Are they drawings from Michelangelo’s ‘The Secret Room’? Now visitors can judge for themselves. | ET REALITY


The narrow, arched room beneath the Medici Chapels Museum in Florence he has some suspiciously virtuoso scribblings on the walls.

“The hand is very fast, it shows a lot of confidence, it makes you think,” said Francesca De Luca, the museum’s director, as she gazed at a muscular nude at the entrance. She pointed out the legs in another sketch and their resemblance to the powerful sets of a Michelangelo sculpture in an upstairs tomb.

“These have never been seen by the public,” he said.

Until now. Next month, the museum’s so-called stanza segreta, or secret room, where Michelangelo possibly hid and drew on the walls nearly 500 years ago, will open to the public.

The sketches were discovered in 1975 by Paolo Dal Poggetto, then director of the Medici Chapels, who hoped to create a new outlet for tourists. He and his colleagues discovered a trapdoor hidden under a closet at the side of the New Sacristy, where tombs Michelangelo created for members of the powerful Medici family line the walls. The door revealed stone steps leading to a room filled with coal.

In 1527, the Florentines, including Michelangelo, supported a Republic and the overthrow of the Medici. But the Medici broke in in 1530. Michelangelo went into hiding and disappeared from the network for a few months. Dal Poggetto had a hunch about the newly discovered room. He had the plaster walls removed, revealing charcoal and chalk drawings that had not been seen for centuries. He believed he had found Michelangelo’s hiding place and his de facto workshop.

Others doubt that Michelangelo, now in his 50s and an acclaimed artist with powerful patrons, would have spent time in such a dismal hiding place. But many scholars believe the sketches show his hand. The general public, except for a brief period in the 1990s, has been kept in the dark, fearing that the narrow room at the bottom of a flight of steep stairs posed a safety risk to visitors, and that museum attendees posed a risk to the safety of visitors. a threat to the drawings.

So for decades only accredited academics, the occasional journalist and big people were able to see inside. King Charles III took a look in 2018. Leonardo DiCaprio was smuggled in. “We were very good because no one saw it,” said Paola D’Agostino, director of the Bargello Museums, to which the Medici Chapels belong.

In September, after years of planning slowed by the pandemic, D’Agostino unveiled a new grand exit that she said opened the door for the secret room to open. The museum installed LED lights on sleek low rails that were safer for the drawings and also acted as a de facto barrier to prevent visitors from getting too close.

To protect the drawings, Ms. D’Agostino said, visits will be conducted in groups of four and will be limited to 15 minutes, with 45-minute periods without lights in between to protect the drawings. The tickets, each linked to a specific person whose identification will be verified to prevent them from being swallowed by tour operators, will cost 32 euros (about $34) and will include access to the Medici tombs. Depending on how things go, the museum could increase visitor numbers next year.

Ms. D’Agostino noted that the drawings, despite their age and years of concealment, were “in remarkably good condition.” She added that technological advances over the last half century have led to “a certain stage where I think most scholars agree that there is certainly Michelangelo’s hand in some of these drawings.”

While she is not a Michelangelo scholar, she said she was convinced that at least two of the quick, sure sketches belonged to the master, who left Florence after working in the chapel never to return.

It is an imposing nude near the entrance, which has a sketch of a face in profile and looking forward. Experts say it evokes “Michelangelo”resurrection of christ.” The other is the sketch of the legs. Other scholars have suggested that Michelangelo may have drawn sketches of a falling man that resemble the central figure of his.”The fall of Phaethon.” Some even think that a disembodied, flexed arm on the wall evokes his statue of David.

What is certain, D’Agostino said, is that “nothing of this kind exists in the world of 16th-century drawings.”

“The moment you walk into that room you are speechless,” he added. Then, as your eyes adjust to the dim light, “you start to see all the different patterns and all the different layers.”

One recent morning, a careful descent of the stairs led to a direct confrontation with the drawings and their apparent artistry. Every minute he spends examining the walls yields new discoveries: a muscular torso sketched from semicircles, slanted lines, and S shapes. Shadows transform into tendons, a horse’s head looks down from the ceiling.

At one point, Ms. De Luca opened a wooden shutter to show that the room is actually above ground. The light of the Florentine morning poured in, illuminating the corner and the sketch of a face with a Michelangelo beard.

“Someone said it could be a self-portrait,” he said. “Maybe that’s too much.”

Follow the travels of the New York Times in instagram and Subscribe to our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter for expert tips on how to travel smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Are you dreaming of a future getaway or simply traveling from an armchair? Take a look at our 52 places to go in 2023.

Leave a Comment