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Art Casting of Illinois, Inc.

Art Casting of Illinois, Inc.
Adagio Fine Art
Dr. Harry & Karly Spell Foundation
The Michelangelo Project
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The Michelangelo Project

It is with enormous pleasure I announce the casting of a unique publication of Bronze Bozzetti taken directly from the priceless collection of Museo Casa Buonarrotti, Florence Italy. The six bozzetti selected represent the most exciting of their precious collection of works by Michelangelo and are hereby offered as a numbered edition of eight in sets of six each. There will be four additional sets cast, not numbered, but identified as “MP” (museum proof) (1), “FP” (foundry proof) (1), and two sets bearing the mark “PP” (publishers proof).

Each set owner will receive articles of provenance including an authentication document from Museo Casa Buonarrotti over the signature of Dr. Pina Ragionieri, Director; a letter of authenticity from Chicago Appraiser’s Association attested by the signature of the director Mr. Bruce Duncan; and a letter of authenticity from Art Casting of Illinois, Inc over the signature of Dr. Harry Spell, owner.

These bronzes are the first works of Michelangelo Buonarrotti offered for sale in modern times and are the only authenticated works by the master outside of Europe. By title they are:

Nudo Virile (al rovesciata “David”)
Torso Virile (Sciavo Morente or “Louvre Slave”)
Dio Fluviale (“River God”)
Due Lottatori (“Two Wrestlers”)
Nudo Femminile (“female Nude”)
Crocifisso (Wood Crucifix)

Dr. Harry Spell


Statement of Purpose

A cooperative effort between Casa Buonarroti, and the Harry and Karly Spell Foundation has been established to accomplish two goals. The first is to provide a source of income for the museum through sale of a small edition of the original bronzes taken from the Michelangelo models held by the museum. The second is to allow others to participate directly in the incomparable experience of acquiring a work by, perhaps, the greatest sculptor of western civilization.

Making this possible is the expertise and generosity of others. Initial contact and facilitating sales is the responsibility of Chicago Appraisers Association; laser scanning and casting by Art Casting of Illinois, Inc.; and rapid prototyping by Eiger Labs. The aforementioned have given significantly of time, money, and research. A documentary film by Comtech Corporation is now in production.

The relationship between art and technology has been a fundamental symbiotic relationship from the first effort by man to create something that had meaning beyond a utilitarian function. The choice has always been of subject and medium, often one influencing the other. In the domain of cast metal sculpture, specifically utilizing the lost wax process, a chain of events has long been established. This process is fundamentally a five-step sequence, alternating between positive and negative iterations. In brief: original, rubber mold, wax copy, ceramic shell mold, and bronze casting. Often the original is lost or severely damaged in making the rubber mold. The stress of pulling the rubber from the model (most often terra cotta or clay) is sufficient to cause deformation or destruction. When considering casting a bronze from an old clay model the risk is much too great of destroying that which is not replaceable. Specifically, considering making rubber molds from the priceless Michelangelo models at Casa Buonarroti, has been unthinkable. For the first time, it is possible! By utilizing laser scanning and rapid prototyping technology, the pieces can be duplicated without risking the models. The casting process is under way.

Approval of the first set of six original bronzes was made March 12th in Florence by Dr. Pina Ragionieri, director of Casa Buonarroti. Final decisions about pricing will soon follow.

Information about the progress of the bronzes may be found by contacting:

Harry Spell


The Michelangelo Bozzetti

"Due Lottatori"

Gregory Gilbert, Senior Curator, Figge Museum of Art

This distinctive work is the only example of a multi-figured bozzetto by Michelangelo that is known to have survived.  The exact subject of the model and the project with which it should be identified has never been conclusively determined.  It has most frequently been related to the protracted project to create a pendant figure to Michelangelo’s David in the Piazza Signoria in Florence, which was originally commissioned in 1508.  The subject for this project has been variously identified as either Hercules and Cacus or Samson and a Philistine.  Early work on the project from 1508 to 1512 was continually delayed due to Pope Julius’ demands on Michelangelo’s time.  Over the course of almost twenty years, there were multiple changes in subject and design and the commission alternated between Michelangelo and Baccio Bandinelli.  This model is generally believed to date from the 1520s when the commission reverted once again to Michelangelo after the expulsion of the Medici in 1527.  According to Vasari, Michelangelo had initially planned to execute a Hercules and Cacus, but Bandinelli had apparently already started work on the marble block for the project, making it difficult for Michelangelo to carry out his original design.  As a result, he changed the theme to Samson and Two Philistines.  Michelangelo never finished the project, however, and the commission was returned to Bandinelli, who completed a statue of Hercules and Cacus in 1534.(1) Other disputed theories for the subject of the model have also been advanced, such as Johannes Wilde’s idea that the wrestling figures were intended for the Tomb of Julius II as a pendant for the Victory.(2)  With the violent action of the twisting upright figure bearing down on his crouching opponent, this is one of the artist’s most energetic and dramatic works.  Michelangelo’s figurative design for this model was revolutionary and exerted a tremendous influence on other artists during this period through the circulation of bronze variants.  In contrast to the static planar grouping of figures in earlier Renaissance sculptures, the intertwined form of the two combatants seems to have been conceived as a dynamic, independent design in the round.  Moreover, the active movement around a central axis requires the piece to be seen from multiple viewpoints and anticipates the complex spiral designs of later Mannerist figure sculpture.


(1) O’Grody, “’Un Semplice Modello’”, 257.

(2) Johannes Wilde, “Zwei Modelle für das Juliusgrabmal,” Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, II (1928), 199-208.


“Nudo Virile”

Gregory Gilbert, Senior Curator, Figge Museum of Art

This figure of a lithe muscular male youth stands in a pronounced contrapposto pose and denotes a sense of concentrated, poised energy. The model has been regarded by scholars as an early design for Michelangelo’s marble David with its mirror-image relationship to the statue.(1)  Both figures display a pensive expression and a pronounced hipshot pose with raised foot and slender supporting legs.  As discussed above, the model has also been related to the lost bronze David commissioned by Pierre de Rohan in 1502.  In fact, the original bozzetto, which dates from c. 1501-1504, is a wax cast made from several piece molds.  Given that the figure was cast, various scholars, most recently Michael Hirst and Jeannine A. O’Grody, have ventured that the statuette should be considered a model for a Michelangelo work in bronze.(2)  This model and drawings from the period make clear that from 1501 to 1504 Michelangelo was engaged with a series of inventive figurative designs exploring subtle forms of narrative pose and expression which informed both the marble and bronze versions of the David.  With regard to the casting of this bozzetto in bronze, it is interesting to note Michelangelo’s surface treatment of the figure with its delicate pitted marks.  If Michelangelo had intended this model to be cast in bronze, this texture may indicate the artist’s concern to reduce a bright sheen on the surface and create a more subtle play of shadows to articulate the figure’s refined musculature.  This bozzetto may be an important example of the theory that Michelangelo did cast some of his models in bronze as a means to present his ideas to patrons or to more widely publicize his designs.  It may also support Joannides’ argument that Michelangelo did partly work as a bronzista and executed small-scale designs in bronze.  In Giulio Caccini’s portrait of Michelangelo in his studio in the collection of the Museo Casa Buonarroti, this model can be discerned prominently in the background.  Nudo Virile was of great interest to a number of artists in the 16th century and was actually more frequently copied than the marble David.  It is possible Mannerist artists were attracted to the figure’s slender proportions and artful, sinuously balanced contrapposto stance.  For example, a notable drawing of the model viewed from the rear was executed by Parmigianino in the 1520s and is in the collection of the British Museum in London.


(1) 1 O’Grody, “’Un Semplice Modello”’
(2) Ibid.,222.  For additional discussion of Nudo Virile as a model for a work in bronze, see Michael Hirst, Francesco Salviati o la Bella Maniera, ed. Catherine Monbeig Goguel (Paris and Milan: Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux and Electa, 1998), 102-104, nos. 11, 12.




“Dio Fluviale”

Gregory Gilbert, Senior Curator, Figge Museum of Art


This powerfully modeled recumbent figure is displayed resting on its right hip with the torso supported by the right elbow.  The muscular left leg is suspended, bent at the knee.  Although the left arm and head of the model are missing, it seems likely that the figure originally had a head as there are remnants of glue in the cavity of the neck.  Scholars have debated the correct position and the purpose of this model, speculating that it was meant to be seen vertically and may have served as a study for one of the Slaves for the Julius tomb.  A more common view is that this is a reclining figure associated with the River Gods for the tombs of Giuliano and Lorenzo de’Medici in the Medici Chapel, San Lorenzo, Florence (1519-1534).  The only surviving full-scale architectural model for this project is the River God in the collection of the Museo Casa Buonarroti.  Originally, the designs for the tombs featured allegorical statues of Time reclining on the end of the sarcophagi and below were to be placed recumbent figures of the River Gods.  Although full-scale models were created for the River Gods, the final sculptures were never completed.  The symbolic figures in the tombs have been interpreted as containing a Neo-Platonic iconographic meaning referring to the soul’s ascent through the levels of the Neo-Platonic universe.  The River Gods on the lowest level signify the underworld of brute matter while the tense, contorted figures of Time (cycles of Dawn, Day, Evening, and Night) represent humanity’s existence in the temporal world as a state of pain, anxiety and frustration.  The portrait statues of Giuliano and Lorenzo are placed in niches at the apex of their tombs and personify the two ideal human types that transcend worldly existence and achieve union with God – the contemplative human and the active human, whose life is patterned after that of Christ.  O’Grody has raised the point that the model of the River God may have been used by Michelangelo for more than one project and was perhaps even used to paint two figures in the Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Rome (1534-1541).(1)  In fact, other scholars have noted that Michelangelo probably relied on his sculptural models as visual aids in rendering different poses and complex spatial views of figures in both his drawings and paintings.



(1) O’Grody, “’Un Semplice Modello,’” 237.


“Torso Virile”

Gregory Gilbert, Senior Curator, Figge Museum of Art


This dramatically curved male torso is subtly modeled and twists slightly back, creating an emphatic S-curve pose associated with more active and sinuous bodily movements seen in late Classical Greek statuary.  This sculptural study was created to examine and record the shifting muscles of a human torso as it stretches back with its weight positioned on the right leg.  Most scholars agree that this model was created for one of the Captive Slave figures intended to decorate the Tomb of Julius II, a project which was originally commissioned in 1505 and re-commissioned in 1513 but never fully carried out.  Although Torso Virile has been compared to the tomb figures of the Atlas Slave and Awakening Slave, the slender proportions, soft modeling of the musculature and distinctive shifting of the muscles are much more closely related to the Dying Slave in the Louvre Museum, a similarity that is made more apparent by comparing the two figures from the rear.  The Captive Slaves were carved from 1513 to 1515 for the second project of the Tomb of Julius II and the stylistic characteristics of this model correspond closely to this earlier period of Michelangelo’s caree.(1)   The expressive strained movement of the model, which follows the pose of the Louvre Dying Slave, may have significant connections to Michelangelo’s interest in Neo-Platonic theory.  The sense of inner tension in the slave figures has been interpreted as symbolizing the Neo-Platonic notion of the divine soul attempting to transcend and free itself from the physical confines of the body and be reunited with God.  As with Nudo Virile, the evocative twisting posture of this figure, made more emphatic by the headless and limbless torso, captivated artists in the 16th century and was copied in drawings by Andrea Commodi.


(1) O’Grody, “Michelangelo:  The Master Modeler,” 40.


“Nudo Femminile”

Gregory Gilbert, Senior Curator, Figge Museum of Art


This female figure stands with her weight on the left leg but her body is supported on a base from the original lump of clay.  The torso of the figure twists expressively to the left, but is missing the head, the left arm and a portion of the right arm.  Despite the small dimensions of the piece, it has a monumental presence and is similar to a series of drawings Michelangelo executed on an ancient statue of Venus while he was developing his female figures for the Medici Chapel.  The details of the body are finely modeled (with the exception of the schematic applied breasts), but the rough, expressive texture of the bronze cast reflects irregularities in the surface of the original clay model, which contains nicks, clothmarks and fingerprints.  O’Grody has observed that the shape of the buttocks and the manner in which they rest on the base support is similar to the model Torso Virile in this exhibit (considered a model for the Louvre Dying Slave) and scholars have occasionally identified Nudo Femminile as one of the female Victory figures that was projected for the Tomb of Julius II.(1)  This figure has also been frequently associated with the niche figures intended to flank the tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici in the Medici Chapel.  In fact, this bozzetto has specifically been related to a planned allegorical figure of Earth crowned with cypress, which was to stand with bowed head and outstretched arms lamenting the death of Duke Giuliano.(2)  In contrast to the idealized, polished figures typical of his carved works, the ample body of this figure covered with dimpled flesh reflects an interesting and often overlooked aspect of Michelangelo’s bozzetti, which is his tendency to include more realistically observed anatomical details in his sculptural studies.

(1) O’Grody, “Michelangelo: The Master Modeler,” 41.
(2) Ibid., 42.



Gregory Gilbert, Senior Curator, Figge Museum of Art

This crucified figure of Christ originally carved in wood, is positioned with his feet together and his head hanging lifeless against his right shoulder.  While the abbreviated form of the cross does not contain outstretched arms, they are suggested in the slightly swelled corners of the truncated, roughly carved crossbeam.  The forceful cuts and gouges have not been smoothed and are clearly visible on the surface of the piece.  Along with the Rondanini Pietà (1563-64), this carved wooden crucifix is among the last pieces that we know Michelangelo worked on before his death in 1564.  With this model, Michelangelo returned to a theme of one of his youthful early works, namely the painted wooden Crucifix he carved for the church of Santa Spirito in Florence in 1492.  Based on letters sent to Michelangelo’s nephew Lionardo in August of 1562, this model appears to have been a study for a larger wooden crucifix the artist was planning on carving for his nephew.  In fact, Michelangelo specifically requested that a box of woodworking tools be sent to Rome for the project.(1)  Although it is believed Michelangelo had begun work on the cross, it was most likely never completed and has since been lost.  It is possible Michelangelo not only used the model to fashion the figurative design for the larger cross, but to also practice his technique in woodcarving, a method he had not employed since the crucifix for Santo Spirito some seventy years earlier.  During Michelangelo’s late period, he was preoccupied with the theme of the crucifixion and executed a large number of drawings of Christ on the cross, some of which contain distended figures resembling this model.  Similar to the rough-hewn, unfinished character of the Rondanini Pietà, the harsh angular forms in this model serve to intensify the spiritual poignancy of the crucifixion theme.  In fact, given the expressive and reductive treatment of Michelangelo’s late unfinished works, art historians have frequently likened them to an abstract, proto-modernist aesthetic, a quality that is reinforced by casting them in bronze.  While such stylistic affinities should normally be approached with caution, there is some evidence that Michelangelo favored many of his unfinished pieces and may have seen in their rough, incomplete forms a potential for a lyrical inner meaning akin to the notion of concetto.  Later modern sculptors like Rodin were drawn to Michelangelo’s bozzetti and emulated his practice of creating sculptures based on evocative, unfinished anatomical forms.

(1) Giorgio Bonsanti, entry for Michelangelo Buonarroti, Crucifix, in Marco Chiarini and others, The Medici, Michelangelo, and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 218-219.


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©2009 Art Casting of Illinois, Inc. Lydia Koepke
Last Updated July 19, 2010