What it must have felt like to be Michelangelo.
In this remarkable inquiry into artistic creation, historian, painter, and sculptor Pascuzzi offers two books in one: an illustrated history about how Michelangelo the man became “Il Divino” and an analysis of how a dedicated graduate art history student who had been fascinated with Michelangelo since he was a child “learned to make works of art like him as if he were my master.” Pascuzzi gave himself a daunting task: make copies of all of Michelangelo’s 135 surviving drawings. Unlike finished works, he writes, “drawings offer a much more intimate view of an artist.” Inspired by Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, he then studied Cennini’s 14th-century art treatise, The Craftsman’s Handbook, and the less-esteemed but useful The Art Forger’s Handbook. Pascuzzi traveled to museums in the United States and Europe to copy them from the originals or exact photographic facsimiles using the “same materials, tools, and techniques as apprentices used in Michelangelo’s day.” Stepping back in time, Pascuzzi copied a drawing of animals Michelangelo completed as a 13-year-old apprentice in Ghirlandaio’s prestigious Florence workshop. With Michelangelo’s studies as his model book, “I let my eye and hand be guided by the master.” Copying drawings Michelangelo made for his David sculpture, he noticed they “reflect a new level of pen-and-ink technique.” Next up was a massive fresco, Michelangelo’s first, for the Battle of Cascina. There was evidence of a “new fluidity in Michelangelo’s drawing style,” and Pascuzzi had a “myth-busting idea,” that Michelangelo had himself copied from Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings. The author’s apprenticeship concludes with the drawings for the Sistine Chapel, a “true indication of his artistic maturity.”
Whether or not this is a “new, revolutionary way of looking at [Michelangelo],” this revelatory book is a must for art students and those seeking new insights into his art.