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

Slave (dying)

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

In 1505 Michelangelo was summoned to Rome by Julius II, who commissioned from him a grandiose tomb destined to stand in St Peter's. But the artist was forced to limit its scope gradually, until, many years after the Pope's death in 1513, and after at least five different projects, the matter was settled in 1545 with a much reduced design; the tomb was partly executed by assistants and ultimately set up in San Pietro in Vincoli. The two Louvre slaves belong to the second design from 1513. Intended for the lower level of the monument, they probably symbolize the human soul imprisoned in the brute matter of the body, according to the Neo-Platonic doctrine. The so-called Dying Slave seems rather more like a sleeping man seeking escape from a nightmare.