Early in his artistic life, Michelangelo spent years studying anatomy through the dissection of medical cadavers. Though this was forbidden by the Church he moralized that his taboo research was to forward a greater good. His first Pieta, now in St Peters clearly displays his knowledge of muscle tone and muscle placement; an uncanny accuracy that he continued to apply throughout his life’s work.
Fortunately today we don’t have to clandestinely divert unfortunate souls from their final journey. By comparing accurate medical resource to our model we can ensure all the twist and turns stay aligned with reality.
When this is compared to our marble, we can quickly see what is out of place. The trick is to keep working the stone in the round… slowly moving the marble inward to conform to the vision in your minds eye. As I mentioned in a previous post, Michelangelo would typically focus all his initial attention to the torso.
There is no sense in finishing the hands or arms until the mid section is well positioned… the body extends from its centre. You can see from my Spero, that as I pivot the chest to the left, Jesus’ thigh is moved forward and down. This then slides his leg forward and forms the final lines of both his shoulder and Mary’s forearm.
With these extending lines correctly adjusted in relation to the positioned chest, I can start to turn my attention to the extremities as they make contact with each other… Shoulder to chest; and Mary’s hand on Jesus thigh. I can also start to see the relationship between Mary’s face and the heel she weeps on.
With this simple slight clockwise turn and inward adjustment of his chest, I had to move Mary’s hand down by almost two inches… and angle Jesus right hand down several degrees. So, again, by following the Marble Master’s Method I can now turn my attention toward following the chest out to the left arm and right leg… saving this for the next post.