Michelangelo, Drawing, and the Invention of Architecture

Yale University Press, 2008

Charles Rufus Morey Book Award from the College Art Association, 2010
Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians, 2010            

Michelangelo’s fame as a painter and sculptor has eclipsed his reputation as an architect, but his impact on architecture was just as profound.  His architecture remains understudied, despite its ongoing fascination for architects and students of architecture.  This book takes an unusual approach to Michelangelo’s architectural designs, arguing that they are best understood in light of his experience as a painter and sculptor. 

Our own conception of architecture as a practice dependent on the formulation of new ideas through drawing, and our image of the flash of brilliance embodied in the quick sketch, has its roots in the methods and functions of drawing defined by Michelangelo.  Unlike previous studies, which have focused on the built projects, and considered the drawings only insofar as they illuminate the buildings, this book analyzes the drawings as a precious source of insight into the mechanisms of Michelangelo’s imagination.  It gives equal weight to unexecuted designs, suggesting that some of Michelangelo’s most radical ideas remained on paper.  

By illuminating the steps by which Michelangelo arrived at his extraordinary inventions, the book questions the conventional notions of genius as a function of spontaneity.  Instead, it explores the idea of drawing as a mode of thinking, with the aim of revealing the process by which Michelangelo arrived at new ideas.  Michelangelo, by turning the flexibility and fluidity of his figurative drawing methods to the subject of architecture, demonstrated how it could match the expressive possibilities of painting and sculpture. 


Review excerpts

“This book is one of the most important to have appeared on Michelangelo since James Ackerman’s The Architecture of Michelangelo of 1961. It is beautifully written, crisp, astute, and witty, its felicities and insights are too numerous to enumerate here, and it should be included in every course on Renaissance architecture.”—Caroline Van Eck, Renaissance Quarterly

“That Michelangelo’s architecture evolved from his sculpture is generally acknowledged. With unprecedented precision and thoroughness, Brothers, the author of this beautiful volume with 275 aptly chosen illustrations, explains exactly how. . . . A refreshing contribution to Renaissance studies, and to Michelangelo scholarship in particular. . . . Recommended.”—Choice

“This fascinating volume lets us watch genius creating itself.”—Don Fry, Virginia Quarterly Review

“Highly scholarly yet smoothly readable, the text amply is supported by numerous full-page reproductions of Michelangelo’s drawings, photographs of his completed projects, and carefully selected images of the work of his contemporaries, especially Sangallo. . . . By carefully retracing Michelangelo’s creative path, Brothers has provided a provocative vision of an artist, an oeuvre, a mass of historical and analytical material, and a set of issues which are of timeless interest and great importance.”—Julia Smyth-Pinney, Arris, the Journal of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians

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