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

Slave (dying)

c. 1513
Marble, height 229 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Following the Pope's death in February 1513, Michelangelo signed a second contract with Julius's executors for a reduced version of the tomb to be completed within seven years. This still massive undertaking, which is recorded in documents and drawings, was for a three-sided structure attached to the wall. There were to be six figures on the cornice, while above the contract specified a 'capelletta', a tabernacle, with a sculpted image of the Virgin and Child. For this scheme he began the Moses as well as the figures known as the Dying Slave and the Rebellious Slave (both in Louvre).

The Dying Slave was intended for a niche, but now it is exhibited as a free-standing pendant to the Rebellious Slave. However, the figures were not created as a pair but as elements in a large sequence, a theme with variations potentially as rich as those provided by the ignudi on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. The Dying Slave was brought to an unusually high state of resolution and reveals a moving sensuousness unusual in the conception of the male nude in Western sculpture.