Michelangelo has left us amazing masterpieces, adored in the entire world: the Pietà, the iconic David, Moses, Laocoön, the unparalleled frescoes for the Sistine Chapel, and dozens of other works. Yet it is impossible for us to really know his private life, what he felt and lived as an artist and man of his time.
Perhaps an interesting and little-known fact that may help us better understand this great artist is that for three months, in the summer of 1530, he lived in a “secret room”, trying to hide and escape from the Medicis’ revenge after they returned from exile (as he had betrayed them and supported the revolt that had overthrown them).
The two-by-seven-meter room was located below the New Sacristy of the monumental Basilica of San Lorenzo complex in Florence. Michelangelo resorted to drawing on the walls, studying for the pieces he was working on at the time, such as the New Sacristy itself (one of the Medici Chapels), a revision of David and some images from the Sistine Chapel. His wonderful graffiti were unveiled during renovation in 1975, when Paolo del Poggeto – then-Director of the Chapels – had the walls stripped. Amongst the many drawings, there is one that might be a self-portrait, bent over, capturing the harsh months he passed in this single-window room, accessed through a trap-door.
Researchers and the general public cannot physically visit Michelangelo’s “secret room”, but in 2013 digital access points were installed in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the National Museum of Bargello and the Gallery of the Academy of Florence. The Bargello’s current director, Paola D’Agostino, has announced plans to open it to the public in 2020 – raising great expectations and enthusiasm in art lovers from the whole world, who now hope to get a closer look into the life of a man who just might have been the most talented artist of all times.