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

Slave (Atlas)

Marble, height 208 cm
Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence

The notion that Michelangelo attacked a cube of stone aided only by inspiration is a romantic fallacy, as is the assertion, elaborated from brief accounts by Vasari and Benvenuto Cellini, that he invariably began carving on the front face of the block, only gradually exposing the flanks of the statue. Examination of surviving unfinished statues reveals that work proceeded according to the nature of the figure. The Atlas Slave, devised as a corner figure for the tomb of Julius II, was excavated from two adjacent faces of the block simultaneously.