Newman Tower Exhibit: Michelangelo Buonarroti

On display in Olin Library’s new Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration are a number of Washington University Libraries’ most prized collections. Among these collections is an original manuscript penned by none other than Michelangelo Buonarroti, painter of the Sistine Chapel and one of the most well-known artists in history.

In 1527, Florentine citizens threw out Pope Clement VII, also known as Giulio Medici, leading to a siege of the city. Although Pope Clement VII had been his former patron, Michelangelo sided with Florence and helped to design fortifications for the city during the siege (pictured below).

Design for Fortifications, Casa Buonarotti 20A r.

Like all Florentines, he supplied the government with an inventory while Florence was under siege by Pope Clement VII’s troops.  In the 1530 handwritten business record on display in the Newman Tower, Michelangelo records an inventory of his limited food stores and notes that he has four mouths to feed.  He also keeps track of distributions of grain to feed tenant farmers and restore food production on his properties following the siege.

Michelangelo’s handwritten business records, 1530. Verso. From Washington University Libraries’ George N. Meissner Collection.

Michelangelo’s business records, 1530. Recto. From Washington University Libraries’ George N. Meissner Collection.

 

The George N. Meissner Collection

This piece from Michelangelo on display in the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration is part of the George N. Meissner Collection, which holds a wide range of items written by or about figures of great historical or literary significance. Other noteworthy components of this collection include items from all of the United States presidents through Woodrow Wilson, a letter from John Adams to Elbridge Gerry describing proceedings at the Second Continental Congress, a relatively large collection of manuscripts from authors Samuel Langhorn Clemens (Mark Twain) and Eugene Field, letters from Robert Southey and Coleridge, and items from Rubens, Vespucci, Walt Whitman and Washington Irving. The collection also includes 11 beautiful illuminated manuscripts from the 14th and 15th centuries. You can see a more detailed summery of the collection here.

A page from an illuminated manuscript from the Washington University Libraries’ George N. Meissner Collection.

Translation of Michelangelo’s Inventory

The following is an English translation of the text by William E. Wallace in May of 1986:

recto

Santa Croce Quarter, Gonfalone of the Black Lion

I, Michelagniolo Buonarroti, have at home eight barrels of wine, and about two barrels of beans and one half barrel of vinegar and four mouths to feed.This day the sixteenth of April.

verso

Bastiano Balena, my workman, in one month up to today, the 2nd day of November 1530, has received 3 bushels of millet, one of barley, and one of wheat and 12 lire, and I have received from him seven and a half barrels of wine.

And on the 3rd day of the said month, the said Bastiano, received from me, Michelagniolo, five bushels of wheat for sowing.

And today, the 5th day of the said month, the said Bastiano Balena received five bushels of wheat: four for sowing and one for food. And today, the said day, to Ventura of Pazzolatico two bushels of wheat for sowing. And Domenico, my workmen from Macia, received from me, up to said date, six bushels of wheat for sowing.

And today, the eleventh day of said month, Ventura of Pazzolatico received six bushels of wheat: one for food and five for sowing and one bushel of millet.

And today, the twelfth day of said month, Bastiano Balena received four bushels of wheat: three for sowing and one for food and one bushel of millet.

And today, the fifteenth day of said month, I gave to Domenico of Macia 3 bushels ofwheat for sowing.

And today, the twentieth day of said month, I gave to my workman, Domenico of Maciasix bushels of wheat for sowing. And the said day, I gave to Balena five grossi at six soldi the grosso.

 

About the author

Rose is a PhD candidate in English and American Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. When she is not working on her dissertation on post-1945 asylum novels or blogging about the amazing materials in Special Collections, she fills much of her time reading, writing, gardening, and wrestling.