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

Tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici

Marble, 630 x 420 cm
Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence

Michelangelo received the commission for the Medici Chapel in 1520 from the Medici Pope Leo X (1513-23). The Pope wanted to combine the tombs of his younger brother Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, and his nephew Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, with those of the "Magnifici", Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano, who had been murdered in 1478; their tombs were then in the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo.

The plans for the chapel which we still have, shows us that the Pope allowed Michelangelo a great freedom in his task. Not much of this vast plan was in fact carried out, yet it is enough to give us an idea of what Michelangelo's overall conception must have been. Each of the Dukes' tombs is divided into two areas, and the border is well marked by a projecting cornice. In the lower part are the sarcophagi with the mortal remains of the Dukes, on which lie Dusk and Dawn, Night and Day as the symbol of the vanity of things. Above this temporal area, the nobility of the figures of the Dukes and the subtlety of the richly decorated architecture which surrounds them represent a higher sphere: the abode of the free and redeemed spirit.