'Study of the head of Giuliano de' Medici by Michelangelo' c1540

Jacopo Tintoretto (1518 - 1594)

This sketch of head is a study from the sculpture.The head with curly hair is slightly turned right.

Black and white chalk on coarse buff paper, 39 x 25.5cm

This study is taken from the figure of Giuliano de' Medici on his tomb in the Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo, Florence. The tomb was sculpted by Michelangelo Buonarotti. Tintoretto is known to have owned a plaster cast of this figure after 1557. However, it is probable that he had access to earlier copies already on the Venetian market at the beginning of his career in the 1540s.

The cast of Giuliano would have been used as a studio prop to help Tintoretto and others in his workshop learn to draw from a single figure and with sharply foreshortened and twisted angles. The quality of the paper and stains upon it indicate this was a working drawing, rather than a finished piece itself. The paper this is drawn on has bits of old string and gritty chalk granules clearly visible to the naked eye.

Although such a closely focused study of a head was primarily meant to help drawing from the figure, studying sculpture from many angles also provided possible poses to be used later in paintings. Figures similar to this can be seen in several early Tintoretto works.

Purchased with the help of the Art Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund.