just the pen alone.

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Study of a Mourning Woman (1500-1505)

Study of a Mourning Woman

In the Study of a Mourning Woman, Michelangelo made use of pen and brown ink, heightened with white-lead opaque watercolor to draw the image.

It is one of the most astonishing of Michelangelo's drawings as it was lost for hundreds of years only to resurface in 1995. 

Michelangelo's Most Famous Paintings

Why did Michelangelo destroy his drawings?

As it turned out, Michelangelo was no different from all of us, despite his genius.

In his unyielding endeavor to maintain the image of himself as a "Great Sculptor" with effortless genius, he destroyed all the drawings that he was able to rummage from his studio when he felt that his health was failing.

People even during his lifetime have always desired to get a hold of Michelangelo's drawings and the least that he wanted was for these people, especially his rivals, to obtain his works.

The drawings served as evidence of how Michelangelo painstakingly worked through imperfections to achieve perfection which he believed can potentially diminish his image of greatness.

What medium did Michelangelo use in his drawings?

As a young artist, Michelangelo used to draw mainly using pen and ink as a medium until he began to appreciate the efficacy of using chalks.

He preferred to use naturally mined chalks later in his career as they are both convenient and effective in most of his drawings.

Although he used both red and black chalks, it is evident that he prefers the red chalks better based on the number of his drawings on red chalks that can be seen in art exhibitions.

The artist started using red chalk extensively when he was commissioned for the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes in 1508.

Red chalks allow him to sketch a lot faster which works to his advantage considering that it was a very substantial project.

Unlike black chalk, red chalk only requires a little moisture which allows him to create subtle tonal variations and shade forms easily.

Did Michelangelo destroy his drawings?

Just weeks before his 89th birthday, Michelangelo built two bonfires outside his studio and burned all his drawings and sketches.

He lived an unusually long lifespan for a man of his era but he saw his death coming as his health continued to deteriorate.

A few days before his death on February 18, 1564, Michelangelo did everything in his power to ensure that he would maintain his image as the Great Sculptor for the generations to come.

So, he burned and destroyed all his drawings that were in his possession just before his death.

Also, that was not the first incident in which Michelangelo burnt all his drawings because it was reported that he did the same action 45 years prior.

The same incident happened on February 5, 1519, when he instructed one of his assistants to burn all his drawings which the latter carried out in grief.

How much is a Michelangelo sketch worth?

It has been over 450 years since Michelangelo's death but the celebrated artist's surviving drawings still possess the same charismatic power that they had four centuries ago.

Many factors affect the value of a drawing or any artwork for that matter but it is the charismatic power of the work of art that will ultimately determine its value.

The Study of a Mourning Woman (1500-1505) for example is valued at $12 million while a newly-discovered drawing by the Renaissance master is expected to fetch more than $24 million at auction.

Considering that these are only drawings and sketches in sheets, it is easy to say that Michelangelo's paintings are indeed highly valuable.

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