(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

Brutus (detail)

Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

During the second half of the 1540s Michelangelo began the Brutus, his last commissioned sculpture, for Cardinal Niccolò Ridolfi.

The Brutus, commissioned by a Medici opponent as a symbol of Republican virtue, was acquired after Michelangelo's death by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco I. In the Medici collections it was exhibited accompanied by a Latin verse, which claimed: 'As the sculptor carved the portrait of Brutus from the marble, he remembered his crime, and broke off'. Celebration of the tyrant-slayer was thus subverted, and Michelangelo's failure to complete the work was represented as a praiseworthy moral act.

The bust was finished by Tiberio Calcagni before the death of Cardinal Ridolfi in 1550.