Michelangelo Buonarroti called Michelangelo (copy by) - inv. 3502

Copy by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Cleopatra
1550-1600
oil on wood  
37 x 25,7 cm
1973 donation Margherita Visconti Venosta
Inv. 3502

Visconti Venosta Room
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This panel is an oil copy after a famous painting, today in Casa Buonarroti in Florence, donated by Michelangelo to Tommaso de' Cavalieri, the young patrician Roman he had loved and praised in various poems. The two had met in Rome in 1532, and their friendship lasted all the artist’s life, to the extent that, according to his biographer Ascanio Condivi, Tommaso was even present at Michelangelo’s death in 1564.
Michelangelo’s graphic work was immediately successful and was collected even before his death. In fact, the grand duke Cosimo I de' Medici, had to insist strongly with de' Cavalieri before he was unwillingly ceded the Cleopatra by its owner, and this was probably the first Michelangelo drawing to enter the Medici collections in 1562. The great number of copies of drawings by Buonarroti confirms the high esteem they were held in.
The Poldi Pezzoli panel is quite faithful to the original in the details: the complex hairstyle is followed even in the curls, as are the snake’s coils and the plait falling down her shoulders. However, the drawing of the copy is rather more rigid compared to the original, detracting from the figure’s grace that characterised Michelangelo’s work. The more elongated facial features, half-open mouth and languid gaze emphasise the pathos of the figure, following Mannerist poetics that would date the work to the second half, if not the end, of the 16th century.