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

Giuliano de' Medici

Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence

The Medici sculptures represent a distinctly new physical type, also found in Michelangelo's drawings from this period. The aim seems to have been to express great power in the most relaxed and elegant form. The figures have small heads on massive torsos, muscular, tapering thighs and slender ankles, an ideal most clearly articulated in the figure of Giuliano de' Medici and that of the youth in a contemporary work, the Victory (Palazo Vecchio, Florence).

The alert figure of Giuliano is associated with the positive and negative poles of Night and Day, Lorenzo with the shadowy allegories of twilight. Michelangelo stated that the Capitani figures were not portraits but idealized representations, endowed with the dignity and power that the men should have had. The contrast between the 'melancholic' Lorenzo and the 'sanguine' Giuliano has long been remarked, and Michelangelo seems to have taken great care to place the face of Lorenzo in shadow. As a formal invention, this brooding presence is unprecedented.

The Giuliano, in which sprightliness is mixed with force, remains one of the most original statues of the 16th century.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.