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Still Waters

Michelangelo’s earliest surviving drawing

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Still Waters

Days before his death in 1564, Michelangelo torched the majority of his extant drawings and papers in two separate bonfires. This wasn’t the first time the notorious perfectionist had sought to erase all evidence of his preparatory works: According to popular lore, he also burned all of the drawings, or cartoons, left in his Rome home prior to moving to Florence in 1518. As biographer Giorgio Vasari once posited, the Renaissance giant hoped “that no one might see the labours endured by him and his methods of trying his genius, [so] that he might not appear less than perfect”; at the same time, Michelangelo likely wanted to discourage would-be copycats from stealing his ideas.


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