Review Of "Michelangelo At San Lorenzo: The Genius As Entrepreneur" By W. E. Wallace

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Whoever the architect, no great building gets to be built without a reliable and well-supervised crew, and Michelangelo was no exception. What is remarkable, as Wallace convinces us in this equally remarkable book, is that Michelangelo cultivated his entrepreneurial skill basically in one decade--from 1516 to 1526--while he worked successively on the three Florentine projects for the Medici: the facade of San Lorenzo, the Medici Chapel, and the Laurentian Library. The author combed through, and interpreted with magisterial skill, heretofore unexplored bank documents in Pisa as well as vast published records and letters and forged a narrative, at once intelligible and intriguing, of the artist's activities as he searched for and opened new quarries, oversaw their excavations, arranged for the moving and delivery of marble blocks, inspected them on arrival in Florence, recruited artisans as needed, kept books on the weekly wages of his crew, and, of course, supervised the work on the site and corresponded tirelessly with everyone. The book adds little to our knowledge of Michelangelo's art, but it fleshes out as never before the artist at daily work as a contractor and the network of those who worked for and with him. This is a history of business, technology, and Florentine life in one package. The study is amply illustrated and impeccably documented with more than 1,000 endnotes and an expert bibliography. Indispensable for all academic libraries. Lower-division undergraduate through graduate.


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