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

Cleopatra (recto)

Black chalk on paper, 225 x 170 mm
Casa Buonarroti, Florence

This highly decorative, virtuoso drawing was one of a series of gifts for Tommaso de' Cavalieri, a young artist whom Michelangelo wished to teach and of whom he was deeply fond. The elder painters's celebrated draftsmanship is visible in the extreme twist of head and neck, known as 'serpentinata' - perhaps a play on words, given the fatal, coiling asp.

In many of his drawings Michelangelo created ideal portraits of women, in which he frequently emphasized the beauty of the female figures with imaginative hair styles plaited with scarves, other fabrics, or pieces of jewellery and adorned with exquisite headdresses and similar accessories. These portraits were in keeping with Florentine traditions, influenced by the works of Sandro Botticelli, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Piero di Cosimo.

The verso of the sheet contains a black chalk study for Cleopatra.

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