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

Capitoline Hill

Piazza Campidoglio, Rome

Michelangelo set the seal on his plan by removing the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which the Romans had long believed to be Constantine the Great, from the Lateran, and placing it on a pedestal of his design in the centre of the Capitoline hill.

As emblem of the Imperial power of Rome, the Caesar holding sway over a limitless area rises from the centre of the sun, whose twelve rays branch out into a linear pattern of multiple dimensions; by means of intersecting lines six times twelve concentric fields are obtained. It is clear that in conjunction with the twelve-pointed sun upon which he rides, they represent the planets (which designation includes sun and moon), passing through the twelve mansions of the Zodiac. As an assiduous reader of the Divine Comedy Michelangelo may have come by these ideas, familiar to other medieval minds, Dürer among them. The monarchic idea, too, derives from Dante. The whole design fits into an ellipse which represents the earthly correspondence to the divine sphere, but it is an oval which contains two focal points because dualism in the world had displaced the true centre. It is no accident or artist's whim that the number seven is the key theme of the Capitol. It is found in the mystical speculation of all ages.