Leonard Barkan: Michelangelo: A Life on Paper
Posted February 2, 2012; 12:00 p.m.
Comparative literature professor Leonard Barkan talks about words and sketches on Michelangelo's drawings. Read more.
Video Closed Captions
Leonard Barkan: I've written a book about a
It's still the same guy.
Michelangelo Buonarotti: Florentine architect,
painter, sculptor, poet.
But, it's not the
Michelangelo who produced things like the
"David," the "Moses," the Sistine ceiling.
It's the Michelangelo who produced things
for his eyes only.
So, the book, which is
called, "Michelangelo: A Life on Paper," is
about that life. It's really about his interior
life. The things that
he put together when his mind was wandering
and his hand was wandering, and words popped
into his head or drawings seeped out of his pen.
He did all kinds of different
things on the same sheets of paper:
Memos to self,
lists for foods and expenditures and moneys...
all mixed in with drawings that range from
doodles to sublime figure
sketches. But the other thing we have, is
that we have some intense, private, passionate remarks.
On this sheet he writes, "Lavoglia invoglia e
poi lascia la doglia" (Desire engenders desire
and then leaves pain). And next to it, he
writes, "Death is the end of a dark prison."
But in the midst of this, he has contracts,
he has angry statements and he also draws
a large, rather ungainly hand,
and two very long, extended bodies.
We have these sheets with completely incongruous
and unrelated fragments on them. And for me
these sheets of paper, with their quite bizarre
and mysterious mixtures of words and images,
are very very much like dreams. Really, the
kind of dream that Freud analyzed in which
there are strange, unexpected juxtapositions.
Juxtapositions that if you look carefully,
and think carefully about the whole life of
the subject (whether that's a subject on an
analytic couch or a subject who is reclining
as he paints the Sistine ceiling), if you look
carefully at these mysterious, seemingly disconnected
utterances, you have a sense of what Freud
would call Michelangelo's unconscious.